At the end of summer, we stock up on school supplies to prepare our kids for the educational year ahead. With a little practice, preparing each school year for earthquake safety can become just as routine. Start with these three simple steps.
1. Select trusted people who can pick up your kids
Check the information in your school’s emergency contact forms that are on file in your school office, or in your school’s electronic system. Ask your school secretary for help if needed.
Schools in California provide “emergency contact forms” that allow parents and guardians to specify persons who can pick up their children from school in the case of emergencies. Also, most schools will only release students to parents/guardians or these “emergency contacts.”
To be ready for a major earthquake, add as many emergency contacts to those forms as you can. Find friends, neighbors, relatives, and most practically, parents of classmates, to add as emergency contacts. In the event you are prevented from traveling to school because of a nightmare-inducing disaster, you don’t want your kids spending the night in the gym.
Better yet, make a cooperative plan with other parents in your children’s classes. You might all agree in that in the event of a major earthquake, you each volunteer to get to school as soon as possible and wait until every kid is picked up. After an agreed upon amount of time, one of the on-site parents can bring all of the unclaimed kids to a calm, safe place to wait for their parents.
2. Make a plan and talk about it as a family
Earthquakes can seem scary, especially to small children. Talking to children about difficult subjects is hard, especially for adults. The best way to prepare your children for an earthquake is to talk to them about the possibility and include them in the process for being prepared.
Ignorance might feel like bliss, but living oblivious to the threat of a major earthquake could be trauma-inducing when “the big one” does finally hit.
Make a plan for what your family will do after an earthquake, and let your children develop it with you. You might be scared of frightening them, but explaining to them positively what to do and who to call and where to meet will help ease their fears about what will happen after a disaster.
Knowing that your family is prepared with a plan will help your kids reduce their uncertainty and anxiety. Letting them help pick emergency-kit supplies will empower kids with an important task and also ensure that comfort items of their choice are included.
3. Create Emergency ID Cards for Your Kids
In the event of a disaster when first responders are overwhelmed, identification cards can literally save children’s lives. Cards carried by kids can provide medical personnel with valuable info; cards carried by parents can help rescuers locate missing children.
Creating ID cards can be as simple or as complicated as you choose. The most critical information includes:
- Recent Photo
- Parents’ Phone Number(s)
- Emergency Contact Phone Number(s)
- Eye/Hair Color
- Blood Type
- Medical Conditions/Allergies/Medications
- Birth Year
- Family Meet-Up Location Outside Neighborhood
The Internet offers a variety of emergency ID cards, ready to be printed or completed online, but it’s easy to make your own. One simple method involves printing a recent photo of your entire family and then writing down your child’s information on the back. Take it to a print shop to laminate, or if you’re feeling extra frugal, use packing tape and scissors.
Keep important financial information private. There’s no need to include Social Security numbers or exact birth dates.
Create three copies of each ID card–one for the child to carry in a secure, unexposed location such as a zipped backpack pocket or wallet; one for parents to store in their records; and one to keep in your “go” or “bug out” bag.
With a little foresight and knowledge, preparing our kids for disasters occurring during school can become as normal and familiar as back-to-school clothes shopping (and a whole lot cheaper).