Prepare your kids

Disaster readiness might appear a difficult topic to discuss with your children, but it is essential for their safety. Your children will appreciate a direct, honest manner. Tell them about your emergency plan, so that they can face an emergency situation in a calm, more capable manner.

Make certain that children are familiar with your plan, for each type of emergency you're likely to experience in your area. Key elements of any school or home emergency plan should include: what to do, where to meet, who to call, and how to communicate.

You can't assume that an adult will be present during an emergency situation. By including your children in emergency planning they will know what choices to make and what you expect of them. Children should be taught exactly where to go, what to do, and how to communicate during a crisis.

Emergency plans should be reviewed with children on a regular basis (every few months) to make sure that they don't forget important information, or get confused when stressed.

Teach your children how to ring Triple 000 in a life threatening emergency or when parents are incapacitated. Teaching your children how to cope in an emergency and how to dial Triple 000 could save a life, even their own.

A useful online resource is the Triple Zero kids' challenge, a game designed for children of kindergarten and primary school age that covers nine safety scenarios. The estimated game-play time is one hour, but can be played in shorter intervals.

Ask your children for their input when you create your Household Emergency Plan, so that they remember it more clearly when the time comes to implement the plan. Make sure children know where your Emergency Kit and Evacuation Kit are stored.

Ask your kids questions such as:

  • Where in town is a good place for us to meet if there is ever a crisis?
  • Do you know how to get there by yourself?
  • Who is out-of-town or local person to call if we cannot find each other?
  • Where do you have their phone numbers written down?
  • Do you know the emergency number (000) and when to call that?


Use kids' resources to teach your children about disasters.

Educate your children about disasters, without overly alarming them. Be honest! Tell them that a disaster is something that happens that could hurt people, cause damage, or cut off things such as electricity, water and telephones. Explain to them that nature sometimes provides too much rain or sunshine, which might become floods, storms, or bushfires.

  • Talk about the things that the children will be most aware of, such as loss of power or no water. Use online education programs on natural hazards with them and explain that is what can happen and discuss with them their impressions.
  • Provide some examples of local hazards and talk about the best way to respond. Then, ask them questions to assess their level of understanding. Help children recognise the warning signs of the disaster that could affect your community. Talking about disaster, with them, ahead of time will reduce the fear and anxiety when an event does occur and lets them know how to respond.
  • Teach your children how to dial Triple 000 in a life threatening emergency, or when parents are incapacitated.
  • Have your children undertake a first aid or CPR course.
  • Tell children about the many people who will help them during a disaster. Explain the roles of the various emergency services and support agencies so that your children can identify them and won't be scared if they arrive on your doorstep.
  • Teach your children about your Emergency Plan and two contacts - nearby and out-of-town - in case they become separated during a disaster event. Give them a card listing your household emergency contacts they can take with them to school or wherever they are.


Identify comfort items that would help your children to cope.

During times of stress, children love to have their favourite dummy, cuddly toy, or security blanket with them for comfort; so don't forget those. Small toys or games will provide entertainment and keep kids calm, during a stressful time.

If your child has a chronic illness or special needs, there are several steps that you can take to better prepare for medical emergencies.

Learn about how your children might respond to an emergency.

How we react to an emergency is very personal. What feels scary to someone else might not feel scary to you. Seeing a parent or parents in distress can set off a crisis for a child, so try to remain focused and calm. Children learn about life from their parents and other adults, so how you deal with an emergency affects how your children handle their lives.

Your role is to help children understand that bad things do happen, but that how we deal with them is what counts. Reassure your child, and remember that actions speak louder than words.Hold your child if that usually makes her feel safer. Some children, particularly older ones, might not want to be touched, so follow their cue. Just be there. Acknowledge the loss or destruction, but emphasise the community's efforts to cleanup and rebuild.

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