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Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2010 Issues

How do we prepare for an emergency?


HTApril2010-ParentChildIn the wake of natural disasters that have pummeled areas of the world in recent months, parents should make sure their children know what to do during an emergency.

Talking concretely about disasters and helping children prepare to react to one can help to make them feel safer, says Larry Baraff, M.D., chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “Children see images on TV and become aware of the possibility of danger,” he says. “They’re more sophisticated than many parents think, and can be trusted to learn how to navigate a disaster.”

Family communication plan

When discussing possible scenarios, parents should use concrete examples. Separation from a parent during a disaster can be a distressing concept for children. Identify a neighbor with whom a child can stay during an emergency. All family members should have the phone number of an out-of-town contact to communicate through in case local telephone service is disrupted. Include these telephone numbers, as well as any special medical information, on an identification card that the child keeps in a wallet or school backpack.

School emergency plans

Schools spend a great amount of time and energy devising emergency plans to help keep children safe during a disaster. Most schools have a designated offsite location where students can go following an evacuation, and may have a telephone hotline for parents to get the most up-to-date news. Some schools ask that parents provide emergency supplies – including food – for their child. Pay close attention to the school’s emergency policies.

Parents can take steps to plan for an emergency by preparing children for the possibility that they will be separated from their parents during an emergency and how to take care of themselves until the family is reunited. Creating a disaster plan, having a family communication plan in place and reinforcing the plans regularly are very important. The basics of handling an emergency “Any child who can use the phone should be able to call 9-1-1,” says Dr. Baraff. “Make sure children know the names of any medications they take, their home phone number and their parents’ cell phone numbers, or keep that information on them at all times.”

HTApril2010-EmergencyKitTake steps to plan for an emergency:

  • Map out escape routes from each room in the house.
  • Stock enough emergency supplies to last seven days.
  • Test smoke alarms every month and change batteries regularly.
  • Keep a three-day supply per person of water and non-perishable food items.
  • Identify the main electric fuse box or circuit breaker, water-service and gas-service lines and learn how to shut them off properly.
  • Keep a wrench, flashlight and battery-powered radio handy.


This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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