I get it. As parents, talking to our children about what to do in the event of an earthquake isn’t high on the list as far as fun conversations go. But it’s one that’s been especially relevant in recent months, considering the high number of earthquakes that occurred in Southern California earlier this summer. I’ve spoken with dozens and dozens of parents who are in the process of formulating their family’s emergency plans with their LadyBugOut bags, and the same concern keeps surfacing: “I want my child to be prepared, but I don’t want to scare them.”
If that sounds like you, here’s the good news: While your conversation about earthquakes with your child needs to be truthful and straightforward, that doesn’t mean the conversation is automatically going to be terrifying. The calmer and more prepared you are to have this conversation, the more that sense of calm and confidence will be transmitted to your child.
Here are four central talking points you can use as a jumping-off point when it is time to talk to your child about what to do in the event of an earthquake:
1. Drop, cover, and hold on. According to the Earthquake Country Alliance official rescue teams from around the globe, as well as emergency managers, researchers, and school safety advocates, all agree that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is the appropriate action to remain safe during earthquakes. Dropping to hands and knees will help your child remain stable. If there are tables or desks nearby, tell them to crawl beneath one and hold on to the legs. If there is not such a structure nearby, instruct them to hold onto their neck with both arms and hands and stay away from windows and doorways. Practice makes perfect, and this is a good opportunity to turn it into a little “drop, cover, and hold on” game!
2. If an earthquake happens at night, stay in bed. Tell them to roll onto their stomachs and cover the back of their necks and heads with their hands (similar to the “cover” situation in “drop, cover, and hold on”) while they wait for you to come to get them.
3. If an earthquake happens and they’re outside, find an open space. Instruct them to stay away from buildings, streetlights, powerlines, trees, or anything tall that could fall over.
4. Always have a pair of shoes nearby. Earthquakes create debris and can disrupt the surfaces we normally walk on. One of the most common injuries during an earthquake is cut feet; ask your child to tie a pair of shoes to their bed or store a special pair underneath it, and periodically check in with them to make sure they know exactly where their shoes are.
One last thing to keep in mind: Every conversation you have with your child about emergency preparedness is part of the bigger aim of helping them develop that all-important attribute: Resilience. Cultivating resilience is a win-win, because not only will it help your child to better cope in any emergency situation they may face, but they’ll also be better equipped to handle the smaller challenges and disappointments that are much more common in our everyday lives.