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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Disaster Prep

Children change everything. Did you hear that often before becoming a parent? I did and of course, it is true in many ways. Hello irreversible change! Like many other parents I know, awareness of (and anxiety about) disaster preparedness has dramatically changed since I became a mom. I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1994 and I’m embarrassed to admit it: I didn’t put together any emergency supplies for us until about a month after my daughter was born in 2007. Sure, I knew I “should” do it but there was always “later.”
“That takes care of that,” I thought as I zipped up the backpack and stashed it in the hall by the front door.
Eighteen months later, we moved and it seemed like a good time to check on our grab-and-go bag. What an eye-opening experience! The bag contained many too-small diapers (37 of them!) along with a package of wipes, a mini first aid kit, one granola bar, a flashlight and a bottle of water. That’s what happens when you make an emergency bag in a postpartum haze.
My daughter is 4 years old now and our grab-and-go bag is in much better shape. That was my first step. I noticed that getting our emergency bag together eased some of my anxiety. Then I took a free CERT class on disaster preparations. Then I joined my neighborhood disaster prep committee. Each step has helped me prepare both my family and myself. There are so many resources out there to help get you started; a quick Internet search will provide an overwhelming list of things you “could do” to prepare. In lives that are busy, rather than put off the big list till that mysterious “later,” I advocate for taking small steps to prepare your family for an emergency.
Step by Step
Being a parent adds new needs (and new fears) to disaster preparations. My solution has been to start by focusing on what preparations I can do; these include buying and storing supplies, taking CERT classes in first aid and fire suppression, securing bookcases to the walls and becoming involved with my neighborhood committee. Talking to other parents (especially those with older children who went through the 1989 Loma Prieta) has helped me deal with my fears. A big goal for me is to know that I can stay calm and present for my daughter if a major earthquake does happen.
If preparing ourselves is the first part, then actively preparing our children is the next step. I want to educate my girl about both the scientific facts (what is an earthquake) and what to do if there is one (for an earthquake, the classic advice remains the best: stop, drop and cover). This can be a fascinating topic for our young scientists. The topic is not scary for her and so in talking about it, I focus on the science. My current explanation is that the ground that seems solid beneath our feet is made up of huge pieces like a giant puzzle. This puzzle covers the whole earth and the pieces slide around very slowly. Sometimes, when the pieces push against each other, stored up energy is released and we feel an earthquake.
Are you ready to get more ready?
Put a pair of shoes under or near every family member’s bed.
Add bottled water to your grocery list – plan one gallon per day per person in your household for at least three days. If you have pets, include extra water for them.
Email the emergency contact list you leave for your babysitters to your out-of-state-family. Designate one out-of-state contact as your main person and make sure they are able to notify other family members.
Make it a goal to talk with a neighbor about disaster prep. My neighbors have been great sources of ideas and advice. One neighbors uses her earthquake supplies as an outdoor pantry so it is part of her regular routine to use and replace canned/dried food. Another neighbor keeps her family’s camping gear with the earthquake supplies.
A very wise fireman told me to add leftover Halloween candy to emergency supplies. I know that I crave comfort food when I’m under stress and a little sweet can be a great pick-me-up for any member of the family. (And if there’s none leftover, you can always buy some inexpensively during post-Halloween sales.)
We check and update our earthquake supplies when Daylight Savings Time starts and ends (also check those smoke alarm batteries). This is a great time to get the next size up in diapers or bigger clothes. (Even if your kids are potty trained, a package of back-up pull-ups is a good idea.)
If need more ideas, here are some links for emergency/disaster preparation for families:
Sesame Street: Let’s Get Ready Together: This is not specific to earthquakes and is a great video for kids about emergencies.
USGS Earthquakes for Kids
Ready Kids
Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT): Find CERT classes in your community that will help you be confident and competent dealing with an emergency situation.
You can also get kids involved in your preparations. My girl is fascinated by our stash of supplies (stored in four plastic bins under her playhouse) and looks forward to our twice a year check. During the check, I have her help unload and reload the bins and let her sample food she is curious about. Our bins are only half full and I have a list of things to add that I’m working my way through. Now that I’ve got most of the basics covered (water, food, first aid, flashlights, clothing), I’m focusing on what will help my family specifically. This month, I’ll be adding some favorite photos, few toys, books and art supplies along with a special lovey.
Where to keep it all? My Dad built a playhouse for us with a storage space underneath for our supplies. Other folks we know use garden sheds or heavy duty trashcans.
We haven’t done an earthquake drill but I think that is one “should” that is headed towards the top of my list. What tips do you have for preparing for earthquakes or other natural disasters? Do you have any special plans for your preschoolers? Anything you share can help all us be better prepared!

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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