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11 Ideas for Creating a Family Emergency Plan (Without Scaring Your Kids)

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A few summers ago, I woke up just before dawn to the sound of sirens on my street. My son, who was 4 at the time, came flying into my room to report that there were six fire trucks outside. When went outside to see what was going on, we were horrified to see that our neighbor's house was on fire.

Sadly, our neighbor lost his pets and a portion of his home that day. I came to the scary realization that we'd never talked to my son about what our family would do in an emergency like that.

When it comes to putting together a family emergency plan, you want to balance informing your child with not scaring them. I talked to some other moms who've found a way to strike that balance and help their family be ready in the event of an emergency. Read on for smart ideas so that your family will be prepared too.

 

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1Know Your Neighbors

"One big part of our family emergency plan is knowing our neighbors. We've talked with our kids about which neighbors' houses they should walk to if something ever happened at the house. We have the same arrangement with the other families. It is also nice knowing that the people on our block keep an eye on each other's houses and would let us know if something seemed off." -- Kelly B., Saint Paul, Minnesota

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2Stock Up on Flashlights

"After we had a power outage last year that totally scared the kids, I've made sure that each of them has a flashlight in their room. I check to make sure the batteries are still working every time I change their sheets." -- Ashley B., Denton, Texas

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3Pack Emergency Gear Together

"We live in the country and we get A LOT of snow in the winter. One of the things my family has to be prepared for is the car getting stuck in the snow or going into a ditch. As part of this, we have the kids help us pack a winter box for the car. The box has a portable shovel, a small broom, food, water, and warm blankets. I think it helps them feel more in control to be part of helping pack the box, and it gives us a chance to talk about snow safety." -- Gloria H., Virginia, Minnesota

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4Have Fire Drills

"One of the things we do twice a year -- once in the summer and once in the winter -- is a practice run of what we'd do if there was a fire. I don't use the smoke alarm because that scares my toddler, so we use a whistle instead and we focus on praising them for doing the right things." -- Jessie M., Des Moines, Iowa

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5Talk About Fire Trucks

"My son is still at the age where he gets excited to see a fire truck, so I use that as a chance to remind him about fire safety. If he sees a truck, I'll ask him things like 'what number do we call if we need a fire truck?' or 'what should we do if we smell fire?' No scary questions, just good reminders." -- Sarah F., Tucson, Arizona

More from The Stir: 6 Things Firefighters Wish Everyone Did at Home

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6Make a Kit for Being Stuck Inside

"We live in a part of the country where tornadoes aren't uncommon, so a big part of our emergency plans are to teach about tornado safety. Last year we ended up in our unfinished basement for several hours during a bad storm. After that, as a family, we decided we needed to have a 'tornado kit.' Our kit includes some things to make being stuck in the basement more comfortable: flashlights, pillows, cushions to sit on, books, and some snacks and water bottles in case we're there for a long time." -- Ruth E., Abilene, Kansas

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7Curb Worry

"I think one of the good things about talking about what to do in an emergency is helping kids understand what things they DON'T need to worry about. Like, when we talked about what we'd do in an emergency, I found out my daughter was super afraid of hurricanes. We live in Minnesota so there is no need to be worried about that, and it was good to be able to reassure her. I think it is helpful to talk about more than just 'what to do in a fire' and to talk about natural disasters that could happen in your area too." -- Heather H., Duluth, Minnesota

8Teach Kids to Dial 911

"This might sound basic, but one of our steps in doing an emergency plan was making sure our 4- and 6-year-olds both know how to use our cell phones. We don't have a landline and both our phones have lock codes, so we had to work with the kids to get them to memorize the codes and know how to dial 911. Basic but super important!" -- Quinn S., Saint Paul, Minnesota

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9Get Kids Involved in Safety Checks

"I have a child who is really prone to worry. The idea of a fire REALLY scares him, so we have him help us check the smoke detectors every two months. Seeing that they are in working order helps him feel safer." -- Diane L., Clovis, New Mexico

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10Stash Shoes by the Exit

"We actually had a middle-of-the-night emergency once when our carbon monoxide detectors went off due to a leak. We all did the right thing and got out of the house as quick as we could. But we ran right out of the house into a 30 degree night with no shoes and coats. Now we keep an extra pair of shoes and a jacket for everyone in the family on the porch, just in case. No need to add hypothermia to an already bad situation!" -- Claire B., Shoreview, Minnesota

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11Do Small Things to Make Them Feel Safer

"My piece of advice is not to underestimate the importance of small things that make kids feel safer. After we talked about what we do in the case of a fire or big storm, my son said he wanted a spare bike helmet for his room, 'just in case'. It seemed a little silly to me, but if it helps him feel safe, okay." -- Susie C., Carroll, Iowa

More from The Stir: 6 Must-Have Apps to Keep Your Kids Safe

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