During an emergency, it’s important for children to understand there are caring adults who will help keep them safe. Learning about first responders in your community is essential to providing children with a sense of security during emergencies, but this can be a difficult topic to approach in an age-appropriate way.
The good news is there are many simple ways you can help children foster positive relationships with community helpers like firefighters or police officers. Here are a few tips to help you as you teach young children about first responders:
Teach children about the roles of different first responders and help them become familiar with the supplies and symbols associated with each job. Below, you’ll find some helpful language you can use when talking to your children about first responders.
Role: Help put out fires and control other types of emergencies. They often help people get to safety.
Supplies: Fire trucks take firefighters to fires. They have hoses and big ladders to help firefighters reach and put out fires safely. Fire hydrants help firefighters get water to put out fires. Fire extinguishers can help us put out small fires at schools or at home.
Role: Protect us from harm. They block off unsafe areas and tell us what we need to do to stay safe.
Supplies: Police cars take police officers to emergencies. They have sirens to help police officers go places quickly. A police officer may block off an unsafe area with tape to keep us from getting hurt.
Emergency Medical Services (You may want to refer to these professionals as emergency doctors)
Role: Help heal injuries and keep people healthy.
Supplies: Ambulances take emergency doctors to help people who may be hurt or injured. Emergency doctors bring medicine and medical supplies kits to help others, and they may take injured people to the hospital to get more help.
Activity: A first responder matching game is a fun, easy way to help your child remember these important jobs.
Take children to meet first responders in person, and encourage them to ask questions and touch and feel some of their equipment. Many community organizations already participate in “Touch a Truck” events with local fire departments. Your local Primrose school may also host one of these events! This can help children trust and become more familiar with these professionals when in uniform. For example, a firefighter may appear very scary to a child when she is wearing her fire mask. But allowing children to watch her put on the equipment can help remove the element of fear.
Activity: Attend or help organize a “Touch a Truck” or first responder meet-and-greet at a local school, organization or children’s club.
Emergency responders often have to face dangerous situations in order to protect us and our children. Teaching your little ones to be thankful for these emergency professionals is a great educational opportunity and also teaches them the value of giving back to their community.
Activity: Write thank you notes or bake cookies for local first responders. Host a first responder appreciation lunch at your school where students can greet first responders and present them with cards or treats.
While talking to your children about emergencies might feel intimidating, you’ll be grateful that you discussed this topic if your family is ever in need of emergency services. Your child will feel reassured to know that caring adults are working hard to keep them safe! For more tips for helping your family prepare for emergencies, check out more Get Ready. Get Safe. resources from Save the Children.