NPM: Teach Youth to Prepare

The National Preparedness Month topic for week 3 is “Teach the Youth to Prepare for Disasters.”  Teaching children about emergency preparedness can be difficult.  It’s hard to find a happy medium between making sure they know what to do in an emergency and scaring them by discussing bad things that could happen.  However, with the following tips, you will be well-armed to have these important conversations which could prove life-saving in a disaster situation.

Focus on the Solutions Instead of the Problems

When discussing safety procedures with children, it is important to put the emphasis on the solutions rather than the problems.  For example, if you were teaching a child how to float, you would not go into a lengthy description about drowning, you would spend more time teaching different techniques for avoiding it.  The same applies with fire and life safety around the house.  Children feel important when they are entrusted with responsibilities, so spending more time explaining the solutions and the important roles they play in bringing them about will help them concentrate on completing their important tasks rather than what could happen if they don’t.

Make Safety Positive and Fun

One major advantage to teaching children about disaster preparedness ahead of time is the ability to keep the conversation light and positive.  If discussing safety is always a good experience, children will welcome the conversations and even willingly enter into them, rather than dreading the topic.  Characters like Sparky the Fire Dog and Owlie Skywarn help make safety accessible and fun while resources like the U.S. Fire Administration’s collaborations with Sesame Street or’s Kid and Teen tool kits provide a variety of activities sure to make preparedness appealing to any personality in your household.  By introducing these topics through these mediums, they maintain their stress-free association.

Involve the Whole Family and Lead By Example

Perhaps one of the best ways to teach the youth about disaster preparedness is to make it a family effort and lead by example.  If the kids hear you tell them about the importance of checking smoke alarms, practicing the family escape plan, sleeping with the door closed, and staying near the stove when cooking, but don’t see you doing those things, they will not seem like priorities and will not be remembered.  This is also true if only one parent or guardian treats safety like it is important, while the other disregards it.  When discussing safe practices around the home, all responsible parties need to be active and willing participants in the discussion and what is preached must be practiced.  When the kids see that the rules apply to everyone, they will learn their true importance.

We hope this helps encourage you to begin talking about safety and disaster preparedness with your kids and other youth in your care.  For more resources you can read our article about teaching “Look. Listen. Learn.” to children at home and in the classroom.

The last topic, “Get Involved in Your Community’s Preparedness”, will be covered next Friday so check back then as we wrap up September!