Prepare your kids for disasters away from home

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image by mbtrama
image by mbtrama

My daughter loves living in Phoenix because there are virtually no natural disasters that threaten us and other than extreme heat and occasional thunderstorms, the weather is pretty cooperative, too.

However, in our travels around the country, I’ve realized the importance of teaching my kids what to do in emergencies they might not encounter here at home. More than once, on trips to Disneyland, I’ve wondered what we would do if an earthquake occurred while we were in the middle of “It’s a Small World”. Would my kids know where to find shelter from a tornado or basic winter weather survival even though those events never occur here in Phoenix?

They might encounter any number of different situations while away from home, whether at a school or church event, camping trip or a resort vacation.  Regardless of the most likely disasters in your area, do your kids know how to stay safe in these situations?

  • A flood, including flashfloods
  • Earthquake and aftershocks
  • Tornado
  • A lightning storm
  • Hurricane
  • Ice storm
  • Blizzard
  • Heat wave
  • Wildfires
  • Dust storm, aka haboob
  • Tsunami
  • Avalanche

It would also be helpful as kids get older to learn the warning signs of any of these, so they have the chance to prepare, not just react.

Do some quick research online or in the appendix section of my book for survival tips that are easy to teach and easy to remember. A little education and a bit of planning goes a long way.

9 thoughts on “Prepare your kids for disasters away from home”

  1. It’s funny that you should mention “It’s a Small World”. We were stuck on that ride for 20 plus minutes first thing in the morning at Disney! The bad part is that it was right at the end where we could almost just jump off to the side but they did not want to let us. We did get free “Fast Passes” good for any ride though for the inconvenience. Your point is completely valid, be prepared no matter where you are because you never know what will happen. Two years ago we had a wildfire, earthquake, and hurricane all within a week of each other where I live on the coast of Virginia. We are always ready now…

  2. We travel to DL in L.A. almost yearly and this same topic always comes up. Save money, take the shuttle bus to/from the airport & hotel and no rental car or spend the $ and get the car even if it sits in the hotel parking lot unused for a few days? Being that it’s L.A. and what if we have to bug out of the hotel due to a Quake? I was trapped in SF during the ’89 quake at the Bay Bridge World Series, so we always opt for the car and know where the grocery, sporting goods and other big name stores are just in case.

    In SF, I had a car and an ice chest full of food and drink from tailgating before the game started so we were good until things settled down. The Bay Bridge and Cypress structure collapsed as did many of the on/off ramps, sink holes opened up, the highway was split open… To top it all off, we had a 7 month pregnant woman with us and due to the stress and fear factors, she went into labor.

    My point? Have options! What if the hotel sustains uninhabitable damage and you’ve lost all your belongings and have no car? Know your surrounding areas, plan an escape route(s). Park it away from the side of the hotel in case it collapses. Put it out in the center of the lot. Stay on the lower levels of the hotels/motels for escape reasons.

    Don’t leave yourselves stranded. Leave some clothes, sweaters, jackets, etc… and a cheapo ice chest w/ water and snacks in the rental car. Hotel ICE is free, just dump the water every night and fill it back up. If you don’t use them, it was cheap insurance. Make sure the gas tank is full. Know where the hospitals and Doc in the Box clinics are. Carry a couple of hundred bucks in small bills too. You might need cash if the power is out.

    Unless they’re on a coaster and locked into a rides seat, get out of line and head out to the main gate. If separated and we can’t find each other, walk to the hotel. We always stay at the same place so we are all familiar with it. Oh how boring right? No, it’s a place to bathe and sleep. We’re not there for the room. The kids always know that the rally point is the car.

    Have FUN, but stay safe! Have that song stuck in my head now….. LOL


    Lisa, you’ve tapped into one of my biggest fears as a mom. What would happen if my kids are out of my sight and out of where my husband and I could protect them to the best of our ability. We are an active family of four and my kids tend to be everywhere due to so many activities. Our best defense is to make sure we talk about options and to get them to “think” survival and to stay calm.

