Helping Children be Safe in the Home


A Safety Plan for the whole family—not just about fire safety!

Many of you parents reading this grew up with fire safety programs being taught in your school and neighborhood.  You know the scene…firefighter comes to your school (or, better yet, you go to the fire station on a class field trip), and he gives the class a lecture on fire safety.  Maybe he calls on a few students to demonstrate their knowledge of “stop, drop, and roll.”  Schools in the U.S. have their annual fire drill and everyone knows what is expected.

So, how would you rate your children’s knowledge of what to do if an emergency happens where you live today?  Isn’t there even a greater need for your family in your current location to have a safety plan?  An education consultant friend of mine shared some of these ideas with me.


Stop whatever you are doing and imagine a fire, an earthquake, or emergency evacuation needing to take place where you live.  Less than two months after our family moved to a third world country, we experienced an earthquake.  Our gas was shut off.  We had the boys outside in cold temperatures with pajamas on, and we ended up sleeping in the home of our taxi driver, since our landlady wouldn’t allow us to reenter the building!  Consider sitting down as husbands and wives and creating a disaster plan for your family.


Drop down on the living room floor with your family and discuss the reasons you need to prepare for disaster.  Do this at age appropriate levels.  Explain to your children the dangers of various natural disasters that could occur, as well as other emergencies that might be possible.  Discuss how you will share the responsibilities and work together for the safety of the whole family.

Give instructions that cover specific kinds of emergencies, like:

  • Earthquake
  • Fire
  • Disease outbreak
  • Terrorist attack
  • Automobile accident
  • Sudden death
  • Military conflict

Pick two places to meet:

  • Choose a specific place right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire or earthquake. Tell your kids not to reenter the home until you have told them that it is safe to do so.
  • Choose a place outside your neighborhood, in case you can’t return home. Make sure everyone knows the address and phone number.

Make sure the kids know who the contact person is:

  • It should be someone whom kids should contact in case something happens to one parent while the other parent is out of town.
  • Talk with your supervisor about your “family’s emergency plan.”
  • Other family members should know how to call this person and tell them where they are.

Other Safety precautions include:

  • Making sure your children know your address and phone number- and with whom to share it.
  • Telling your children the names and numbers of people in neighborhood or apartment building who could give immediate help in an emergency situation.
  • Letting other personnel and national friends in town know that they are an emergency contact for your children and what you would prefer they do if something happens.
  • Instructing your children to contact your supervisor, Member Care, and any supervisors in the order that you would prefer.  {This depends on the age of your child.  A young child should know the name and number of one team member or other contact person who would have previously received your instructions for what to do.}
  • If you have a routinely used a taxi driver with cell phone that could be contacted, share that info with your children–with instructional steps.
  • Give older children phone numbers for all of the above including family in the U.S.  (Many mobiles can call internationally.)
  • Practice meeting in front of the house in case of an emergency, etc., and who is responsible for whom (large families).
  • Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (parents’ mobile phones, aunts/uncles in the city, supervisor, national partners, etc.).
  • Teach children who, how and when to call for emergency help. (Have your child practice using the mobile phone and land line.  Ask them to locate your supervisor’s phone number and place a practice call.)
  • Walk through a scenario of what kids should do if they cannot reach parents by mobile phones.
  • Both spouses and older children should know how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.  If they are home alone during an earthquake, they should let a contact person outside of the building know that those items were not cut off.
  • Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure your children know where they can get to first aid, in the case that you are unable to get to it.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room (if possible).
  • Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.
  • Put important documents in one place, and make sure both spouses and older children know where to locate these documents.
  • Have a 24-hour country evacuation plan.
  • Create a checklist with all of this information.


Now you are ready to roll with whatever happens.

Periodically review the following information:

  • Phone numbers for police, fire brigade, and ambulance.
  • Hospital preferences in case parents are incapacitated.
  • Location of written records:  blood types, immunization records, and medications taken.
  • Location of important documents and how to access them.
  • Information regarding bank accounts, credit cards, and PIN numbers for the ATM. {Each spouse should know how to access this information if something should happen to the other, or in the case of an emergency when one spouse is not reachable.}

Practice and Maintain Your Plan

  • Quiz your kids every six months so they remember what to do.
  • Conduct emergency evacuation drills.
  • Try to keep the vehicle full of petrol.
  • Try to keep emergency light charged and batteries for flashlights.
  • Try to keep enough water and food on hand for at least 2-3 days.
  • Try to maintain a pretty good supply of antibiotics and first-aid supplies.  Teach your children basic first-aid.
  • Try to keep bleach and water purification on hand.
  • Try to have enough cash for 2-3 days on hand.
  • Teach the older children the basics of driving. School-aged children should know how to get a taxi or bus (or how to wave down another car in the case of an emergency).