Step 2: Things Every Child Needs During Emergencies

Step 2: Things Every Child Needs During Emergencies

Through September and October, Primrose Schools® will be sharing information and resources from national partner Save the Children® and its Get Ready. Get Safe. initiative to help families get prepared for emergencies. This blog post marks the second post in the nine-week series.

Children depend on certain adults (family and caregivers), places and routines for their safety and well-being every day. They rely on others and have not yet developed the ability to cope with crisis situations. That’s why when an emergency occurs or a disaster strikes, children are the most vulnerable.

Bar Graph Info graphic describing how concerned are US parents about risks their children face from disaster

It’s up to adults and parents to recognize that children’s needs differ from our own so that we can prepare to accommodate them in an emergency situation. And considering more than half1 of U.S. families have been affected by some type of disaster, the question is not if you’ll need to be prepared, but when.

Take a look at the following list of some of children’s unique needs that should be addressed in emergency planning and preparation to help ensure little ones are safe and protected from harm.

  1. Reliance on Caregivers: Children rely on caregivers for physical and emotional support. During a disaster, they’ll especially look to an adult to know how to respond, where to go and what to do. If parents, guardians and other caregivers are unprepared for emergencies and disasters, children are left scared and at risk of harm.
  2. Communication and Identification: Young children may not be able to verbally identify themselves or family members, and older children may not know how to reach their emergency contacts or even who their emergency contact is. This is why it’s especially important for caregivers at home, school or day care to have access to the correct emergency contact information for your children.
  3. Mobility: Infants are unable to walk and young children may need assistance for balance, and move at a slow pace. If you have children around these ages, your family’s emergency plans must take this into account – including how to transport strollers, cribs or car seats.
  4. Physical Needs: Children’s bodies are smaller and less developed, which means they are at greater risk for illness or harm during an emergency. For example, because children have thinner skin, take more breaths, and are closer to the ground than adults, they are more susceptible to harmful chemicals or carbon monoxide poisoning from fire smoke or chemical leaks. Children also have unique nutritional needs that require special emergency planning. They need adequate fluids and healthy foods to help them grow. Plenty of water and nutritious, child-friendly snacks should be stored with disaster supplies.
  5. Emotional Needs: Aside from physical support, children also depend on their parents or guardians for emotional care. Disasters of all kinds can deeply affect children, and the emotional reactions and responses of caregivers can heighten stress. Specialized support and care from adults will help them develop healthy coping skills needed to heal and recover.

During a crisis, responsibility lies on parents and caregivers to ensure children are safe, and this week’s checklist item focuses on this fact. Step 2 in the Get Ready. Get Safe. Family Plan Checklist challenges you to discuss how you will prepare your child for a disaster or emergency with the adults in your household, taking into consideration the unique needs listed above. You can use the plan’s Q&A section to help guide you through the discussion. Once you have that conversation, you are one step closer to being better prepared for emergencies!

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