Helping Children

Cope with Disaster


Earthquakes... tornados...fires...floods...hurricanes...

hazardous materials spills... **********

Disasters strike quickly and without warning. These events can be traumatic for adults, but they are fright­ening for children if they don't know what to do.

During a disaster, children may have to leave their homes and daily routines. They may become anx­ious, confused or frightened. As an adult, you'll need to cope with the disaster and also give your children crucial guidance about how to respond.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross have prepared this brochure to help you help your children cope. Ultimately, you should decide what's best for your children, but consider using these suggestions as guidelines.

Children and Their Response to Disaster

Children depend on daily routines: They wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, play with friends. When emergencies or disasters interrupt this routine, children become anxious.

In a disaster, they'll look to you and other adults for help. How you react to an emergency gives them clues about how to act. If you react with alarm, a child may become more scared. They see our fear as proof that the danger is real.

Children's fears also may stem from their imagina­tion, and you should take these feelings seriously. A child who feels afraid is afraid. Your words and actions can provide reassurance.

Feelings of fear are healthy and natural for adults and children. But as an adult, you need to keep control of the situation. When you're sure that danger has passed, concentrate on your child's emotional needs by asking the child to explain what's troubling him or her. Your response during this "problem time" may have a lasting impact.

Be aware that after a disaster, children are most afraid that —

     the event will happen again.

     someone will be injured or killed.

     they will be separated from the family.

   they will be left alone.



Advice to Parents:

Prepare for Disaster

You can create a Family Disaster Plan by taking four simple steps. First, learn what hazards exist in your community and how to prepare for each. Then meet with your family to discuss what you would do, as a group, in each situation. Next, take steps to prepare your family for disaster such as: post emergency phone numbers, select an out-of-state family contact, assemble disaster supplies kits for each member of your household and install smoke detectors on each level of your home. Finally, practice your Family Disaster Plan so that everyone will remember what to do when a -disaster does occur.

       Develop and practice a Family Disaster Plan.

  Contact your local emergency management or civil defense office, or your local Red Cross chapter for materials that describe how your family can create a disaster plan. Everyone in the household, including children, should play a part in the planning process.

      Teach your child how to recognize danger signals.   Make sure your child knows what    smoke detectors, fire alarms and local community warning systems (horns, sirens) sound like.

Explain how to call for help. Teach your child how and when to call for help. Check the telephone directory for local emergency phone numbers and post these phone numbers by all telephones. If you live in a 9-1 -1 -service area, tell your child to call 9-1 -1.

Help your child memorize important family information. Children should memorize their family name, address and phone number. They should also know where to meet in case of an emergency. Some children may not be old enough to memorize the information. They could carry a small index card to give to an adult or babysitter that lists emergency information.


     Teach your child how and when to call for help. They should call 9-1-1 if you live in a 9-1-1 service area.  If not, check the telephone directory for your local emergency numbers.

              Even very young children can be taught how and when to call for emergency assistance.

Provided by: Federal Emergency Management Agency


Back to Home Page