By Ioana Lutai
Whether unexpected or unthinkable, emergencies are becoming more widespread in schools, playgrounds, and other child-friendly places. To help keep young people safe, they need to be informed, prepared, and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Volunteer Alexandria, in collaboration with Alexandria’s Office of Emergency Management, is offering learning opportunities showing children how to be prepared.
In an emergency, children can feel stress more deeply and may have different reactions than adults. A child’s unique needs must be taken into account with any disaster planning, response, or recovery efforts.
Key to helping children cope is simply being there for them and helping them to feel safe despite whatever is happening. It is important to take their feelings seriously and let them know that it is okay to be scared, or anxious, or even angry.
As much as you can, explaining what’s going on will help reduce their anxiety and fear. Talking about it makes it easier for kids to cope with a given situation. When parents should share their feelings, it helps children to know that their emotions are similar to yours.
Repetition is a good way for children to learn. By discussing different disasters, parents reinforce the key information children have learned in school such as lock down drills, evacuation drills, and fire drills. It’s important to take every opportunity to teach children how to prepare and respond to specific disasters. Regular planning and drills helps children learn what to do and how to cope in an emergency. That’s why Volunteer Alexandria focuses both on youth and adult teaching.
Recently, Volunteer Alexandria held a workshop at the Alexandria YMCA for 30 elementary and middle school students. Participants played a Jeopardy-like game that helped them to learn how to prepare for various emergencies. From fire safety to natural and man-made disasters, children learned and practiced their knowledge both individually and in small groups.
Children enjoyed demonstrating the safest position in a tornado and every child had the opportunity to answer an emergency preparedness question. Later, parents were invited to participate. It was a great learning experience and fun day at YMCA!
Contact Volunteer Alexandria to schedule training for your group. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming an emergency preparedness volunteer, please visit www.VolunteerAlexandria.org, call 703-836-2176, or email Ioana Lutai at [email protected].
Ioana Lutai is the Emergency Preparedness Manager for Volunteer Alexandria.