“Make preparations in advance – you never have trouble if you are prepared for it.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Writing your family emergency plan can seem daunting. Do not worry! There are plenty of free resources to help you!
Parents, ask your child care providers:
Do you have an emergency preparedness plan for disasters that are likely to occur in our area?
Make sure they have one. Ask for a copy of it. If they do not have a plan, find out when they will. Let them know you feel it is necessary.
How will you safely evacuate my child to a safe, predetermined location?
Find out what procedures will be used, how the children will be moved and where. Make sure the place they move to is safe and acceptable to you. Ask how infants and other children who aren’t able to walk will be transported. If your child has special needs, make sure the provider will take these into consideration.
How and when will I be notified if a disaster occurs when my child is in child care?
Make sure you have at least two ways to be contacted; including another person with whom messages could be left for you (someone out of your geographic area would be ideal.) Keep your contact information current: phone numbers, other people who can reach you, and so on. Find out if there is a person/number you could call, or a central phone number that will have information.
If I cannot get to my child during or after a disaster, how will you continue to care for my child?
Provide any important information the provider will need to care for your child for a longer period of time. Discuss any plans or procedures you do not agree with or understand.
Have you and your staff received training on how to respond to my child’s physical and emotional needs during and after a disaster?
Training in responding to emergencies is critical. Find out how the provider will help calm and reassure children, as well as be able to provide first aid. Ask how vital records on children are kept and are made available during a disaster. Make the provider aware of your child’s specific needs.
Will you teach my older child what to do during an emergency?
Ask what kinds of drills the provider will have to help older children follow directions and understand what they are to do. Can parents participate in drills? (Can help you learn what steps are being tal <en and to be comfortable about the plan).
Do you have a disaster kit or supply kit with enough items to meet my child’s needs for at least 72 hours or three days?
If a kit is not available, ask how you can help get one. Talk and work with other parents. If your child is on regular medication, mal<e sure the provider knows, and if possible, provide an extra supply to have on hand, just in case.
Do the state and local emergency management agencies and responders know about your child care program and where it is located?
Ensure local emergency management agencies know of your child care provider. Call and verify this yourself.
How may I help you during and after a disaster?
Becoming familiar with the way disasters will be handled will help you see what can be done before and after a disaster. Volunteer to help your provider prepare by organizing supplies, collecting or getting supplies donated, or organizing a “phone tree” of parents to make calls during or after disasters. Ask what other kind of assistance is needed and volunteer. Give suggestions if you see a need they have not addressed.
After a disaster occurs, how will I be notified about your plan to reopen?
Ask if there is a phone number, website or other way the child care program will notify parents of plans to reopen or not. Will you be informed or will it be up to you to contact them?
Below are common reactions in children after a disaster or traumatic event.
Birth through 2 years. When children are pre-verbal and experience a trauma, they do not have the words to describe the event or their feelings. However, they can retain memories of particular sights, sounds, or smells. Infants may react to trauma by being irritable, crying more than usual, or wanting to be held and cuddled. The biggest influence on children of this age is how their parents cope. As children get older, their play may involve acting out elements of the traumatic event that occurred several years in the past and was seemingly forgotten.
Preschool – 3 through 6 years. Preschool children often feel helpless and powerless in the face of an overwhelming event. Because of their age and small size, they lack the ability to protect themselves or others. As a result, they feel intense fear and insecurity about being separated from caregivers. Preschoolers cannot grasp the concept of permanent loss. They can see consequences as being reversible or permanent. In the weeks following a traumatic event, preschoolers’ play activities may reenact the incident or the disaster over and over again.
School age – 7 through 10 years. The school-age child has the ability to understand the permanence of loss. Some children become intensely preoccupied with the details of a traumatic event and want to talk about it continually. This preoccupation can interfere with the child’s concentration at school and academic performance may decline. At school, children may hear inaccurate information from peers. They may display a wide range of reactions — sadness, generalized fear, or specific fears of the disaster happening again, guilt over action or inaction during the disaster, anger that the event was not prevented, or fantasies of playing rescuer.
Pre-adolescence to adolescence – 11 through 18 years. As children grow older, they develop a more sophisticated understanding of the disaster event. Their responses are more similar to adults. Teenagers may become involved in dangerous, risk-taking behaviors, such as reckless driving, or alcohol or drug use. Others can become fearful of leaving home and avoid previous levels of activities. Much of adolescence is focused on moving out into the world. After a trauma, the view of the world can seem more dangerous and unsafe. A teenager may feel overwhelmed by intense emotions and yet feel unable to discuss them with others.