Plan to Communicate

Mardi Gras parade and crowd

I was interviewed yesterday by a young lady for a class assignment. We talked about several things, all of which pivoted on this year’s theme for National Preparedness Month. “Don’t Wait, Communicate” is applicable for so many aspects of our lives, and especially when a disaster hits us.

In the context of disasters, communication can become as challenging as buying ice or gasoline after a hurricane. We forget that the ubiquitous smartphone may not be so useful when cell towers are down or when there’s no way to recharge our electronic devices. It’s frightening to think that we may not be with our loved ones when a disaster occurs and have no way of finding out their status. Are they all okay? Where are they? How can we get to them?

Here are seven things you can do before a disaster occurs.

  • Identify an out-of-state family member or friend willing to serve as your check-in person in the event of a disaster. Provide all of your family members with that person’s contact information. Why? In a disaster, it is sometimes easier to contact a person outside the disaster area than it is to contact someone in that zone.
  • Teach your family members (children and older adults who may not know) how to send a text message. Texting can be a more effective and reliable tool than voice calls when the network is overwhelmed.
  • Know your family members’ daily routines. Be familiar with school and work disaster plans. Who are the emergency contacts?
  • Designate a meeting place in case you have a home fire or cannot access your home.
  • Give each member of your household a printed list of emergency contacts. This will be useful when their cell phones are not available or phone batteries are dead.
  • Make sure young children know their full names as well as your name and home address. Their knowing this information can help responsible adults reunite you with your children in a disaster or emergency.
  • Assign emergency duties to older children and adults. For example, if authorities have issued an evacuation order, you will need to gather all of your essentials and leave as directed. Older children may be responsible for assembling all of the family’s emergency go (travel) kits, getting pets, turning off lights, or other performing specific tasks. Adults should be responsible for keeping the vehicle fueled, planning evacuation routes (always have more than one way out of your home, neighborhood, and community), gathering important papers and medicines, and making sure everyone is accounted for. At least one member of the household should include cash in a go kit or evacuation essentials. ATMs may be down or out of cash during a disaster.

Don’t wait for the disaster to figure out how you will communicate with your family. Make a plan. Your plan will not look like my plan, nor like your neighbor’s plan—that’s okay. Just make and share it with your family and friends.

Today.

Youth and Disasters

traumaPost by Lynette Black, 4-H Youth Development Faculty, Oregon State University

When it comes to the effects of disasters, children are a vulnerable population. Understanding the unique needs of children and including these needs in disaster planning will help them better cope with life following the disaster. Let’s take a look at this unique population.

They Rely on Adults

Children are physically and emotionally dependent on the caring adults in their lives. During disasters they will turn to the adult to keep them safe. If the adults are unprepared, the children are left vulnerable both physically and emotionally. This means child care providers, educators, afterschool providers, coaches and other caring adults need to be prepared with disaster plans that include knowledge of how to respond to disasters, comprehensive evacuation plans, and safe and efficient family reunification plans.

They are Not Small Adults

Children are more susceptible to the hazards caused by disasters due to their underdeveloped bodies and brains. Their skin is thinner, they take more breaths per minute, they are closer to the ground, the require more fluids per pound, and they need to eat more often; leaving the child more vulnerable to physical harm from the disaster. In addition, their brains are not fully developed leading to limited understanding of what they experienced and possible prolonged mental health issues. Since children take their cures from their caring adult, the adult’s reactions and responses can either add to or minimize the child’s stress level. Preparations for disasters need to include not only survival kits including first aid supplies for the physical body, but also teaching children (and their adults) stress reducing coping skills for positive mental health.

Their Routine Equals Comfort

Children need routine to help them make sense of their world. Keeping the child’s schedule as consistent as possible following a disaster is crucial to their sense of well-being. The reopening of school, afterschool and recreational programming as soon as possible adds stability the child’s life. Helping families return to a routine known to the child (snack time, bed time, story time) is of utmost importance and helps the child find a new norm post-disaster.

They are At Risk

At particular risk for prolonged mental health and substance abuse issues is the adolescent population. Their brains are in a developmental stage where, in simple terms, the executive function is underdeveloped leaving the emotional part of the brain in charge. This causes this age group to “act without thinking” and feel emotions more intensely than other ages. Disasters increase the typical teen emotions and behaviors leading to greater risk taking, impulsivity and recklessness. They also suffer from increased anxiety and depression and can develop cognitive/concentration difficulties. The caring adults in an adolescent’s life can help recovery by being available to them; listen without judgment, stay calm, serve as a good role model, encourage involvement in community recovery work and resumption of regular social and recreational activities. Understand that with adolescents the effects of the disaster may last longer and may even reappear later in life.

Disasters and traumatic events touch all of us, but can have a particularly traumatic effect on children. The good news is most children will recover, especially if the caring adults in their lives take the steps before, during and after the event to provide basic protective factors and to restore or preserve normalcy in their lives.

See Lynette’s webinar on this topic. If you are a childcare provider, you may also be interested in this online course on disaster preparedness for childcare providers.

View Impacts of Disaster on Youth Webcast

How to use a Ready-Made Twitter Campaign to Promote Hurricane Preparedness

Treye Rice describes how he did it. 

How can you motivate large groups to spread Disaster Preparedness information for you on social media networks such as Twitter? You do it by providing EVERYTHING they need in one, ready-made campaign. In this poster, I visually showcase the ready-made Twitter campaign produced for distribution in Extension coastal districts in Texas. The campaign includes ready-made Tweets, shareable graphics, schedules for distribution, and tracking methods using hashtags and link shorteners. This type of ready-made campaign can easily be duplicated and used as a model for promoting any Extension program, event or resource.

View the campaign materials and how-to video here:
http://texashelp.tamu.edu/using-twitter.php

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