September is National Preparedness Month, and as we head into hurricane season it's natural to worry about how severe weather might impact your family. Already, the United States is preparing for Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm scheduled to hit North and South Carolina either Thursday night or Friday morning. Over a million people have been ordered to evacuate, according to The New York Times, which can be scary for children. Thankfully, according to meteorologists and disaster relief experts, there are ways parents can explain mandatory hurricane evacuations to kids so everyone can feel safe and prepared.
By far best way to keep your kids safe and calm during a storm is to be prepared and let them know what's happening. According to Weather Wiz Kids, teaching your kids about severe weather before it strikes is an important part of that process. As Meterologist Bob Larson explains to AccuWeather, unlike other weather emergencies hurricane evacuations generally happen well before the storm hits land. That means parents can talk with their kids about the possibility of a weather evacuation well before it's time to leave the home, which can make the entire process less stressful and scary.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests involving your whole family in the planning process for a hurricane evacuation, especially if you live near the coast or an area commonly affected by hurricanes. Their website Ready.gov has games, activity guides, and comics to help kids understand hurricanes, why evacuations are necessary, and what to do during one. For parents, the same site has easy-to-follow check lists which you (and your kids) can use to create an emergency plan and evacuation kit that will help everyone feel prepared and put everyone's mind at ease.
According to Larson, the best time to explain weather evacuations to your kids is before one happens. As he explains to AccuWeather, hurricanes move slowly and their paths and severity can often be tracked and predicted. So, generally speaking, evacuations can happen well in advance of a storm hitting land. So, rather than teaching your kids that a hurricane evacuation is an emergency — like a tornado — it's better to teach them that it is a part of a plan to keep everyone safe.
Larson adds that it might be helpful or even fun to help your kids learn more about how and why hurricanes happen. Knowledge of a hurricane and how it works might give them peace of mind, especially if it helps them know how meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center and local news stations work together to let people know if they need to evacuate for their safety. AccuWeather suggests involving your kids in listening for weather alerts so they can stay in the know and have their own job to do to keep your family safe.
While the threat of severe weather can be seriously scary, Ready.gov explains that it's important to stay calm during an evacuation. The best way to do that is to tell your kids a storm is coming and that an evacuation may happen. The same site notes that you should also talk about what to do if they are separated from you during an evacuation, where you plan to go, and what will happen to your pets if you have to go to a family member's home, hotel, or shelter during a severe weather evacuation.
The Ready.gov site also has games, activities, and evacuation tips for kids to help them feel safe, empowered, and in the know about the weather around them. For instance, if your kids have cell phone it's important that they text versus call so that they can help keep emergency lines open during an evacuation.
As science teachers Allison Goodman and Todd Quinter explained to AccuWeather, kids of all ages can get involved in the weather emergency planning process by listening to the radio, watching the news, or moving their toys inside the house so they don't blow away when the storm hits.
AccuWeather notes parents might also want to teach their kids information like how to call 911, their first and last names (which are not actually mommy and daddy), and important phone numbers in case they are separated during an evacuation. Weather Wiz Kids also suggests getting your kids involved in creating a family evacuation kit, including things like packaged food, infant formula, water, first aid supplies, money, batteries, and a weather radio. Preparing for weather evacuations is necessary, and as a bonus it might just help your kids — and you — feel safer during the storms to come.