September is National Preparedness Month: Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared

September marks the start of National Preparedness Month, a campaign designed to raise awareness about natural disasters, emergencies, and community planning. Without proper planning, families across the country are at risk of losing their homes, valuables, and their lives. We’re often asked when the best time to start preparing for an emergency is, and the answer is always: Now!


FEMA says, “Disasters don't plan, but you can. Get yourself and your family ready for the unexpected. All Americans are encouraged to take time this month to learn lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid; check your insurance policies and coverage for the hazards you may face, such as floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes; consider the costs associated with disasters and begin saving for an emergency.”


Families and children of all ages should participate in National Preparedness Month by making emergency kits, packing to-go evacuation bags, and practicing emergency drills. Preparing early leads to less stress and greater confidence when faced with a life-threatening emergency.


Tips For Saving Early for a Disaster

  • Keep copies of all financial, personal, medical, and household documents in a safe and secure place (printed out, online app, stored in the cloud). Have hard copies ready in a to-go bag in the event of an evacuation.

  • Cash is king during a disaster. Keep small bills in your to-go bag to pay for food and gas. During a disaster, credit card machines will likely be down.

  • Obtain property, life, and health insurance. If you already have insurance, make a plan to check your coverage every 6 months to see if it meets your current living needs.

  • Stock up on non-perishable food, water, medical supplies, and personal hygiene items.

  • Four in ten Americans are not able to cover an unexpected $400 expense, according to the Federal Reserve Board. Plan by starting an emergency fund.


Child care facilities need to find out in advance how to receive disaster relief funds for their programs. Unfortunately, 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster due to lack of funds. When child care programs close, it creates a ripple effect. If parents don’t have access to child care, then they can’t work. This absenteeism leads to loss of revenue for local employers, which in turn provides less money to rebuilding communities, and this further stifles the recovery process. Essentially, community regeneration starts with a healthy child care sector.


Make a Plan to Prepare for Disasters

Sheltering-in-place

  • Gather essential supplies for at least 1 week: non-perishable food, water, first aid kit, medicines, batteries, books, puzzles and games for children, lollipops and suckers to keep young children calm, and special dietary needs.

  • Place your essential items in a to-go bag in the event of an evacuation, along with all important financial, medical, and household documents.

Evacuating

  • Choose several evacuation routes and make practice runs on each route.

  • Distinguish a safe meet-up point for the entire family to reunite.

  • Ensure your vehicle has a cell phone charger.

Communication

  • How will you get in touch with your family during a disaster?

  • Sometimes it is easier to call out of the impacted area or region than call within the region. Designate a family member or friend that lives in another county or state to be your emergency communication coordinator.

  • Text messages are more likely to reach family members than phone calls.

Pets

  • Store enough pet food and water, a collar with ID tags, and an extra leash.

  • Pack your pet’s favorite toys and treats.

  • Keep a picture of your pet printed out in case you become separated.

Make a Communications Card for all Family Members

  • Contact information: home, work, medical doctors, and child care providers.

  • Out of town contact numbers and email addresses.

  • Emergency meet-up locations.


Find out if your child care provider has an emergency response plan and an updated parent handbook. 90% of childcare providers have written emergency response plans, but only 70% have plans about how to communicate with family members about emergencies or disasters. Having a written emergency plan is one of the best methods that childcare providers can use to be prepared for the unexpected. Parents should work with providers, staff, and children to practice emergency drills and evacuation routes, pick-up spots, and shelter-in-place protocols.


Teach Youth to Prepare for Disasters

It’s important to involve kids in your emergency preparedness plans. 60% of children under the age of 5 spend an average of 36 hours a week in a child care setting. During an emergency, there’s a good chance that your child will be in the care of a provider.

  • Know your child care provider’s emergency response plans, evacuation and pick-up location, and shelter-in-place plans.

  • Find out how providers plan to reach parents: email, text, Facebook, or a phone call.

  • Talk to children about emergency preparedness in an age-appropriate manner.

  • Have children help make emergency kits, and pack a to-go bag with essential medications, supplies, and special toys.

  • Have children memorize their home phone number and address.

  • Soothe and help children cope before, during, and after a disaster.

  • Limit television time for young children, as news reports about the emergency may cause unnecessary anxiety.

Communication Plans

  • Make sure older children know how to evacuate during an emergency.

  • Teach children how to locate the designated, safe meet-up point.

  • Practice emergency drills and evacuation routes with children.

  • Include a communications card in your child’s backpack with important contact information.

Child Care Providers

  • Create games and fun tools to encourage kids to get involved in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.

  • Make sure your program provides a safe, calming environment, where children won’t feel stressed during an emergency.


National Preparedness Month encourages families, child care providers, staff, and children to practice safety protocols year-round. What preparedness measures are you going to practice today? Let us know by commenting below, or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page.


The Institute for Childhood Preparedness provides child care professionals with the skills and confidence to create, practice, and execute emergency preparedness plans. We can come to your child care program, or your community to perform a site safety survey, and tailor an emergency preparedness plan for your unique needs. Schedule a training with us today: https://www.childhoodpreparedness.org/training.


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