Thursday, July 9, 2020

Five Tips to Get Your Kids Prepared for Hurricane Season

Learn from the American Red Cross Greater NY Disaster Preparedness Instructors Jason Lyons & Alexander Poku.

by Yixuan (Shirley) Luo, American Red Cross in Greater New York

On June 1, 2020, we entered what is expected to be a very active hurricane season. It is now more important than ever, not only to prepare, but also to adjust our planning efforts for the pandemic. This will help ensure our kids are safe in the event of a storm or other emergency. With the help of two disaster preparedness experts from the American Red Cross in Greater New York, Alex Poku and Jason Lyons, we have five tips to get you and your kids ready for the unexpected.

Red Cross volunteer and father Alex Poku has more than five years’ experience teaching young kids about emergency preparedness. Jason Lyons leads our preparedness programs at the American Red Cross in Greater NY and just welcomed a baby girl to his family at the beginning of the pandemic. These tips come from our conversations with them.

Alex Poku (L) and Jason Lyons (R)

1. "Making a Plan, Building a Kit, and Staying Informed"

The key to disaster preparedness is always, according to Lyons: “make a plan, build a kit, and stay informed.”

The family response plan has to be updated regularly as new circumstances arise and as new family members join, as was the case recently with Lyons. Key to the planning, according to Lyons, is how are you going to get out, and where are you going to go.

Meanwhile, it’s critical to consider what the kids need. “Young children can’t think for themselves, so you have to think for them,” Lyons highlighted, “and we can take away from COVID-19 that you should purchase necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for you and your family and put it in your kit, so you have these resources available when you need them.”

When the disaster strikes, as he noted, it’s critical to stay aware of the information released by official authorities, follow their guidance, and communicate that information with your kids.

2. "Think and Practice!"

Again, consider the needs of your children. What would they need in a two-week cease period? More importantly, practice with your children and let them get used to the process, ensuring that they will be less shocked or surprised when the time comes.

“Make practice a norm,” Lyons emphasized. Practice responses to different types of emergencies with your children to build their experiences and to ensure that they become conscious of what they should do.

3. “Take Time to Communicate with Kids”

As Poku explains, when kids are talking to each other, that’s not always the truth, it’s just “the kids-version.”

Parents need to share information with kids by communicating and involving them in the conversation: “Find out what kids know and correct it if needed. Take away all the myths they have told you, correct anything false that they understand to be true, and let them understand what the truth is.”

4. “Make Preparedness a Game for Younger Kids and Let Older Ones be in Charge”

According to Poku, for younger kids, parents should make emergency preparedness a fun but serious game.

However, when dealing with older kids, parents shall let them be in charge. As Poku noted, “Teens or pre-teens take being in charge seriously. They like to take the responsibility of being in charge, especially to take care of their younger siblings. As parents, you should give pre-teens and teens this responsibility because that's something they enjoy"

5. “Deep Breaths Make Better Choices”

One of the most significant coping techniques in disaster/emergency preparedness is to take deep breaths. Parents need to get the kids to understand that it’s not just taking deep breaths but it’s a process of breathing slowly and calming down. “Kids need to realize that if they are clam, they can make better choices,” said Poku. Big changes in kids’ reactions to the emergencies take place as they begin to understand deep breaths.

More Online Resources to Help Get Prepared
How to prepare for an emergency: Emergency PlanSurvival Kit SuppliesStay Informed
Info on preparing for hurricane season amid COVID-19 can be found here
Register for a virtual preparedness session for kids here
Listen to the latest episode of our Podcast: Kids, Coronavirus and Preparedness

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