As recent catastrophic events in Japan have taught us, we have to be prepared — or as prepared as we can be — for emergency situations, especially compounded ones like the Sendai Earthquake.

Often our kids get caught up in hearing a little bit of news or a few graphic pictures walking by the television set and have just enough info to freak them out but not enough to feel safe.

Scared Into Preparedness

Why not harness that nervousness into something more useful for the whole family? Having them help you come up with plans for disaster will help re-establish some control in their lives when they are hearing of disasters. One place to go is FEMA or FEMA for Kids, a site just for kids to learn about natural disasters and what to do in case of one.

This weekend our family was all about dealing with disasters. We were getting two more feet of snow on top of snow and power outages — and our our hearts and minds turned towards Japan knowing that there are many people without homes in snowy weather in Northeastern Japan.

We came to realize that preparation is mental and physical in nature. 

Step 1: Learn About Disasters

The first thing we did together was to watch the National Geographic 1997 film Nature's Fury.

Nature's Fury is rated PG-13 for the obvious upsetting it can do by showing natural disasters, but it was very informative and touched on both the marvel of nature's control and ways in which man can either work with that or work against that. We took out a map and found the locations as the movie went to different corners of the world.

Step 2: Talk It Out

After the movie the family sat in discussion. Which natural disaster is most likely to hit our area? What can we do to be prepared? What are some things to consider when moving to an area prone with that type of disaster?

As I live in California, earthquakes are the most obvious natural disaster to occur. It eased my children's mind to know that we weren't worrying so much about six different kinds of disaster — more like one! Breaking down the worry to the disaster most likely for your area relieves kids' minds. They only have one big bad to worry about — hopefully!

Step 3: Gather Your Emergency Supplies

Being prepared for disaster was our next step in our discussion.

1. If you will be without food, power, money, and shelter what are some things you will need to have with you?

In a large laundry basket in the garage to the left of the door there are disaster provisions. A good emergency provisions basket should have:

  • Army or fleece blankets. They're thin and easy to carry, but warm.
     
  • Bottled water. I keep 10 gallons on hand so not every bottle is in the basket but you get the idea.
     
  • First Aid Kit
     
  • Small tool set. You never know when you'll need it, and you don't want to have to hunt for tools in a disaster.
     
  • Non-perishable foods that won't need electricity or gas to prepare. Granola bars, protein bars — anything with some nutritional value that can won't have to be prepared beyond opening a package. Enough food for three meals a day for five days.
     
  • Flashlight with batteries. Also get the flashlight APP for your iPhone or other phone.

Editor's Note: The Enercell Portable Power Bank from Radio Shack is IDEAL for this. Super compact and holds a charge for months. Only trouble is, you'll need to buy more than one as you family will find plenty of non-emergency uses for them. And yes, they sent me some for free. My family has made off with most of them, but you could win one of the leftovers this week on #pschat on Twitter - Thursday 1pm PST.
  

  • Old sweatshirts and gloves and socks. You were going to donate these to the thrift store, but keep a few with you just in case.
     
  • Dry pet food. If you have pets.
     
  • Roll of paper towels and box of tissues.
     
  • A few cups/plates/utensils and knife. I keep an old cutting board in there, too.

2. Where will you go? Where will you meet up in case of disaster?

Make sure everyone in the family is on the same page. Where will everyone check in?

  • Physical location. For us, it's grandma's house (higher elevation, better-built house, and massive food storage — my mother, people say, food shops for the apocalypse). What's your planned place to meet up?
     
  • Social Networking site. For us, it's Facebook. Since we all have multiple email addresses, it's best to choose one and then go from there.

3. Memorize important information.

In general, it's a good idea that even the smallest children know their parents actual names, their phone numbers, and their address memorized. Make sure all this info is in backpacks and maybe listed on the inside of a coat jacket label.

4. Pre-disaster Precautions.

Assess your region and local area. What is most likely to be the main issue? For us, there are two that come to mind. I live in the mountains where boulders and rocks frequently fall on the road in heavy rain or snow storms. I live in California and visit areas of the state that have frequent earthquakes.

For snow and rain storms:

  • Be prudent about driving and cut out unnecessary driving. Better for the environment and our lives to do so.
     
  • Keep a mini preparedness kit in the trunk of the car.
     
  • Make sure to invest in new tires and check brakes on a regular basis.
     
  • Check around your property for drainage problems and make sure any pumps are working before storms.

The same things can be said for earthquakes, as well, but in addition:

  • Make sure your house is not over a fault line. Good luck insuring your house for earthquake damage if it is.
     
  • Bolt all bookcases into your walls. Do not put heavy things on the top of shelves and bookcases. Thanks to this I lost far less of what I would have lost in the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 — and nothing fell on me!
     
  • Know where the shut-off valves for everything gas-oriented is in your house. Know where your electric box is.
     
  • Where to stand? Ever notice that bathrooms seem to be the room standing after a quake? Make sure you and your children go to the best place in the house should something occur. Make sure they know not to be standing in front of the windows. We have a best place to stand for the first floor and best place to stand for the second floor.

Of course, each type of natural disaster has its own particulars and you know best as to what your own region's issues are.

You might not be able to avert disaster and your children might still be nervous, but open discussion followed by interactive preparation for the whole family will go a long ways in making the kids feel they have some semblance of control over the situation being handed to them by nature. And isn't that what we all want?

This post was included in the latest edition of the Everything Home Blog Carnival.