Get Healthy Carson City: Be a hero: emergency preparedness for youth | NevadaAppeal.com

Get Healthy Carson City: Be a hero: emergency preparedness for youth

Jessica Rapp
Carson City Health and Human Services

Emergencies and disasters are often unpredictable. They can happen at any time and to anyone, including children. The needs of youth must be included in emergency plans. When a disaster or emergency happens, people have the best chance of survival when they know what to do, especially children. Involving young kids and teens in the emergency preparedness planning process gives them a sense of control during a time that is likely chaotic. Here are a few ways to help prepare your child for a disaster or emergency.

Children in preparedness

• Build an emergency kit. Have your kids help gather supplies for your family’s emergency kit. Your kit should include a three-day supply of the basic items such as food that will not go bad, a gallon of drinking water per person per day, a first aid kit, important medications, important documents, change of clothes, hygiene items, battery powered or hand crank radio, flash light, extra batteries, a blanket and pet supplies. Children can pick out their favorite comfort item such as books, games and puzzles to add to the kit.

• Family communications plan: Before an emergency happens, have a family discussion to figure out who your out-of-state emergency contact would be and where you would meet away from your home. Have a meeting spot in your neighborhood and in your town. It is important to make a plan so your family will know what to do, how to find each other and how to communicate in an emergency. Keep your family’s contact information and meeting spot locations in your child’s backpack, wallet or inside a notebook.

Practice, practice, practice

Practicing emergency plans regularly helps everyone know exactly what they need to do during an emergency or disaster. After practicing, make sure you talk about how it went.

• Role-play what you would do during disasters. This gives you an idea of what your child knows and helps teach them what to do. Help your children prepare in a low-stress setting so that in a high-pressure event they know how to react.

• Practice makes permanent. Hold fire, earthquake and evacuation drills in your house. Practicing your family plans each year will keep your family familiar with them and allows you to review and update them.

Helping children cope

Disasters can leave children and teens feeling frightened, confused and anxious. Not all children and teens respond the same way. Research shows that kids, specifically school-age, tend to be more affected by disasters than adults. It is important to know how to help children cope during and after a disaster.

• Ask them about their feelings and confirm their concerns.

• Answer questions by giving only the amount of information they need. Explain any confusion about risks and dangers.

• Be calm and supportive. Discuss safety plans with them and include them in other plans.

• Be careful with television and the Internet. Repeated images of the disaster could lead younger kids to believe the disaster is reoccurring. News coverage can create anxiety and confusion.

• Building support networks can help you cope, which, in return, will help your children cope. Include friends, family, community organizations and faith-based organizations in your network.

Emergencies and disasters happen. How we prepare for them can make a difference. Involving youth in emergency preparedness efforts can help ensure that they are prepared and will be able to respond when faced with disasters. For more tools and tips on youth preparedness, visit http://www.ready.gov/kids.

Carson City Health and Human Services urges everyone to take an active role in preparing our youth for a disaster or emergency. For additional resources and information about Carson City Health and Human Services programs and services, check out our website at http://www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, “like” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cchhs, follow us on Twitter at @CCHealthEd, call us at 775-887-2190 or visit us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.