22 Aug 2014
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Parents Talk: Discussing Emergency Situations at School

From school shootings and lockdowns to fires and earthquakes, how do you talk with your children about such potential emergencies?

Parents Talk: Discussing Emergency Situations at School Parents Talk: Discussing Emergency Situations at School

Last week, held its first-ever where the school initiated classroom lockdown protocols with a Sheriff Deputy portraying himself as an active shooter on campus.

The drill was planned prior to the .

Just yesterday, a student from James Logan High School was shot near campus. The campus was then placed on lockdown as a precaution, and students and staff were advised to take refuge inside of classrooms. According to reports, the campus was also on lockdown, and students at were also advised to remain in their rooms.

Union City’s Youth and Family Services Street Outreach Team then provided counceling services to students at a local community center after the shooting and lockdown occurred.

Although we have been fortunate to not have any incidents such as these occur recently, we wanted to know how and if parents talk to their kids about potential emergency situations at school and at home.

Our Parents Council weighed in:

Patch: At what age do you think parents should start talking to their child about such emergencies?

Stacy Blom: I think as soon as they are ready mentally to absorb the information you are going to share with them. It's not always easy because each child has their own insecurities and some can handle situations better than others. I try to use the news as a basis for discussing different situations and how things can happen at anytime but then I preface it by saying, "We can't live our lives in fear of something happening and must enjoy each day to its fullest." Otherwise we'd be worried about everything and afraid to live!

Rai Warbasse: Emergency preparedness is dear to my heart, so your children are never too young to start drilling in smells and sounds into their head as being bad or alerting. Though young toddlers are most likely not going to be very far from a parent, you don’t necessarily need to focus on fire drills; however, if they are old enough to reason and open a door or window, they should know what to do and where to go if there is a fire or earthquake.

Christie Arias: I think it's important for children to understand what an emergency is as young as possible. When something beyond our control is happening, they need to have an idea of what to do. I don't think it's important for young children to know specifics because there should always be someone else who will be responsible for them. Our children helped us pack our emergency backpacks. They asked about them and what they were for. We explained that they are "just in case."

Teresa Mills-Faraudo: As soon as you're able to have a conversation about it. They may get a little scared but if something does happen it could safe their lives.

Patch: Do you have your own emergency drills at home? What are they?

Stacy: I am embarrassed to say that "no", we do not have any emergency drills at home! We do have an emergency earthquake kit in our backyard shed that both girls are fully aware of and for the most part, they watch me change out the contents once a year, but we do not have a set plan. If we are not together, we have a long distance phone contact that we are all to call and report in that we are okay. The woman from the company, in turn can tell each of us when we call who's she's heard from. However, if phone service it not working, we will be screwed. We have also discussed heading out of town to our mountain house if we could no longer be around here. This would be a safe place for us to meet up. Not very good for my youngest, who doesn't drive, though!

Rai: We started off with simple sounds of the different fire alarms in the house and explaining fire and smoke to our children. As they approached pre-kindergarten we started doing fire-drills and explaining where to run to if we were not able to be with them. Though it is not always practical to do a full fire drill every time mommy sets off the fire alarm in the kitchen, it is good practice to yell fire and get the children used to running to the door while yelling a false alarm and all clear when they are in your sight.

We also burnt different items that would most likely to cause a fire like coated wire, paper, wood…etc. and having them identify the smell. Because of this, my 4 year old recently alerted mommy of an outlet that was smoldering away and we were able to prevent an in-wall fire.

Christie: We have in the past done a smoke alarm drill. We talked about what it was, why it was going off and what to do when it happened. Both of my kids know our family meeting point in case of a fire and they both also know it's important for them to get out of the house quickly without taking anything (except their sibling) with them. We probably should discuss other emergencies as well like earthquakes. We also ask our kids from time to time who they should call in case of emergency and they know to call 911.

Teresa: We've mainly discussed earthquakes. My 4-year-old son knows that if things start shaking he needs to get under the kitchen table or something else that can protect him from falling things and cover his head with his arms. We've also talked about what to do if our house is on fire and how to escape without getting hurt.

Patch: As a parent, how do you discuss an incident that's happened at school with your child?

Stacy: This kind of falls under the same topic as above where we discuss the situation and still have to continue on with our lives as best as possible.

Rai: Things at school that are more worrisome then fire drills or strangers. Though most people do not consider “stranger-danger” or inappropriate touching as being an emergency, it will be an emergency for the parent if your child encounters the wrong stranger and it is just as important to teach them what to do. We talk about situations with our children on a regular basis.

Christie: We've never had anything happen at school, so we've never been presented with that opportunity. I try not to talk about things (shootings, etc.) that happen at schools with my kids. I feel like they need to feel safe at school since they spend so much time there. I have spoken to my children about what to do if they see a gun or or weapon at school or else where. They know they should run away and tell a teacher or other person in charge. They also know never to touch or play with a gun, even if they think it is pretend.

Teresa: Since my son is only in preschool, I haven't had to talk to him about things that have happened at school. But my rule of thumb is to do my best to make sure my kids feel safe.

Patch: How prepared would you say your child is if an emergency incident occurred at home or at school?

Stacy: I would have to say that my children are most likely better prepared for an emergency situation than myself and my husband. They learn so much from school and disaster preparedness that they would probably have to lead us!

Christie: I don't think that I've ever talked to my child about what would happen if there was an emergency at school. I think the most important aspect at school is that they do what their teachers ask them to do. I have however, asked and know all of the emergency procedures for school, including lockdown procedures, evacuation procedures, etc.

Teresa: I think my 4-year-old is pretty well prepared for his age. I have to wait a year or two before I start talking to my baby girl about emergencies.

Rai: Being that my children can’t open the windows yet and are limited to escaping out a door only, I would like to think they are fairly prepared to identify the situation and be able to listen to mommy and daddy. Older children over the age of 8 should be drilled in the night from a dead sleep at least once a year.

I think that parents are less prepared for emergencies then they would like to think. Ask yourself these questions and see how you do:

  • What are your children’s school policies for emergency lock down, alternate relocation, fire evacuations and shelter in place?
  • Where is your first aid kit and what is in it?
  • Could you and your family run out of the house for a long period of time and be warm?
  • Could you survive in your home for 3 days or more without electricity and running water?
  • What if the ceiling collapsed over your food storage, what would you do?
  • Can you get through your house in the dead of night with no lights? On your knees?
  • Could you get your incapacitated spouse and your children out of the house?
  • Where is your safe zone to meet?
  • Out of town and inbound phones aren’t working, who do you contact for a safety report?
  • How do you respond when panic sets in and can you keep from panicking when your family is screaming for help or you don’t know where they are?
  • Finally, what is in your emergency kit and where is it and your emergency water?

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