How to prepare your family for a hurricane


HOUSTON – It's one thing to experience a storm as an adult, it's another to get children ready and ease their fears.

Kelli Wilhoite lives with her husband, and three young children in southeast Houston.

Nine years ago, when Hurricane Ike hit, Wilhoite didn't have any children, lived in Conroe and didn't need to evacuate.

But things have changed. She now lives with her family and dogs in a potential storm surge area.

Wilhoite isn't taking any chances and is getting her family ready.

"We have a preparedness checklist just to make sure we're prepared," said Wilhoite. She added, "I'm working on printing it out, posting it on the fridge for everybody to see."

But a big question for moms and dads-- what's the appropriate age to talk to your child?

"It's never too early to talk to your kids about preparation," said MaryJane Mudd, Regional Communications Officer with the American Red Cross of the Texas Gulf Coast.

She added, "It’s all about how you communicate with them...so older kids such as high school kids you would speak to them about what the evacuation plan is...the tiny ones will look to you, will look to parents for their ability to feel safe. So you want to make sure they understand what a storm is, you want to avoid words like disaster, big emergency, frightening, anything that would bring them fear."

The American Red Cross has a special program called The Pillow Case Project. They go into area grade schools and talk about how to prepare for a hurricane. The students decorate a pillow case and stuff their emergency supplies into the pillow case. The kit can include their favorite Band-Aids, a bottle of water, even a stuffed animal for comfort. So far, 9,000 children in the greater Houston area have gone through this program.

So what else should be part of your family's plan?

Contact your child's school or daycare and find out their emergency plans and let the schools know where you'll be in case of an emergency.

"You don't wait until you're watching the news to see that the storm is coming.  By then you know and it makes everything go more smoothly, reduces the anxiety for everybody," said Mudd.

And, make sure grandma or grandpa, or another relative who lives out of state also knows your family's plan.

"There's the aspect of having somebody outside the state who you can reach in case people's phone lines are down," said Mudd.

Learning about hurricanes doesn't have to be a chore.

There are plenty of fun resources your children can explore to help make sure every member of the family is ready before a storm starts heading our way.

Kids can test their knowledge with an interactive Disaster Master game. It walks them through preparing for and reacting to a series of natural disasters.

They can also learn which atmospheric conditions go into creating a hurricane, including wind, moisture and sea temperature.

Download the Monster Guard App:

Monster Guard is the first mobile app created by the American Red Cross that's designed specifically for kids. 

Follow Maya, Chad, Olivia and all the monsters as they teach kids (aged 7-11) about how to prepare for real-life emergencies-at home plus other environments-in a fun and engaging game. This free app is available to download on iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices.

Download the Mickey and Friends Disaster Preparedness Activity Book.

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