(The views expressed by Ms. Chung do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.)
Although Sandy has passed, for millions in states along the east coast there are still many hazards. It is important to take steps to protect children, as they are especially vulnerable to the environmental hazards that may be present. Here are some tips parents should keep in mind:
- Parents or other caregivers should directly supervise children - this prevents them from playing in or around floodwaters. It doesn't take long and it doesn't take much water for children to drown.
- Watch for live wires or power sources - electricity from streetlights and downed power lines may be active and may cause a deadly shock through contact with standing water or direct contact with live lines.
- Keep children from playing around drainage ditches, storm drains, river channels, or any place with moving/standing water - children can fall in, get stuck, or drown.
- Be aware of what’s in the water - standing or flood waters can be contaminated and cause children to become sick. Playing in water could also result in being bitten by snakes, rodents or other wildlife.
- Lock the door - In preparation for the storm, many people filled bathtubs and buckets with water to use for drinking or washing. If this is the case, keep everything in one room and lock it away from young children, as they can drown quickly in very small amounts of water.
- Be mindful when using candles or heat sources - Make sure to watch small children around lit candles, and don’t forget to blow them out when leaving the room. Supervise children directly when there are portable grills or sources of heat or fire.
- Turn off vehicles - In order to recharge cell phones and other electronics, people may leave their cars running. Be sure children don’t climb or play in the car. Don’t leave vehicles running inside garages or in any closed area where carbon monoxide can collect.
- Leave it out in the open - Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using them are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. For tips on using generators safely, visit the U.S. Fire Administration website.
Addressing the Emotional Impacts from Sandy
Sandy was very frightening for many adults, so imagine how scary the storm was for children who experienced it firsthand, or even those who simply watched it on television. For kids, no amount of time or statistics really explains the weather event that just occurred or provides comfort in its wake. They may have lost pets, favorite toys, or other cherished treasures, and they may not understand why parents must dispose of their contaminated belongings during the clean-up process.
Here are some helpful tips to support children in recovering and coping with the situation:
- Limit TV and other media coverage of the storm and its impact (such as Internet, social media, and radio interviews of victims) - Listening to stories about the impact of disasters can cause further distress to children and adults. Realize that children should not be exposed to the same amount and level of media coverage being viewed by adults.
- Keep to a routine - Help your children feel they still have a sense of structure, making them feel more at ease or provide a sense of familiarity. When schools open again, help them return to normal activities including going back to class and participating in sports and play groups.
- Make time for them - Help kids understand they are safe and secure by talking, playing and doing other family activities with them. To help younger children feel safe and calm, read them their favorite book, play a relaxing family game or activity. For other ideas, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.
- Encourage and answer questions - Talk with your children about the event and what is being done to keep them safe and help with the recovery process. Realize that children’s concerns may be very different that those of adults, so be sure to ask them what they are concerned about. When children ask about whether another storm may occur, realize that their underlying question is likely whether or not they need to worry that a storm as bad as Sandy is likely to occur. Help them understand that while storms are common, Sandy was a particularly devastating storm and that other bad weather that may occur in the near future is unlikely to cause as many problems. Help them understand what is being done to protect them and their families from future harm and why other storms are unlikely to be as destructive.
- Provide realistic reassurance - Children’s worries may be based on misunderstanding or misinformation. When possible, provide realistic reassurance. But if their concerns are real, acknowledge their concerns and help them think through strategies to deal with their distress. Remember, if children feel they are worried – they are worried.
Here are some other useful resources to help children cope with a disaster:
American Academy of Pediatrics
- Promoting Adjustment and Helping Children Cope with Disasters
- Talking to Children About Disasters
- Flood Recovery (Clean-up Efforts)
- Information for Parents
- Coping with Disasters
- Save the Children
- Online Clearinghouse Quick Find on Crisis Prevention and Response
Promoting Youth Preparedness