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How to involve your kids when bracing for hurricanes

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Girl fills an empty gallon water bottle with water from the refrigerator.

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. How can my youngest prepare?
2. How to involve older kids?
3. How to sneak in education?

Hurricane season. Everyone’s stress jumps at those two words and the cone of uncertainty. Even so, involving your kids in your family’s preparations is a chance to make incoming storms a little less scary.

1. HOW CAN MY YOUNGEST PREPARE?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Preparedness and Response offers an interactive booklet, “Ready Wrigley Prepares for Hurricanes.”  This free download offers tips and activities woven into a story told by Wrigley the Dog to help young children prep for emergencies.

Kids will learn the importance of staying informed, packing emergency kits and making a family communication plan. Wrigley’s checklists help children fill their backpacks with supplies, games, puzzles and books. They’ll also feel helpful by packing a tote with their pet’s toys and treats.

Hurricane preparation can be daunting and nerve-racking, so keep your children’s anxiety levels in mind, says Kathy Wall, director of Safe Kids Palm Beach County. This community-based program offers safety education and materials to help prevent injuries in children up to age 19.

“We’ve often thought filling the bathtub or buckets with water was a way to have extra supply in case of contamination. This is extremely dangerous,” she says. “Families with young children should never have open water containers unless supervised 100 percent of the time.”

In fact, toddlers can drown in only 1 inch of water if they trip and lose consciousness. 

2. HOW TO INVOLVE OLDER KIDS?

“Communication is key since children feel the stress of adults,” Wall says. “Talk to children about what is happening and reassure them that you are doing everything possible to keep them safe.”

This is an excellent opportunity to ensure older children know their address and an emergency phone number to call.

After boarding up windows and doorways, practice alternate escape routes with your children in case of fire or emergency. Give each older child a flashlight or battery-operated lantern — never candles.

“In the case of electricity going down, it’s a fun and distracting way to pretend you are on a camping trip in the living room,” Wall says. “Let older kids set up a small tent or make one with sheets and a blanket.”

3. HOW TO SNEAK IN EDUCATION?

Besides mixing in some fun to ease the jitters, you can also squeeze in a little education. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's SciJinks website helps middle- and high school-aged children learn about weather and satellite meteorology with games, videos and articles. 

“Age-appropriate science education is key to helping children understand severe weather and how to stay safe,” says Melinda Grenz, director of marketing at South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach.It can be as simple as a discussion about water – how water temperatures can feed or starve a hurricane and also how water conducts electricity, which is why we stay out of floodwaters in case of fallen power lines.”

Even if they beg, don’t let your kids play outside during the calm eye of a hurricane. Watch out for dangerous storm debris after the storm.

SOURCES:

Kathy Wall, director, Safe Kids Palm Beach County
• Melinda Grenz, director of marketing, South Florida Science Center and Aquarium

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