General News

Preparing Kids and Families for a Hurricane

Posted on Jun 24, 2019

Hurricane season is here and we need to start preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Rachel Dawkins, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, helps parents prepare their families for natural disasters.

With hurricane season approaching, what should parents and families do to prepare?

In Florida, we are no strangers to natural disasters—and with hurricane season having just started, this is an important topic to discuss.

The most important thing for families is to HAVE A PLAN—think about emergency kits and evacuation plans—where will the family go for shelter? Are pets allowed?

For instance, make sure you have plenty of things like formula, diapers and toys or activities to distract young ones and a first aid kit. First aid kits are great for all emergencies big and small.

And remember sometimes we may be without electricity for an extended period of time. So having water, non-perishable food and plenty of batteries are a must. It will probably be tough for many kids to go without cell phones and video games for even a few hours.

What about for children with medical problems?

For children with medical problems or special needs, make sure you have medications and any medical supplies your child might need.

It’s also a good idea to have a summary of your child’s medical history and a list of medications and even a copy of their shot record just in case. After Hurricane Katrina, children evacuated to other states and had to restart vaccinations because parents didn’t think to evacuate with records.

If your child depends on technology such as a ventilator, oxygen or even a nebulizer machine for asthma that requires electricity, think about where you will go to evacuate. Our local health departments will register families ahead of time that require a special needs shelter so best to look into that sooner rather than later.

Evacuations. How do you explain to kids what is happening?

It’s important to be honest with children and explain what is going on. Focus the level of detail on what’s OK for your child’s age.  

And while tuning into the news is obviously important for adults to get information about the disaster, 24/7 coverage may be too much for kids and teens leading to unnecessary anxiety.

How else can you keep children calm during a natural disaster?

Empower kids! Get them involved in the plan—have them help make an emergency kit or gather and test supplies like flashlights. Teach them emergency numbers, including names and phone numbers of a relative that does not live in the home.

The most important thing is for the adult to stay calm because children pick up on parents’ fear and anxiety.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Newsroom each Monday for the latest report.


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