ST. CROIX, Virgin Islands – Emergencies and disasters can happen at any time, often without much warning. This is also true in the U.S. Virgin Islands where residents, including children, were impacted with two category five hurricanes last year. Disaster planning, response and recovery efforts must take into account the unique needs of children, who make up roughly a quarter of the U.S. population.
“Children encounter the same difficult experiences as adults during disasters. Having them help prepare the family for a disaster gives them responsibility, confidence, a sense of control and turns them into self-advocates for disaster preparedness.” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer William L. Vogel.
FEMA encourages families to have children help prepare for an emergency as early in their childhood as possible; educating them, and making them more resilient, enhancing their ability to recover faster from any type of disaster.
It is helpful to:
- Include children in preparedness conversations
- Know your child’s school emergency plan
- Practice emergency plans regularly
- Make sure children have emergency contacts memorized or written down
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1
Families need an emergency communications plan that includes a list of key contacts to reach out to during an emergency. Include an out of town emergency contact that every family member can reach to inform where and how they are, and when they will be able to reunite. Everyone should keep a copy of this list in their belongings, such as luggage, sports bags, school bags, emergency kits, and in their cell phones.
The family emergency plan should also include an emergency kit with enough supplies for at least 10 days, such as: water, canned food, can opener, battery or solar powered radio and additional batteries if needed, first aid kit, flashlight, clothes, blanket, whistle, and any prescribed medicine. Children can include personal items, such as their favorite book, toy or game.
Also, don’t forget the four legged family members; Pets and service animals are part of the family and preparing for their needs is part of the emergency plan. Children can help by gathering enough pet food and water for at least a week; food should be kept in a waterproof container. Pets should wear up to date tags fastened to its collar, and an extra collar should be included in the kit. Include any prescribed medicines, toys and supplies to clean up after the pet, such as; plastic bags, paper towels or newspapers.
“Children are our greatest asset, teaching them good preparedness practices at an early age ensures good practices as adults,” said VITEMA Director Mona Barnes. “Families and communities gain energy and confidence when children are involved in the family’s disaster plan.”
Check out Ready.gov and VITEMA.VI.gov for more information about preparedness for children and other family members.
FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after a disaster.
For official information on the recovery effort following the hurricanes, please visit www.informusvi.com or www.usviupdate.com. Follow us on social media at twitter.com/femaregion2 and www.facebook.com/FEMAUSVirginIslands. To sign up for emergency, weather related, public safety and service disruption alerts on the Virgin Islands, sign up for Alert VI or copy https://member.everbridge.net/index/892807736729008#/login into your browser.
To donate or volunteer, contact the voluntary or charitable organization of your choice through the National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (NVOAD) at www.nvoad.org. For those who wish to help, cash donations offer voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands also has the “Fund for the Virgin Islands” at www.USVIrecovery.org.