Don’t do something about me without me: practicing emergency preparedness with children

Blog Post created by michelesteinberg Employee on Sep 20, 2017


Welcome to Week 3 of National Preparedness Month! Our friends at Ready.gov suggest that this week, it’s time to build out and practice your emergency plan. For the grown-ups,  the theme relates well to both financial preparedness (making sure you have enough insurance, knowing where all your important documents are, doing a home inventory) and practicing your home escape plan or even an evacuation plan in case of a community-wide emergency like a hurricane or a wildfire.


What grown-ups often forget is to include their kids in their emergency planning. Now, I don’t mean you’re so forgetful that you would drive off without them (although that would be bad!). What I mean is that children can learn what to do to be prepared as part of the family emergency plan – but many families don’t include the children in this conversation.


A few years ago, NFPA discovered that parents in wildfire-prone areas thought that their children knew a lot about wildfire and what to do. When we talked to the kids, they often said they had not talked to parents or they were not aware of the family’s plan in case they had to leave or had to meet up if an evacuation order was called. These are the same kids who are learning fire drills in school – it’s important that they learn at home, too.


A recent mock-emergency drill was recorded as part of a human-interest news story in Colorado. Watch this clip to see a family with children of different ages work to gather their belongings and get out of the house in just 15 minutes. They do pretty well, but notice at 1:55 that the reporter asks the two younger children waiting in the car with their pet, “Did mom and dad tell you to wait in the car?” Communication with children of any age about their role and the steps of a safe evacuation is key.


NFPA has lots of free resources to help talk to your kids about emergencies and evacuation planning without fear. Check out our TakeAction page for teens (hint: it is great for grown-ups, too!). We have non-scary videos about wildfire facts, preparing your pets for emergencies, and more. You can download a free tip sheet about what to take with you if you have to evacuate. Visit our friend Sparky the Fire Dog for free tips and a home escape plan in case of fire.


Photo credit: FEMA/Jana Baldwin