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Disaster Safety for Children

Learn how to reduce and manage your child’s fears before, during and after a disaster or emergency.

Disasters often strike quickly and without warning. They are frightening for adults, and can be traumatic for children. Your family may have to leave home and change your daily routine. Be prepared to give your children guidance that will help reduce their fears.

Disaster Safety

Prepare Yourself with Knowledge

Find out which disasters are most common where you live, then visit our emergency resource library for specific tips on what to do and discuss. For example, if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your child should be taught to DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.

Next, check at your children’s schools, day care, or other locations where they regularly spend time. Find out what their emergency plans are so that you can reinforce them at home.

Share What You’ve Learned

Talk about emergency preparation with your family so that everyone knows what to do. Discussing ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for younger children.

Involve your entire family in preparation activities, such as assembling a survival kit. (You can find other quick, family-friendly disaster preparedness drills here.) Children can feel reassured knowing there’s a plan in place.

Your Child’s Response May Be Shaped By Yours

Feelings of fear are healthy and natural, but in a disaster, your children will be looking to you for clues on how to act:

  • If you show alarm, your child may become more scared, seeing your fear as proof that the danger is real.
  • If you seem overcome with loss, your child may feel their losses more strongly.
  • If you are able to demonstrate that you feel calm and in control, your child may feel more confident and better able to cope.
  • A Child Who Feels Afraid Is Afraid

    Your child may experience the emergency as being bigger than it actually is. Children's fears can be increased by their imagination, and you should take these feelings seriously. Your words and actions can provide reassurance; be sure to present a realistic picture that is both honest and manageable.

    What to Expect

    Children depend on familiar routines: wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, play with friends. When an emergency interrupts this routine, they may become anxious, confused, or frightened. These feelings may be expressed in a variety of ways: from clinginess to withdrawal; increased shyness to aggressiveness. Your child may return to previously outgrown behaviors such as thumb-sucking or carrying a cuddly toy.

    What to Do

    When the danger has passed, concentrate on your child's emotional needs by asking what's on his or her mind. Having children participate in your family's recovery activities will help them feel that life will soon return to "normal."

    During their recovery, prevent young children from viewing television news reports of the event. The images can be very upsetting, particularly if the child is too young to realize they are watching repeated footage and not a new emergency.

    A Proactive Approach: Youth Preparedness Activities

    The Red Cross offers youth preparedness courses and programs to help children develop the skills and confidence they may need in an emergency. We work closely with schools, scout groups, and youth-serving organizations to raise awareness of disaster risk and build resilience among young people. Our age-appropriate preparedness materials educate youth with engaging activities and easy action steps.
    Make Family Preparedness Easy with One-Minute Drills
    In an effort to help you and your family prepare now, here are some one-minute drills that are short on time, but long on impact.

    Visit the American Red Cross Store and Purchase the Deluxe Emergency Preparedness Kit. That's it. You're done with this step. Easy. Right?
    Once you get the kit, make sure that everyone knows where it is and that the items in it are to be used for emergencies only. You don't want someone taking the water packet from the kit just because they don't want to make a trip to the kitchen.
    Have each family member pick their favorite canned foods and personal items and add them to the kit.
    This is much easier and less time consuming than it seems. Pull out a map and highlighter and determine two or three destinations and the routes to get there.
    It is important to know what natural disasters can affect your area and what to do in the event of one striking. Read through the appropriate Disaster and Emergency Guides. Watch the weather and stay on top of the news if a hurricane or other severe weather is predicted to come your way. If local authorities are telling you to evacuate, then EVACUATE! If you followed the drills above, then you already have an evacuation plan.
    Training and Education

    Your local Red Cross offers fee-based health and safety classes for youth, including First Aid/CPR/AED, babysitting, and water safety.

    Download the FREE Monster Guard App

    The fun way to get prepared for real-life emergencies at home. For kids aged 7-11. Available in the Apple Store or Google Play

    Or text "MONSTER" to 90999

    emergency app icon
    Download the FREE Emergency App

    Find our Emergency App in the Apple Store or Google Play

    Aplicación de Emergencias - ahora disponible en español también!

    Donate Now to Disaster Relief

    Help people affected by disasters big and small.

    $10.00 is the minimum online donation amount. All donations are tax deductible.