08 August 2011

Six back-to-school preparedness tips for your family

Often, it can be easy to get into a rut when thinking about preparedness. Since it's pretty close to back-to-school time, it seems like a good idea to talk about how to help your kids be prepared.

Before proceeding, it's important to remember that age-appropriate preparation is a must. With younger children, you'll want to focus on the basics, and not overwhelm them with detail or terrify them. On the other hand, high school students should be able to understand more complex planning and be responsible for maintaining some basic supplies.

You know your child(ren) best, so consider what's appropriate and help them be prepared accordingly, starting with these tips:

  1. Define an "emergency" and how to identify them: Start with letting the child know what emergency situations are, and then how to act accordingly. Teach your children the basics of how to deal with the emergencies they're most likely to face (e.g., fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.). Some of this should be covered in school, but don't assume it — it's better to be sure that your children know.

  2. Listening for appropriate guidance: Be sure that your children look to the proper authorities (teacher, principal, fire fighters, police, etc.) and follow their direction to make it safely through the immediate disaster. (This may seem contrary to the whole idea of "self-reliance," but children — especially younger ones — don't have all the necessary self-reliant skills yet.)

  3. Memorize contact information: Children need to know the basics of how to reach their parents (i.e., full names, home address, and phone number[s). They should also have the name and phone number for a trusted out-of-the-area contact with who they can leave a message for you.

  4. Establish a meeting point:  Pick an area to meet in the event that your children cannot stay sheltered in the school until you arrive. This should be in easy walking distance from the school unless your child can drive.

  5. Use a security code word: Should you need to have someone else pick them up, have an usual (but easily memorable) code word for your children. This is especially necessary if the person isn't well known to them. Using a code word gives you a degree of flexibility (e.g., a neighbor could pick up your child on the way by the school), while maintaining a sense of security for your family.

  6. Carry emergency supplies: Kids already have to carry a lot of gear for school, and it's important to be mindful of that. That said, it's a good idea to tuck a few emergency essentials into each child's backpack. For example, an extra bottled water, a couple packets of trail mix or granola bars, a whistle to signal for help, cell phones (if they have them), a couple of adhesive bandages, and a small LED flashlight can all be added without much extra weight (even a 16-oz. bottle of water weighs only about a pound).

Hopefully, your whole family is working together to improve your preparedness and your family's self-reliance. An important part of your work is to teach your children the importance of thinking ahead and being prepared.

The above ideas are simply a starting point, and you can do more to help children learn about preparedness. So, how are you teaching your family these skills?

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