Your children are not always with you, and dangerous weather events can occur at any time. Would your child know what to do if faced with severe weather at school, camp, soccer practice, or a playground? With some time and appropriate weather safety resources, you can ensure that your children will be safe no matter where they are.
First, if you donít have a family emergency plan, it is time to make one. There are many articles available on BellaOnline that will give you specific tips on developing an emergency plan, as well as an emergency supply kit. Your written plan should include the following: a) names, birthdates, medical information (including medications), typical daily schedule (for family members at school or work), phone numbers, and any special needs information for each family member; b) where you will meet if you are separated when a severe event/disaster strikes; c) a detailed communication plan, explaining how one family member would reach another family member, and d) a list of items in the emergency supply kit.
Your child who is five years old or above should be able to recite his/her full name, parentís names, address, home phone number, and parentís cell phone/work numbers if applicable. This will take considerable practice and time, but it will be worth it if your child gets lost -- during a disaster or at any other time. Younger children and those who are unable to memorize the above information should have an identification card pinned inside their clothing where it is not visible to potential predators. Remember, in a tornado or other severe weather event, your child could get separated from day care or preschool teachers, or other adults who could identify him/her and tell authorities how to contact you.
Second, talk with your children about the weather as it happens every day. Basic knowledge and awareness of weather is the beginning of weather safety education. Draw their attention to lightning and dark clouds signifying the approach of severe weather. Depending on the childís age and understanding, explain weather terms such as lightning, thunderstorm, hail, blizzard, flooding, hurricane, and tornado. Describe the awe-inspiring but potentially dangerous nature of weather phenomena.
Third, teach specific weather safety information. Every child should know what to do in the event of a tornado: at school, follow teacherís instructions; on the playground, run for the nearest building or, if that is impossible, lie in a low area with arms covering the head; inside, go to a small windowless room such as a closet and protect the head with the arms or a pillow. If you have warning sirens or a weather radio, tell the child what they mean and how to respond.
Explain to your child that lightning will strike the highest object Ė in the middle of a ball field, this could be the child him/herself. The following rules apply to lightning: get inside if possible, do not stand under a tree or pole, crouch down, touching the ground as little as possible and stay away from water such as lakes, ponds, and swimming pools. Inside, the child should not use electrical appliances (TV and computer especially) or the telephone and should avoid windows and plumbing fixtures. Lightning can travel through pipes to a sink or bathtub, producing a jolt of electricity that will harm anyone nearby, especially someone using the water. This is an often-neglected aspect of weather safety education.
Many children are not aware of the dangers of water, especially in the event of a flash flood. Flooding can occur even if it is not raining where you are. Children should be taught not to play near ditches and viaducts which can suddenly fill with water from upstream rainfall. Swiftly moving water is particularly dangerous, but even standing water, such as leftover flooding after a hurricane, should be avoided since there is no way to tell how deep it really is.
If a hurricane is approaching, there will probably be enough warning for you to be with your children and follow your emergency plan when it makes landfall. Alternatively, you may evacuate as a family. This is when the emergency supply kit is particularly helpful. Make sure you have 3-5 days worth of medicine and food (more if anyone has an illness such as diabetes or epilepsy requiring daily medication for survival) in your kit. Since tornadoes, lightning, and flooding are often part of a hurricane, your childís knowledge of these dangers is important.
By taking these steps, you will be able to feel much more comfortable about your childrenís safety in the event of severe weather. Donít wait for schoolteachers to provide weather safety education Ė do it yourself, now!