Disaster Preparedness for Children


kids-multi-racialAs a parent, preparing for emergencies shouldn’t fall on your shoulders alone. Young children and teens alike need to be part of the process — for their own safety and sense of empowerment.

When talking to kids about disasters, it is important to teach them about disasters, without overly alarming them. It’s a balancing act between the facts and potential impacts of a disaster and empowering them with actions they can take to be safe. Being open about what you are doing as a family to prepare before disasters happens is comforting. When possible, involve kids in activities like putting together the disaster supplies kit.[2]

It is also important for parents and other caregivers to understand what is causing a child’s anxieties and fears. Regarding a disaster, children are most afraid that:[3]

  • The event will happen again.
  • Someone close to them will be killed or injured.
  • They will be left alone or separated from their family.

Parents and caregivers can clarify misunderstandings of risk and danger by acknowledging children’s concerns and perceptions. Discussions of preparedness plans can strengthen a child’s sense of safety and security.

Listen to what a child is saying. If a young child asks questions about an event, answer them simply without the elaboration needed for an older child or adult. Children vary in the amount of information they need and can use. If a child has difficulty expressing his or her thoughts and feelings, then allowing them to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened may help.[4]

Implementing a Community-Based Youth Preparedness Program

Children comprise approximately 25 percent of our population and are the future of our communities. They can play an important role during emergencies, but many programs do not consider children in their planning. It is important that children know what to do in an emergency and that all disaster planning, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts include children’s unique needs and assets.

The first step in implementing a youth preparedness program in your community is to decide what to include in your program. For example, will it include information about a particular type of disaster, family preparedness, or emergency response? What are your goals?

Before making this decision, you first need to assess your community’ s needs and risks. Communities across the nation are at risk for specific types of disasters and emergencies. For example, tornados frequently occur in areas of the Central United States while hurricanes are common on the eastern and Gulf coasts.

To run an effective program, you need people who support your program’s mission and vision—administrative staff, trainers, promoters, and volunteers. Most successful youth preparedness initiatives are supported by a core of community volunteers—from parents to teachers to first responders.[5]

For more information, read: FEMA Brochure – Youth Preparedness: Implementing A Community-Based Program



  1. Ready.gov – Get Your Kids on Your Team!: http://www.ready.gov/kids/parents
  2. Seattle.gov – Office of Emergency Management: http://www.seattle.gov/emergency/prepare/personal/kids.htm
  3. FEMA Brochure – Helping Children Cope with Disaster: https://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/children.pdf
  4. FEMA Brochure – Helping Children Cope with Disaster: https://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/children.pdf
  5. Youth Preparedness: Implementing A Community-Based Program: http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1903-25045-5654/youth_preparedness_implementing_a_community_basesd_program_v5_508.pdf