How Prepared Are Our Kids For Serious Emergencies Like Hurricane Matthew?

October 10, 2016Posted by Helaina Hovitz

From the editor: As someone who knows firsthand how chaotic an emergency can be for kids, educators, and parents who have no plan in place, I felt it was important to hand the pen —or keyboard, as it were—to Jo Kirchner, who has created a program that helps bring a literal and emotional sense of safety to children everywhere. This is her guest editorial. 

According to Save the Children, more than half of American families have already been affected by some type of disaster. Yet, the majority of American households (65 percent) do not have an adequate emergency plan in place. Additionally, in a 2015 assessment, 18 states failed to require the minimum emergency planning standards for schools.

With Hurricane Matthew wreaking havoc in countless communities over the weekend, it calls attention to just how serious it is that we make sure educators, families and children are prepared for the increase in natural disasters and the unpredictability of manmade disasters as well.

Practicing lockdowns and drills at school and at home regularly is essential, but typically there is a lack of emphasis on preparing for the aftermath of a crisis. 

If a tornado strikes an area near a school during a work day, how will children and parents communicate to let each other know they are alright? Does the family have a safe meet-up location established? Do they have emergency contacts in place in case they cannot reach each other? Does the school have processes and protocols established that will protect the children until they can be reunited with their loved ones? Or, if a community experiences significant flooding that strands families at home, do they have disaster kits packed with essential supplies, food, medicine, and comfort items for children?

Regardless of the type of disaster, too often the answer to these questions is “no.” That’s why Primrose is so passionate about working with Save the Children to address this critical need and protect more children in our country.

Get Ready. Get Safe. is a Save the Children initiative that includes free lessons, checklists and other resources to help families and child care providers get better prepared for emergencies. We have worked closely with Save the Children the past two years to create even more free resources for the Get Ready. Get Safe initiative and place them in the hands of parents and children across America.


The initiative helps remove some of the uncertainty and intimidation for families around emergency preparedness by breaking it into simple steps and fun activities. By completing the resources we provide, families will have in place the three key components of emergency preparedness: emergency contacts, a family emergency plan and disaster supplies kits.

By teaching essential safety skills, such as how to recognize community helpers, dial 9-1-1 and memorizing their parents’ phone numbers, we’re able to supplement these at-home efforts for children in our schools.

It all started when we developed this early childhood curriculum that taught life skills to preschoolers, teaching children the importance of basic safety skills such as knowing their name, address and phone number; not talking to strangers; never to play with fire; how to “stop, drop and roll” if they were ever exposed to fire; etc. Our Education team was always researching off-the-shelf safety programs for the preschool segment but there wasn’t much available.

We had never seen a packaged “emergency preparedness” approach for early childhood education. So, we adapted it for preschool children and their families, piloted it with a few Primrose schools, improved upon it, and then pushed it out to all Primrose schools across the country and then shared it through our social media channels for all children and families.

When we launched last week, we were thrilled to learn that, in just a few days, it garnered more than 88 million impressions. And, the five pieces of content which we shared on the Primrose national brand page got 293,152 total impressions.

Teaching children age-appropriate safety and emergency preparedness lessons can have a lifelong positive impact on their emotional health and well-being and their ability to manage, navigate and cope with difficult situations.

Empowering children with these essential life skills early on and having open communication with them about what to do if a disaster occurs helps children feel safer and more in control if they are faced with a crisis.

Discussing it together also assures children that the adults in their lives will be doing everything in their power to protect them during these difficult times. It is vital that educators and parents work together to instill emergency preparedness skills and knowledge in children starting at a young age and do their part to prepare for the unexpected so that children are better protected.

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