If you live anywhere along the East coast, you likely have a plan for what needs to be done when a hurricane threatens. Maybe you evacuate at the first mention of the word “tropical,” or maybe you clear the store shelves of milk and vodka.
Even if you have spent years telling your kids their rooms look like they've been hit by hurricanes, prepping for a storm with children requires a few extra steps beyond, “Someone get the chips, and where is Jim Cantore?”
This specific tip list is written with the assumption that you are planning to ride out the storm at home — and that it is safe to do so.
Let your kids help you prepare! It gives them a sense of control over the situation. Encourage them to help you gather items from your yard to prevent projectiles. Give them tasks to do around the house, such as filling up jugs of fresh water or gathering flashlights.
It is difficult to strike the right balance when preparing kids for a hurricane. They sense the adrenaline that surrounds the arrival of a big storm. For some kids, it means wanting to help prepare, while for others is feels very scary. You know your kid better than anyone.
If the storm hits at night, it might be wise to have a family sleepover in one room. Not only does this make your kids feel more secure, it also will help protect everyone from the danger of falling trees if you pick your most interior room on your lowest floor. Follow your kids’ lead and be very thoughtful how you frame the situation.
Check the bottom of this post for some links to helpful resources for kids.
In the old days you lost power and just snuggled together and took a lot of naps. It’s possible at least one of your children exists because of a hurricane. Now you are expected to be entertainment. Make sure all the phones and iPads are charged; your sanity will thank you. Buy a battery-operated charger for added security against boredom. Don’t let your kids completely drain your phone, though. Most of us do not have landlines these days, and your cell phone has more importance than it once did.
(Back in our day kids didn’t need any electronics during a hurricane ... and get off my lawn! We walked uphill both ways in snowicanes!)
Stock up on light-up toys that truly don’t need electricity; when Hurricane Fran tore through central North Carolina in 1996, there were areas without power for weeks. Glow sticks are a favorite around here.
Make sure there is a lantern in the bathroom — if you think your son’s aim sucks in the light, wait until you see your floors after a few pitch black nights. Better yet, get the kids headlamps.
If you have older kids, make sure they know what is safe to eat and what is not. You know what makes a prolonged power outage even more fun? Food poisoning.
Be extra careful if you use candles since children won’t be careful at all.
When the remnants of Hurricanes Frances and Ivan came through Asheville, North Carolina in 2004, parts of the city did not have drinkable water for a week or more. If you have an infant, make sure to stock up on enough bottled water to mix several days’ worth of formula, or to keep yourself well hydrated if you are nursing. You can also stock up on pre-mixed formula bottles.
If you are used to filling up the tub before the storm hits so you will have water for non-potable purposes, remember that a full tub is a huge drowning risk.
Make sure your first aid kit is well stocked and accessible. Stock a few busy toys in there to keep kids occupied if you’re having to bandage up a cut or dig out a splinter. Check on your quantity of pain relievers and antihistamines. You and I both know kids will get sick at the most inopportune times.
Keep a bottle of good bug spray on hand. You may be outside cleaning debris, and you’ll be happy to have it in the weeks after the storm when the mosquitoes finish hatching out of the standing water.
Give kids clear instruction on staying away from debris, power lines and floodwaters. They may see videos of other people playing or wading in water, but it is extremely dangerous.
There is absolutely room for fun during hurricanes! You can even sneak in a little education by printing off hurricane tracking maps and manually tracking the coordinates of the storm. A favorite activity of mine was to make my own guesses as to the future track of the system. Of course, I was a weird kid who watched the weather channel for hours on end, so your mileage may vary.
You can create hurricane bingo games. If you have cable there is no shortage of words you’ll be almost guaranteed to hear. Emergency, destruction, crisis, disaster, eye, pressure, track. This is a great time to explain sensationalism in the media to help your little ones decipher what they are hearing. If the news gets too scary, turn it off and follow updates on your phone.
You also can create a trail mix buffet. Set out nuts, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, granola, raisins, or whatever you think makes a great trail mix. It’s fun to do and is an easy snack during a power outage.
If you are a camper, set up your tent in the living room and have a “camp in.”
During Hurricane Bertha in 1996, my best friend and I took turns spitting water at each other. I suggest coming up with activities, because you may not like what the kids come up with.
After the storm
Remember your kids are going to look for you as a model of how to react; giving the situation the appropriate seriousness — while not freaking out — will serve you all the best.
Here are a few links that you may find useful:
- Healthy Children’s Hurricane Preparedness: Tips for Families
- Save the Children’s Hurricane Tips for Parents: How to Help Kids
- Weather WizKids: Hurricane Supply Checklist
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Ready.gov Kids
- CDEMA’s Hurricane Buster Academy
Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com. To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook and Twitter.
Originally posted at rhiyaya.com, where you will also find several Jim Cantore memes.