Most adults know that in the event of an emergency, it pays to be prepared. This especially holds true for people in the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma currently ranks 11th in the nation for hot weather, 8th in the nation for number of tornadoes, and 2nd in the nation for number of earthquakes. Yet, what many adults may not know is that the outcome of any emergency is directly affected by how well ALL the people involved are prepared - including children.

When it comes to emergency preparedness, parents often exclude young children from the process, considering them too young to have significant input. Preparing for an emergency though is something the whole family can, and should, do together. Think about it. Every day families do things together to stay safe like buckling up in the car, or stopping to look both ways before crossing a street. So why stop there? Teaching your child to be prepared in the event of an emergency not only helps give them confidence and pride in their ability to cope, it may even save theirs or someone else’s life.

There are several ways you can prepare your child in the event of an emergency. First, teach them the basics, such as their full name, address and phone number. Memorizing that information can help them reunite with their family quickly if they become separated. Next, review 9-1-1, and explain that 911 is a special number to call in an emergency when there is no other person to help. The following games can help your child learn basic emergency information:

Learning game 1: Play the “Knock, Knock Name Game” with them. For example, “Knock, knock! Who’s there? Michael. Michael who? Michael Lee Campbell!”

Learning game 2: When headed home from school or a store, say to your child “We’re going home now. What’s our address?”

Learning game 3: Write phone numbers on a piece of paper. Have your child practice by pressing the numbers in sequence, like they would on a phone.

Last, teach your child how to create their own emergency supply kit. When disaster strikes, it is often quick and without warning. The result is that families are required to depart from their daily routine, and surroundings, which can leave children anxious, confused or frightened. Helping your child pack their own, emergency kit can give them a better sense of control and reduce stress.

The idea is best demonstrated through the American Red Cross’s Pillowcase Project. The project teaches students, ages seven through eleven, basic coping skills in the event of an emergency. It also teaches children how to create their own emergency supply kit by packing essential items in a pillowcase for easy transport during an emergency. Children identify for themselves what recommended items they need in their bag, such as water, flashlight, or soap. They also encourage children to take a special item, something that would help them feel safe or happy while away from home like a favorite toy, picture or game.

The Pillowcase Project not only helps to instill a culture of preparedness in a whole younger generation, it provides an opportunity for families to develop emergency plans, along with coping skills as well. It was inspired by local university students who carried their belonging in pillowcases in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Ottawa County Health Department Health Educator is a certified presenter for the Pillowcase Project program.

Natural and man-made disasters can happen suddenly, and at any time. Any person, even a child, can contribute to lessening their effects. Resolve today, to include the entire family in your emergency preparedness plan. Ensuring everyone knows what to do when disaster strikes, can help keep your family safe and secure for tomorrow.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit Ottawa.health.ok.gov/ and click on Emergency Preparedness and Response on the left to download the Family Emergency Preparedness Plan Workbook.

Or visit http://www.ready.gov/are-you-ready-guide to download FEMA’s guide to preparedness planning, “Are you Ready?”

Sean Bridges is Health Educator for the Delaware and Ottawa County Health Departments.