A good first step in preparing a child for an emergency or disaster is selecting an emergency preparedness pack or kit. While it is unlikely small children will be able to carry all emergency preparedness supplies parents might need to pack for them, it is still a good idea to have separate 72 hour packs for kids. Men are often sheltered in a different location than women and children during emergencies or natural disasters. Children may need to be left with a trusted adult in severe weather while a parent searches for other family members, secures supplies, assists with rescue efforts, or returns to a disaster location where it may not be safe for children to accompany them. A separate child’s emergency preparedness kit means supplies can be divided more easily among family members so each person can keep some necessities with them at all times during a natural disaster or other emergency and children will have the reassurance of “their stuff” with them at all times even if a parent cannot be present with them at all times.
Children can help select a bag to hold their 72 hour kit from several acceptable options pre-selected by parents. Children’s emergency preparedness packs should be able to be easily carried by a parent or ideally, the child if he or she is old enough. When shopping, look for something that can be lifted and carried while walking such as a sturdy backpack, a backpack on wheels, a framed pack like backpackers use, or a small suitcase. Parents should keep in mind in a disaster or emergency there may be rubble or rough terrain the child may need to cross or climb over with his or her emergency preparedness kit so a wheeled backpack or suitcase without straps to carry it may not be the best option. Straps for bags should fit comfortably for children, but also be large enough for an adult to sling it over their arm if the children need help with their 72 hour kits. Older children, like teenagers, can carry packs that backpackers use with a belt at the waist to help distribute the weight of the pack correctly.
An extra pocket on the inside or outside to place a few items that need to be accessed frequently or quickly can be helpful, but items can also be organized in zippered plastic bags within the emergency preparedness kit if necessary. Older children may appreciate a special pocket for their cell phones or MP3 players with a port for their headphone wires. Emergency packs for infants may include a special pouch for the all important pacifier to be reached quickly.
Weather Proof It
Children’s 72 hour kits should be water repellant or items inside should be encased in zippered plastic bags so they will not get wet in inclement weather. If the child’s 72 hour kit or pack is not already waterproofed, waterproofing spray is available in many stores that can add some protection to the bag or pack. The bottom of the bag can also be dipped in PlastiDip (a synthetic rubber coating) which provides some added durability and protection to children’s emergency preparedness kits if they are set down on wet or muddy ground so the surface can be easily wiped off. If parents are planning to use PlastiDip or a similar product on the bottom of the child’s 72 hour pack, they should fill the child’s pack with some padding or stuffing so the form of the bag is full and not empty and will retain that shape when filled with the child’s emergency preparedness kit items.
Personalizing the outside of the children’s emergency preparedness kit helps them appreciate it and take ownership of it in an emergency or disaster. Decorating the exterior of the children’s emergency preparedness kit also serves an important purpose in assisting parents and kids to be able to identify the 72 hour kit easily. This can be helpful if the 72 hour kit is stowed with other luggage and emergency kits under a bus during a mass evacuation for example or kept in a pile with others at a shelter. Excellent ways to personalize the emergency preparedness packs include silk-screened characters that are frequently already a feature of school backpacks. Think about including additional embroidered or iron-on patches or decals found in craft and fabric stores to further personalize the children’s 72 hour kits to make them stand out further.
One thing to avoid in personalizing the child’s emergency preparedness pack is putting their name on the exterior of the bag where strangers can see it. Having the child’s name on the exterior of the 72 hour kit can be a safety concern because some unscrupulous adults may take advantage of the chaos of a disaster to try and separate children from parents or guardians.
Carefully selecting children’s emergency preparedness kits and parents involving the child in the process of picking a 72 hour kit can help make the next natural disaster or emergency less stressful and survival more successful.