Before a Disaster Strikes

Your family may realize clearly after a disaster what should have been done. But, whatever the crisis--drought, fire, tornado, flood, etc.--some thought and action beforehand can usually help the members react more wisely. Consider not only how your children might react in a disaster, but what your own reactions might be and the effect of that crisis upon each person's emotional and physical well-being. Unpressed by the tension of a real emergency, a person can think through actions and reactions to crisis situations.

Giving children familiar patterns to follow and basic information and supplies for meeting a variety of possible situations may result in, at most, live-saving skills or, at least, a lessening of the impact of crisis situations. Talking, practicing, and actively preparing together can play a part in helping make the unknown more familiar. You can:

- Discuss action in possible disaster situations at informal times during the day--bedtime, snack time, or when doing chores together. Keeping them posted on what is going on and answering their questions simply and honestly can prepare both parents and children for possible future difficulties.

- Check news stories of family or community problems and emergencies. Talk over how your family would handle the situations. This gives your children the time to think out and plan actions for real life crises.

- Help children practice dialing the telephone operator, fire station, and ambulance (keep the phone on the hook).

- With preschoolers play a game of "Let's Pretend . . ." Discuss a disaster situation that might arise in your area and then ask, "What do you do?"

- Try a family game of "Escape." On five or six slips of paper, write down various places where a fire might be located in your house. Put them in a jar or a hat. On five or six other slips of paper, write down various rooms in which you might happen to be. Put them in a second container. Pull a slip from the first jar locating the fire. Have each family member take a slip from the second jar locating each person in the house. Players must then figure out how to escape and how to help those who may be trapped.

- Stock a box with games, books, and hobby materials for sitting out family difficulties or emergencies.

J. Van Horn
Prof.-Family Sociology Extension Specialist Ag. Economics and Rural Sociology, Penn State