Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker
Extension Educator, Family Life
It's tornado season here in the Midwest! No matter the age, we need to discuss with our families what we should do in the case of an emergency or natural disaster. I was about seven or eight the first time I remember having to take cover in our basement because of a tornado. When the sirens went off my mom told my brother and me to grab our sleeping bags and a toy to take into the basement. I remember not being able to choose a single toy, so I loaded up as many dolls and toys that I could get into my sleeping bag and dragged them down to the main floor and then into the basement; I couldn't just choose one! After it was all said and done, we were probably only down in the basement for fifteen to twenty minutes. To this day, when I hear the tornado sirens go off, I know that I need to grab pillows and blankets and seek immediate shelter as low as I can go or in a well-supported interior place like a bathroom.
Preparation for any emergency or disaster is key. First, you need to look at what could affect your family home. Illinois is prone to many weather induced disasters: tornadoes, floods, ice storms, lightning strikes, etc. You also need to think about house fires and even the remote possibility of an earthquake.
When developing the plan for your family, you need to think about all members of your family including your pets. For each type of emergency or disaster you will need to identify the safe place whether inside or out and where the family will go in the event of that type of emergency. It is often suggested to have enough food and water for up to three days for each member of your family along with some basic first aid supplies. Include in your plans anyone who may have special needs, i.e. a baby who needs formula or someone on vital medication. You will also need to discuss and practice escape routes with children so they know how to get to that location. Growing up as a child I knew that if there was a fire, we were to meet at the turn around on the driveway and we all headed to the basement with a blanket during possible tornadoes. Discussion and practice will help keep children calm and safe in scary moments.
When there is a chance for bad weather, it is always good to tune in to local radio, television, or online information. However at times, you may be without power. A battery powered NOAA weather radio may be a good item to keep in your home for such cases. Since this item is not used regularly, it would be good to change the batteries in your weather radio twice a year when you change your fire alarm batteries.
Another idea to think about is having a kit of vital records ready to grab and bring with you in the event of a potential disaster. You will then have the names, numbers, and information you need following some type of disaster. It is also wise for families to have a small disaster supply kit.
As you can see, I have just briefly touched on some things to think about with disaster preparedness. For an informative fact sheet please visit http://web.extension.illinois.edu/disaster/guide/g_facts.cfm or if you want more information about children and coping with disasters please visit: http://eden.lsu.edu/Topics/Families/Children/Pages/default.aspx .