by Lucy Costa
September is Preparedness Month and your Disaster Resource and Response Team brings you a wealth of resources. As we head back to school and back to church, we offer you a bulletin insert prepared by team member Judie O'Donnell and designed specifically with children in mind.
One of my favorite services at my church is the Blessing of the Backpacks. At this service, we not only honor the work that children and youth do during the school year but also express our love and care for the children and youth in a very visible and all encompassing way. Another way to value the children and youth in our faith communities is to help them be prepared for emergencies.
This week, we are featuring an emergency contact card template from the Centers for Disease Control that is designed to be used by children in their backpacks: https://www.cdc.gov/phpr/readywrigley/documents/backpack_emergency_card.pdf
There are a lot of ways that these cards can be incorporated into a Blessing of the Backpacks: in church school with older children filling out the information themselves, in fellowship hour where grown ups and their children complete together, handing out during the blessing of the backpack services. A few suggestions for protecting the cards: have someone available at church to do on site, real time lamination, provide ID card plastic sheaths (available to order online and purchase at office supply stores), make it a craft by having children put in a sandwich plastic bag and cut to size and then secure with fun decorated washi tape.
The emergency contact cards are a great way for churches and families to begin a discussion about preparedness. Here are some ways that churches and families can take the conversation further. Churches can also share where their emergency meeting place is, practice a fire or evacuation drill, talk about where first aid and other critical supplies in the building are. Families can do a home fire drill. Families also can prepare a go kit together for needing to bring with them when evacuating and a kit for sheltering at home. Families can check to make sure that there are working, up to date smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.
There are some great tools and apps for discussing emergency preparedness with children and youth too.
Home fire escape plan worksheets:
Coloring and activity books:
Let’s Get Ready! by Sesame Street https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lets-get-ready/id903134141?mt=8
Monster Guard: Prepare for Emergencies by American Red Cross (made for ages 9-11) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/monster-guard-prepare-for-emergencies/id925537299?mt=8
About the author: Lucy Costa is a member of the Disaster Resource and Response Team. Additionally, she is a recovery caseworker with the American Red Cross of Massachusetts and a longtime member of Old South Church in Boston.
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