A child who goes through a bad storm whether it is a hurricane, a blizzard, or a tsunami may have terrible memories for life. A child who has not been prepared for that disaster may not have a life at all.
Whether it is due to global warming or better world-wide reporting, stories about people who lose their lives in storms seem to be everyday occurrences. While we cannot prevent natural disasters, we can be prepared for them, and that preparation should include our children especially our children.
As adults, we are privy to radio and television warnings at work, at home, and in our cars. A child on his way home from school or playing in a field on a weekend may not know about a sudden approaching tornado. His parents may not even know where he is; that’s why it’s imperative that every child be taught basic survival skills for whatever kind of weather occurs in his area.
In California, I grew up knowing about where to seek shelter when an earthquake struck. Since we lived near the hills, we also knew how to evacuate from a fire. In Oregon, where we live now, we taught our children to stay inside, away from water and the phone when there was lightning. We taught them that if they were caught outside in a thunderstorm to stay away from water, metal, power lines, and tall trees. At the coast, we all read the Tsunami warning signs together and talked about the evacuation route.
A child living in tornado country needs to know the safe place in the house to go. He or she needs to know what to do if caught outside how to lie down in a ditch and why they shouldn’t take cover under a bridge (because the wind would sweep them away). They need to know what a funnel cloud looks like as sometimes tornados occur with no warning. They, along with all the children in the neighborhood, should have safe houses to go to.
Children living in coastal areas need to know about hurricanes and tidal waves. They need to be taught the danger of rough surf. Children in snowy areas, especially mountainous ones, need to know that whiteout conditions can occur rapidly. Every child should be taught the basic safety rules on how not to get lost in the woods. Every child should be taught the importance of a buddy system and of telling an adult where they are.
The Red Cross has disaster plans for families. Adults need to practice the plans with their children enough times that it is second nature and not a scary, confusing procedure. If a storm strikes in the night and a parent yells “go to the safe place,” everyone, even sleepy children should know where that is and how to get there quickly. An adult should be responsible for getting pets there, too, so that a child won’t be tempted to go back upstairs for the family dog or cat.
One of the best ways to help your children be prepared is to be prepared and knowledgeable yourself. If a storm watch turns into a storm warning, be ready to head for shelter and listen for advice from emergency broadcasters. Adults need to make a safe place with emergency supplies including food, transistor radios, flashlights, blankets, first aid, and drinking water. Even in the safety of a cellar in a brick house, a powerful storm is a frightening thing to live through. Having some games to play, books to read, or songs to sing with reassuring parents can help the outside seem farther away. .
An informed and prepared child can do amazing things. Every day we hear of children as young as 3 who have called 911 for their parents, of children who have led everyone to safety from a fire, of children who have the presence of mind to do the right thing in an emergency and save not only their own lives, but the lives of others. Never underestimate what your child can do, but you have to teach them first. Knowledge and survival preparation are the best defense against stormy weather.