Posts Tagged ‘tornado’

Preparing your child for a natural disaster

Friday, May 29th, 2015

storm clouds, hurricaneNatural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes, can affect children differently than they do adults. Disasters cause an extreme amount of stress for anyone but children have unique needs. According to the CDC:

Children’s bodies are smaller and more vulnerable than an adult’s.
• Children are more likely to get sick or severely injured in a disaster.
• They breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults do and therefore will breathe in more toxins or debris.
• They have thinner skin that is more easily hurt.
• Since children have less fluid in their bodies, fluid loss (such as dehydration or blood loss) will have a more significant effect on their health.
• They are more likely to lose body heat.

In an emergency, children need help from adults.
• Children may not know how to react, so older children may look to adults for cues. Younger children may scream or cry.
• Some children may not be able to explain where or how they are hurt.
• Children cannot make medical decisions for themselves and will need an adult to get medical treatment.

Disasters can be more stressful for children.
• Children may feel out of control.
• They do not understand the situation.
• They have less practice recovering from difficult experiences.

If you have young children, one of the most important things that you can do to keep your family safe in a disaster is to make a plan.  Planning for a disaster means knowing what to do in each possible situation.

Prepare: Before creating your disaster plan, it’s important to know what types of emergencies are likely in your area and the best way to respond. Different events may require different strategies. You can find more information about tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes on our website. If you are pregnant or have a young infant, these factsheets will help you understand your unique needs and prepare for an unexpected event.

Talk: Spend time with your family discussing natural events that may occur in your area. Use simple words that even very young children can understand.

Practice: Practice your family evacuation plan so that during an emergency you can leave quickly and safely. Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster. For example, during an earthquake you would want to practice “drop, cover, and hold on” under a sturdy desk or table. During a tornado, you would want to seek shelter in a lower level room without windows.

Respond: Stay as calm as you can, since your reaction is likely to influence how your child responds. If you need to go to a shelter, bring any medications you or your children need. Also, bring small toys that will make them feel at home.

Recover: If appropriate, let children help in clean-up and recovery efforts. This can help to increase their sense of control. Try to get back into normal routines as soon as you can. has a lot of information that can help you make an emergency preparedness plan. And if you have a baby or child with special needs, make sure you read our post Preparing for disasters when you have a child with special needs.

Questions?  Send them to


Preparing for disasters when you have a child with special needs

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

stormIt is important to know what to do to protect yourself and your family in case of an emergency.  It is essential that you know what to do if you have a baby or child with special needs.


Where can you find information?

Family Voices is an organization dedicated to helping families care for their special needs children. They offer tips on how to keep your special needs kids safe in an emergency or disaster. They say:

“If your son or daughter has special health care needs, your emergency plan will probably be more complicated, involve more people, and may require equipment. This will be the case if your child or youth:

• Depends on electricity — to breathe, be fed, stay comfortable;
• Cannot be moved easily because of his medical condition or attachment to equipment;
• Uses a wheelchair, walker, or other device to move;
• Cannot survive extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold;
• Becomes afraid or agitated when sudden changes happen;
• Cannot get out of an emergency by herself for physical or emotional reasons.”

They recommend you download the interactive emergency form available on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website. This is a terrific resource which can be updated as your child grows and changes. You can see all of Family Voices ideas and resources on their webpage. They also have “Family-to-Family Health Information Centers” (F2F HICs) in every state to “provide assistance and support in emergency preparation.”  Click here to learn more about the F2F HICs, or to find one in your state.

Our website has lots of good info on how to prepare for a natural disaster. In addition, has info for families with individuals who have special needs. They have an easy to follow preparation list. You will also find all sorts of tips, such as how your phone can alert you of an impending emergency.

How can your kids help?

You can get your kids involved in creating a plan, too. It helps them to feel involved and to better remember what to do when the time comes, because they helped to create the plan. has a kid-friendly webpage with activities to get them engaged in preparing for an emergency, which includes an activity book for kids.

They also have a printable brochure with tips on how to prepare for a disaster for people with disabilities that covers how to help individuals with functional or special access needs create a support network.

Bottom line

Don’t wait to prepare for an emergency or a disaster until it is upon you. With a little bit of foresight, you can have a plan in place and have peace of mind.  And, if or when the time comes, your special needs child will be well taken care of.

Have questions? Send them to

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child.

This post was updated Sept 2015.