With Hurricane Florence on its way, I’m sure you’re trying to prepare for anything — especially if you’re in the Carolinas. The Weather Channel is currently reporting Florence as a Category 4, and with 135 mph winds, they’re saying it will be catastrophic. It’s understandably a terrifying time, and could be even more so if you have young children. How can you prepare them? In addition to Hurricane Florence, it’s also National Preparedness month, so even more reason to sit down with your family of all ages and figure out a plan, including emergency preparedness for toddlers.
According to ready.gov from the FEMA website, it’s important to prepare your kids before disaster strikes by having them help you create an emergency kit, talk about a communications plan, and role-play what you would do. The website also suggested encouraging dialogue by answering any of their questions, staying calm and reassuring, and keeping them away from the TV — especially if they’re old enough to understand what the news is saying. Practicing going to a safe shelter with your toddler is helpful, as well as having everyone “become familiar with your evacuation zone, and the evacuation route,” the website noted. The more familiar these places and activities are, the less completely freaked out your toddler will be.
An emergency kit can include non-perishable food such as dried fruit or peanut butter, bottled water, a first aid kit, extra batteries, matches, a battery-powered radio, sleeping bags and warm blankets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, flashlights, a manual can opener, maps, pet supplies, baby supplies, and a whistle to signal for help. “There should be enough food, water, clothing, and supplies to last for at least three days,” the website noted. For older children, the ready.gov website has a little game they can play called “Build a Kit,” which is a fun way to help them learn how to be prepared. You should also have them help you bring in any outdoor plants, furniture or decorations, too, and explain to them why you’re doing that in a non-threatening way, according to the website.
As for when the hurricane is happening and you need to keep your toddler calm, Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California says, "Toddlers feed off of us, so if we remain calm, they will as well. This can be hard when internally we are scared, but this is important for them.” Another way to keep your toddler from being too scared is to play music that they enjoy, Posner says. “If there is still electricity, you can also watch a fun show that they like. If the power goes out, play around with flashlights (while being mindful of need for batteries) and make it a ‘fun’ experience.” If your family unfortunately has to evacuate, she says make it an adventure, like you’re going on a road trip. As long as you’re calm, your toddler typically will be, too.
The most important thing you can do for emergency preparedness for your toddler is to remain calm, no matter how scared you may be. They can read and feed off of your energy. Familiarizing them with protocols and safety measures in a fun way beforehand is also crucial in making sure your toddler is safe and prepared. Oh, and don't forget the snacks.