From school supply shopping to re-acclimating your kids to an early morning routine, there is a lot of preparing that goes into the start of the new school year. As school supplies are packed into backpacks and the finishing touches are put on that first day of school outfit, don’t forget to take the time to build an emergency kit, make a family communication plan, and know how you will reunite with your kids if there is an emergency.
A little preparation now can make a big difference later! Here are some tips for preparing your kids for emergencies to stay safe if the unexpected occurs.
Make a Go Bag (or two).
A go bag, or disaster kit, is a collection of basic items designed to provide survival essentials in the case of a short-term disaster (it is recommended to have enough supplies to last for at least three days in your go bag). When assembling your kit, collect the items together with your child and talk to them about what they need in their go bag and the importance of each item. Items like a book, puzzle, and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket is a great comfort item to consider when assembling your kit.
Remember, everyone has different needs, so be sure to keep that in mind when assembling your go bags! You never know when a disaster or emergency might strike, so consider making multiple go bags and storing them both at home and in your vehicle. Check out these printable go bag checklists and start building your go bags today!
Make a family communication plan.
If a disaster or emergency strikes, knowing how to contact one another and reconnect if separated is an important part of emergency planning for you and your family.
In the case of an emergency at school, it’s always good to know what kind of emergency plan is in place at your child’s school. If you don’t know what the school’s emergency plan is, ask for it and get familiar with it. Know how your child’s school will contact you and make sure the contact information they have on file is up to date. Know what relocation sites have been preidentified by the school in the case of an evacuation. If your child rides the bus, know what alternative routes they might take and where the new drop of location(s) will be in the event of an emergency.
Have a family discussion to determine who would be your point of contact during an emergency. It’s always a good idea to pick one primary emergency contact that lives locally and another that lives out of town. Unless you are in danger, send a text. Texts may have an easier time getting through than phone calls, and you don’t want to tie up phone lines needed by emergency workers. Knowing where to go and how to get there is also essential. Decide on safe, familiar, accessible places where your family can go for safety or to reunite. If you have pets or animals, think about animal-friendly locations. Consider places in your house, in your neighborhood, and outside of your city to you’re prepared for any situation.
Practice, practice, practice! Write down your contacts and plans. Make sure everyone in the family has copies and keeps them in a safe space, like in a backpack or wallet. Your family’s needs change over time, so regularly meet to review, practice, and update your plan.
Keep emergency contact information up to date.
Revisit your child’s emergency contact list every school year and make sure the contact information your child’s school has on file is accurate. Practice with your child to help them memorize emergency contacts, important phone numbers (like 911), and addresses. Remember, schools might not always be able to access the student’s emergency contacts in some situations. You can also make a backpack emergency contact card for your child, so they always have the information on hand when at school. And don’t forget that ICE (in case of emergency) contacts should be saved on all the family cell phones. Entries should start with ICE and then have the name of the contact.
Make sure your child is up to date on their immunizations.
Start the school year off right by making sure your child is up to date on all their recommended immunizations. Immunizations help keep your child healthy and protects those around them, too. Skagit County Public Health offers the immunizations required for children entering school, childcare, and other learning programs, in addition to influenza and COVID-19. There is no cost, and no insurance is required. For assistance scheduling an appointment, please call (360) 416-1500 or visit www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/main.htm.