According to Save the Children’s 2014 disaster report card, What Are You Waiting For? parents of children younger than 18 spent an hour or less on emergency planning during the past year. Forty-nine percent said they don’t feel very prepared to protect their children from a disaster and 63 percent said they weren’t very familiar with the emergency plans at their child’s school or day care. In addition, 42 percent wouldn’t know where to find their child if the school or day care was evacuated. The poll found that 40 percent of parents didn’t have an emergency plan because 56 percent had never thought of it; 29 percent procrastinated or forgot; and 15 percent didn’t know how.
The four universal building blocks of emergency preparedness are: Be informed, Make a Plan, Build a Kit and Get Involved. Take the time to discuss with your family the hazards around you and then make a plan to address how you would respond to those emergencies. Get the family involved in finding items for an emergency supplies kit and then build it together. Finally, take advantage of the various emergency related classes and programs out in the community.
Play the “What If …” game
The Talkline Family Support Center encourages parents to play the “What If …” game with their children. According to their tip sheet, you can “use the “What If…” Game to start discussions with your child about his/her fears or concerns and to teach your child what to do in potentially unsafe situations.”
While I am certain that their focus probably was not disaster preparedness, the “What If ...” game is a perfect fit to begin the conversation, both with children and adults, about personal preparedness. Begin by asking “What if there was a tornado?” and see how they would respond. If you must prompt an answer, ask “What should we do? Where would we go? What should we bring?” You could use the “What If …” line of questioning for a number of different scenarios. For example: What if we get separated? What if there is a fire? What if there is an accident?
The Talkline Family Support Center offers the following tips:
The “What If …” Game should never frighten your child.
Think carefully about your questions before asking them.
If your child continues to ask the same “What if …” question, your child’s real concern is probably not being addressed.
Start the “What If …” game with an issue your child has already talked about.
Don’t respond to your child’s “What if …” question by saying it will never happen.
I truly believe that children are more resilient than we give them credit for and, if we educate them about the hazards around us and give them the knowledge to safely respond, they are less likely to panic and get scared because they are in control of the situation.
I recently spoke to a public/private partnership group about resilience and what it means. The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded $100 million to cities willing to create chief resilience officers to prepare for and recover from disasters that have increased in frequency and intensity due to climate change.
According to the Rand Corporation, resilience is the ability of communities to withstand and recover from disasters as well as to learn from past disasters to strengthen future response and recovery efforts. In other words, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative describes a resilient city as “one that learns from the past, rebounds quickly, operates flexibly and maintains vital resources.”
Perhaps the greatest hindrance to become a resilient community is apathy and complacency, but a resilient community is one that learns from past disasters. They know what the risks are around them and they understand their vulnerabilities. Until we recognize that we are vulnerable, we are not going to prepare, adapt and make changes necessary to withstand the “storms” that may come our way.
A whole community approach must be utilized and community resources leveraged to address the issues a community faces, especially during the recovery phase of a disaster. A resilient community recognizes that a top-down approach will not work. Instead, it is a partnership among the public and private sector and non-government organizations, including faith-based.
Finally, a resilient community remains flexible as it “springs” back from a setback. It adapts to the new reality and takes the opportunity to strengthen the health, environmental, social and economic systems.
While there are challenges to becoming a resilient community, the payback will be measurable as a community rebounds from adversity.
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