Experts share tips on how to prepare children for hurricanes

By Bianca Barr Tunno, AccuWeather staff writer

Children have unique needs that make them vulnerable during disasters, and experts say it’s important to build skills to help them prepare for weather emergencies, especially during hurricane season.

“Disasters really threaten what it means to be a child,” said Sarah Thompson, director of U.S. Emergencies with Save the Children told AccuWeather in an interview. “It can threaten their innocence, their ability to feel safe and their desire to play.”

puerto rico hurricane children

Children play at the Jose de Diego Elementary School where people are filing FEMA forms for federal aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Less than half of families in the United States have an emergency plan, according to Thompson. She says it’s important to have a discussion about weather disasters with children and to make a plan with at least these three things:

1. Identify emergency contacts – Make sure everyone knows emergency contacts, including an out-of-town contact in case local communications go down. Encourage children to memorize phone numbers.

2. Have a ‘home plan’ – Know evacuation routes, meet-up places and safe rooms.

3. Pack a ‘go bag’ for each member of the family – This includes basic safety and health supplies, comfort items and activities. These things can help young children cope, make them feel safe and keep them busy in case they have to leave home.

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Thompson recommends adults and children practice their family’s emergency plan, doing it in ways to make it fun and engaging.

Knowing what to do before and during a hurricane can help families feel more in control, according to hurricane resources from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

“Try to explain what is going on in simple, age-appropriate language," Thompson said. "Those types of explanations can help kids...feel a little more confident knowing what is going to happen so it is not all a mystery.”

Experts also suggest limiting a child's news media consumption before and during weather disasters. In the 24-hour news cycle, viewers may repeatedly see images of the disaster on television, which could elevate anxiety -- for both adults and children.

“Try your best to stay calm," Thompson said. "Kids are looking to us to know how to react so if we can keep our emotions in check and help guide them, that is going to help them cope."

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit

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