If you're in the path of Hurricane Irma, here's how to help ensure your family stays safe.
Hurricane Irma has already devastated portions of the Caribbean, and now Florida and much of the rest of the Eastern seaboard lies in its path. Currently, the entire state of Florida is under a state of emergency, and portions of many cities and counties in the southern and central portions of the state are under evacuation orders. Disney World has even closed. The governor is urging people to seek safer shelters within the state—or outside it. Pretty serious (and scary!) stuff. So how can you help kids manage? Here's what nonprofit disaster relief organization Save the Children recommends:
1. Help kids understand what a hurricane is. Explain Hurricane Irma in age-appropriate terms to let kids know what's happening, and that it's a natural event—not manmade.
2. Let your kids know that they'll be safe. Tell them about your plan for their safety, and that there will be plenty of people looking out for them, including you, rescue workers, police and firemen, and more.
3. Pack a "Go Bag" for each family member. Your kids should get their own go bag of things that are important to them. Make sure that you include favorite stuffed animals, and (non-electronic) activities like books or games. Nonperishable food items, flashlights, first aid supplies and medications, bottled water, personal hygiene products, and at least two changes of clothes are also important to include.
4. If you haven't evacuated, do so now. If you live in the evacuation area, now is the time for you to make your way to safer places, whether it's a nearby shelter (schools and public buildings are often used, but you can locate a local shelter here), or somewhere outside the danger zone.
5. If you can't evacuate, prepare to shelter in place. This storm promises to be catastrophic, and government officials are concerned about people sheltering at home. If you do decide to do so, make sure you have made the proper precautions and have the supplies you need to keep your family safe and well fed for several days, including food and water, a flashlight, batteries, chargers, cash, and first aid supplies. You can review this information from FEMA for exactly what you need.
6. Make sure your children have emergency contact information. In Case of Emergency (ICE) Cards should be prepared for all of your children and put in their pocket, attached to a bracelet, or in a pinch, even written on their arm with a marker, just in case you become separated. Choose three emergency contacts, including, ideally, one from out of state. Work with older children so that they can memorize the names and phone numbers of emergency contacts.