    They sometimes feel nothing will happen and that I go on too much about it. I don’t want to stress them out or go overboard but opening up the conversation is key. For some reason, this topic is always a bit more sensitive for me knowing that I can’t be in “control”. As always, the more they know they have options, the better off they are. This article is good food for thought! DisasterMOM

  4. Sometimes the disasters you think could never happen in your area happen. Three and a half years ago, I was driving home from work…I had left early because there was a nasty storm coming in the Willamette Valley of Oregon…typical with high winds and rain (like a cold hurricane at times). As I drove my 1- and 18- year olds the 25 minutes home, the sky was a disturbing color. I thought about where I knew that shade of sky from…then it hit me! Twister! It was my favorite movie for about two years when growing up. That shade of green was a foreshadowing of a tornado. I told my 18 year old to keep an eye behind us as I sped up a bit to hurry home.

    We were fortunate at our house to have avoided a tornado…only ten miles away, one town had quite a lot of damage from the tornado that touched down.

    Tornados were unheard of in the Willamette Valley. I have lived here all my life and that was the only time I had ever heard of one. But, preparing for the worst will protect you IF it ever happens!

  5. I will always be prepared now for the not-so-natural type of disaster that struck us away from home. We were on a Disney World vacation with our 9 year old sons. We had an inkling something was up with one of them. Now, looking back, the signs were classic. We went through Animal Kingdom and my son wanted to stop at every drinking fountain and then every restroom. He was too scared to get on rides he normally would have been excited for.

    3 days later, feeling worse and worse, we took him to a small hospital’s ER in Coco Beach. He was in diabetic ketoacidosis – on the verge of coma. He now had type 1 diabetes. He was airlifted to Orlando and spent the rest of our vacation in ICU.

    He’s fine now – we’re completely used to life with diabetes. But the insurance battles took over when we got home.

    My thoughts are:

    Keep a small first aid book. Had we known the signs and symptoms, we would have had him to the hospital about 3 days sooner and he would at least have been a little less dire.

    Know where the hospitals are.

    Know your insurace. We would have saved a lot of heartache (and $) when we got home fighting with insurance companies if we knew that Florida was out of network and chopper companies had the right to bill us above reasonable and customary.

  6. Although living in Washington state, I have lots of family and a vacation home in the PHX metro. But I am massively concerned when there with my son. If the SHTF while we were there, we would only have a few months water supply there at best. I can’t think of a worse place to be in a prolonged disaster. Please explain how one could live for more than a few months. Thanks.
    A dad.

    1. I think that a lot of people make numerous assumptions about what services won’t be available in a SHTF scenario. Other than a widespread EMP or coronal mass ejection, there’s no reason why municipal water supplies won’t continue to work. I know that everyone who has read Patriots (complete societal and economic collapse) and/or One Second After (EMP) think those scenarios are the gospel, but in fact, those are very extreme scenarios.

      Having said that, here in the Phoenix area, a number of homes have their own private wells, and it’s not difficult to store several hundred gallons of water to buy time, so to speak, in case city water is ever out of commission for a while. Phoenix has virtually a year-round growing season and many crops can be successfully grown with little water.

      Having lived here pretty much all my life I’m very well aware of the drawbacks, but I think assuming that all city water supplies will come to a halt is pretty extreme.

  7. Sheila Sund, M.D.

    FEMA has great information on readiness for kids – presented in a kid friendly game-like manner, which tends to not freak them out. Web site is

    When we travel, everyone in the family always follows a few emergency steps, including identifying the types of disasters likely in that area, having an evacuation and shelter plan, and keeping shoes, flashlight, and essential things like a wallet and medications next to our beds. We’ve been doing this for 10 years now. I wrote a blog post on The Carefree Highway which has some of my travel tips

    From an emergency responder viewpoint, the most important thing is to make sure your kids always carry contact information with them for everyone in your family – including all the relatives. If they have cell phones, you can put information in there, but I also make my kids (now 20 and 25!) have them in writing in their wallets. With speed dialing, it is amazing how many of us can’t actually remember phone numbers! Responders have a special place in their hearts for unaccompanied kids (they are parents too), and try to specifically watch out for them.

    Another thing to consider is teaching your kids where local schools are if you travel during the school year. If school is in session, all schools have plans for taking care of children until parents are located. They would probably be a safe place for your child to go if they are separated from you.

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