“They are too young, they won’t understand, they will be scared.”
Is it ever too early to involve children in emergency planning?
This summer there will be some SA families who will face a ‘household’ emergency. It might be the result of a ferocious storm or escaping a bushfire that requires a full evacuation of a whole community to a designated safe place. One of us may become ill or have an accident that requires an ambulance. Would our children know what to do?
What if there is a car accident up the road and one of our children is first on the scene? Or a huge storm that leads to water pouring into our house while we’re not there. Do they know what to do? Do they know the steps to ensure their own safety and best chance for survival?
We can’t plan for every possibility, but there are ways to run through scenarios that will help our children feel less afraid and more empowered in an emergency. The act of planning with them will send the strong message that their input is critical and their safety paramount.
Planning for an emergency means everyone knowing what to do and what is expected of each of us. Children tell me that they want to be capable and sensibly engaged in an emergency, they want to know what they can do to ensure their own safety and that of others. Part of our responsibility as parents is to involve our children in creating a household emergency plan. Not all emergency situations will involve fire, storms, or floods, but as these are the emergencies likely to cause children the greatest concern, it is important that they know you have a plan and understand what your expectations are of them in the event of an emergency.
If we involve our children in household emergency planning, we are much more likely to minimise the negative impact an actual emergency might have on them before, during and throughout the recovery phase. It makes sense to do this during the holiday period when we can devote time and focus on emergency planning as a family. We need to ensure we ask questions that allow our children to express their points of view, and which give them permission to ask as many questions as they need to.
Finding time to do a drill or a rehearsal could iron out issues that weren’t considered during the discussions. This might bring practical solutions such as where the spare keys are stored, and where to meet if you get separated.
By involving children and considering their interests and ideas, we not only get a better plan but we nurture children’s emerging capacity for participation and community action.
To find out more about the work of the Commissioner, including access to free resources designed specifically for parents and carers visit:
Read the Commissioner’s guide to Being Child and Youth Focused in an Emergency: