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No matter how much effort you put into creating an emergency communication plan, if your family doesn’t remember what to do or forgets to carry the paper you created it on, it’s work that is wasted. You can help them remember by stressing how important it is, but for most kids, that can also be a loss of time with no productive results. Instead, make it a game with a prize at the end. For younger children, the prize can be anything from going out for ice cream to a trip to the five and dime with money to buy a toy. For teens, finding the right reward might be tougher. After all, kids at that age find everything “so lame.” You can offer an extra privilege or the use of the family car.
The type of emergency you choose to practice depends on your family and the area where you live. Children already understand fire drills from doing them in school so you might start with that. A house fire drill will be more fun because it can be set up like a game, with cardboard flames blocking exits and a race to get out of the house. You can even film it and review the film the next day. Remind the family to stay as close to the floor as possible to help avoid breathing smoke, but don’t let that slow you from evacuating the house. You should have an assigned area to meet outside. If everyone makes it in a specific amount of time, you should be ready to take the family for a treat.
Get the family involved in creating the plan from the start. Start with a family meeting and talk about the idea of an emergency communication plan and why it’s important. Ask everyone to consider what types of emergencies could occur. Depending on your area (and your kids), you’ll have answers that will vary from tornadoes or hurricanes to an invasion of spacemen. Ask everyone to order those from the list of the most probable to the least probable and create a list. Start with the first one on the list and create some actions to take.
Of course, the communication plan isn’t all about what to do in the event of a natural disaster. The potential for civil unrest and even terrorism is always lurking. While you don’t want to make your children paranoid, let them know that sometimes there are bad people that don’t care who they hurt. Discuss the measures to take if either of the two possibilities happen. Talk about taking various alternative routes to one of several locations to avoid the chaos and meet up with the family. Let your children know that sometimes texts go through easier than calling. Also, let them know that sometimes calling or texting an out of town number may get through quicker and have them put the number of the person you chose who lives in another town in their phone as well as on their emergency contact list. Get them familiar with the meet-up places and the various routes to get there. You can do that by taking walks together and looking for the most direct routes and alternative ones