4/8/15 Making Preparedness Happen: Building Resilient Communities

Preparedness is a hard word to digest. It’s long and has a stale taste as it leaves your lips. As a concept, it is always just a little too ambiguous (i.e., How do I know when I’m really prepared?) or too overwhelming (i.e., The 165.5 Steps to Safety).

Preparedness, by any other name, is much more simple—it’s being ready. Unlike preparing for emergencies, preparing for everyday things is easier and often happens without forethought. We prepare for the day by “making sure the kids have both shoes and a lunch when they leave for school” or we prepare for success by “studying to pass our tests and graduate.” Preparation comes easily and makes the most sense when we do it to provide for, protect and support the people we love so that they can be safe, healthy and successful.

The fault in our logic is that, because we don’t know when emergencies might happen, we don’t necessarily prepare for them in the way that we should. The devastating aspect of this lack of preparation is that our children—the people we love the most—are often the most vulnerable individuals in times of crises. As a nation we are largely under-prepared to protect children in emergencies.

  • Each day, 69 million children are in school or child care, away from their parents should disaster strike. Still 21 states and the DC lack basic standards for protecting children in these settings.
  • Less than half of American families have an emergency plan.
  • And although two-thirds of parents are concerned about the risk their child faces from disasters or school shootings, 67 percent don’t know how often and what types of emergency drills are practiced at school.

Keeping children safe requires the cooperation and involvement of the entire community. It involves emergency managers, government, organizations, schools, care providers, and families who want children to be safe no matter where they are. Between the systems, plans and protocols, YOU, as a parent or care giver, play the most critical role keeping children safe and securing their future.

We need to be champions for our children—if we aren’t, who will be?

Don’t wait until it’s too late to take action.

  • Be familiar with your community’s emergency protocols, including communication and warning systems.
  • Ask about schools’ and caregivers’ emergency plans; ensure that everyone who cares for your child(ren) has your current emergency contact information.
  • Make a family emergency plan that accounts for different types of emergencies and identifies different evacuation routes and meet-up locations.
  • Be an advocate for children’s safety, raising your voice about creating emergency plans at state and local levels that account for children’s unique needs.

Fostering a culture of preparedness begins with children. It’s about starting the dialogue about emergencies early in life, making education a priority, and creating an environment where preparedness is expected, not an afterthought tacked on to the latest disaster. By integrating these life-saving skills and lessons from the beginning, we can turn the tide, sparking a movement and building a generation of citizens who are prepared for disaster.

If that ugly preparedness word still plagues you and you’re tempted to avoid it or put it off, I urge you do it now–do it for your kids. They deserve a safe and empowered childhood. They deserve the opportunity to talk about, learn, and build resilience before an emergency strikes.

Whether we admit it or not, saying, “I prepared to keep you safe is saying, “I love you and protecting you is important to me.

-Sarah Thompson, Associate Director, Get Ready Get Safe, Save the Children