Living in Florida, everyone knows that severe weather could strike at any moment. Flooding, strong winds and power outages are all likely occurrences throughout the summer months and most of us have not forgotten last year’s disturbance from Hurricane Irma. With the 2018 hurricane season starting on June 1, it’s even more important to prepare your family for a severe weather emergency.
Make a Plan
One of the most important things families can do when preparing for an emergency is to make a plan. Make sure you know your evacuation zone and the evacuation routes you will need to take if your family must leave and discuss where you will go. Not all shelters will accept pets, so you’ll want to check in advance on which ones will accommodate your four-legged family members.
If your child has special health care needs that require medical equipment such as oxygen or even a nebulizer machine for asthma that requires electricity, consider how that will affect your evacuation plan. Most local health departments will register families for special needs shelters ahead of time.
“Practice and simulation are the most important things families can do to prepare for a potential disaster or weather situation,” says Jen Arnold, M.D., medical director of the simulation program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “Make a plan, write it out and practice it early this summer. Talk with your kids about what hurricanes are and what your family’s plan will be. Then, actually practicing and rehearsing that plan can help identify any gaps well before you have to actually use it.”
Regardless if you are planning to weather the storm at home or evacuating elsewhere, having supplies is essential.
If you are staying home, consider:
- First aid kit and necessary medications
- List of important contacts
- Water (enough for a few days)
- Necessities for young children including formula, wipes and diapers
- Non-perishable food items
- Flashlights and extra batteries, including extra external phone batteries
- A weather radio
- Actives to keep kids busy. Electronics will run out of power within a few hours so gather other distractors such as coloring books, board or card games or other favorite activities that don’t depend on batteries.
If you are making a “go bag,” consider:
- Medications and copies of prescriptions
- Non-perishable food, including anything needed for special dietary concerns
- Water (You can keep a few gallons in your vehicle)
- Bedding for a small space
- Infant or child necessities (wipes, diapers, bottles)
- Personal hygiene items
- Change of clothes
- Quiet, non-electronic activities for kids
- Important papers and valid ID; Consider bringing copies of your child’s vaccination and/or medical record.
- A list of important phone numbers
Empower kids to be involved in the situation by encouraging them to pack their own bag of supplies. Let them select their change of clothes, snacks, activities and other items. Kids can even help test supplies like flashlights. When creating your list of emergency contacts, teach these names and numbers to children and make sure they have a copy in their bag.
If you are staying home or at a relative’s or friend’s home, you may be thinking of using a backup generator if the power goes out. Remember to always keep the device outside in a dry location away from doors, windows or vents. The Red Cross offers more in-depth tips on generator safety.
Talk to Your Kids about What to Expect
Children can easily pick up on their parent’s emotions, especially fear and anxiety. If you can stay calm it will help ease any anxiety your child might be feeling. It is important to be honest with kids and explain what is happening when a hurricane is imminent; however, keep the level of detail to what is appropriate for your child’s age.
While watching the news is an important way for adults to get information about the situation, too much coverage can lead to unnecessary anxiety in kids and teens. Take breaks from the television and get news updates quietly on your phone if needed.
Weather emergencies can be a stressful time for any family. Preparing well in advance can help reduce stress and anxiety when the event happens.