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An Unwanted Announcement

Today in Hawaii we received a mistaken and unexpected warning. In my shock and fear I did not respond in the way I would have liked to, and it made me realize that my own family has some work to do to prepare for an emergency should this warning ever not be a mistake. My family and I have been doing some research and having discussions and I felt it might be helpful to share some of what we have learned so far in case it is helpful for anyone.

Are you prepared for an emergency?

Does your family already have an emergency contacts list with numbers for first responders (fire, police, rescue), doctors and family members cell phone numbers as well as any special instructions for allergies or health concerns in the family?

I learned that text messages are more likely to go through than phone calls due to less bandwidth needs for a text message.

  • Practice sending text messages with all important details.

  • Reinforce quick responses from your children when sending them text messages-make sure some texts are sent to just say Hi or to tell them something funny.

  • Avoid only texting when asking them to do something or to check in on where they are.

  • Establish an expectation that your children respond to all your text messages when they are away from home.

Does your family have an emergency kit packed and located in a place in the home that is known to all family members and is easily accessible?

What else might your family need?

This will be different for every family and it is best to talk about these things well before an emergency is imminent.

  • If your child uses a device to communicate what is the plan to bring it with you to your meeting place if possible

  • In case such device could not be taken or would run out of battery, are there additional communication systems that have been used? Can additional copies of choice boards, communication boards or visual schedules be kept with the emergency information in a watertight container within the emergency kit?

  • What activities are your child(ren)'s favorite? Pack items in the emergency kit that can provide entertainment or comfort. (favorite card games, a second lovey or cherished stuffed animal, paper and pencils/markers to draw with)-you may be spending some length of time with no power in a small or crowded space what are some things that would be helpful to bring with.

I have never even thought of a missile attack, where do I start?

“the goal is to put as many walls and as much concrete, brick and soil between you and the radioactive material outside” from

  • Decide the best place for your family to go in your home-identify an area indoors with enough room for everyone, with concrete or reinforced walls-add as many layers of protection as possible

  • If your building has a basement, pick this location

  • If you live in a tall building, choose the most central place in the building (walls and floors are layers)

  • Stay away from windows and doors and remember you should not plan to move out of this area for at least an hour-determine if the space you have agreed on be appropriate with these additional considerations. FEMA recommends waiting 24 hours, but it may be a couple of weeks.

  • Gather enough non-perishable food (unable to be exposed to open air and radiation as well) and bottled water to last up to 15 days for each member of your family.

  • Get inside, stay inside and stay tuned (have a radio)

How do I talk to my children about this, how much do I say to prepare them without scaring them?

  • Remember to remain calm yourself, children are a good reflection of the behavior that is being modeled by others. Remaining calm and talking about these things when it is not an emergency or crisis moment will help to prepare and practice the information they would need to know, should an emergency occur.

  • Reach out to other parents, friends, trusted community members or family supports that might provide additional ideas or tips that may be helpful or effective for your family.

  • Be aware of any recommendations specific to your state or local area. Hawaii can be found here:

  • Reassure children that there are many people that work every day to prevent this from happening

  • Tell them that is unlikely that a nuclear war will happen but that it is a good idea to practice and be able to plan together as a family for emergencies so that we can keep each other as safe as possible

  • Encourage your children to talk to you and other family members or trusted people (help your child identify these individuals) if they have any thoughts or fears that they are worried about. Many children can feel more isolated if they think they are the only ones with these fears or avoid talking about their worries with others.

  • Provide your child with visuals or social stories that are personalized for their environment and identify key people that can help in emergency situations so that your child would know who to seek help from should they not be in your care when an emergency occurs (sample attached for reference-feel free to use and modify for your child(ren). Editable version can be requested from

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