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Facts for Life

Emergencies: preparedness and reponse

Supporting Information


Girls and boys and their families and communities should plan ahead and take simple steps to prepare for emergencies – at home, at school and in the community.

Within the household, the whole family can prepare for an emergency brought about by a disaster or conflict. Everyone should be aware of the different dangers of fire, earthquakes, floods, storms and other hazards and the risks during conflicts. The response can be more effective when everyone in the family and community knows how to reduce their risks and understands their responsibilities.

The possible dangers and safe areas in and around a community should be identified. If possible they should be shown on a local map. Everybody in the community should be involved and informed. Plans should include how young children, older people and people who are unwell would be assisted.

Community warning systems and evacuation routes for escaping from danger should be well identified and communicated. Communities can hold simulated drills of safety measures with boys and girls in schools and with families in neighbourhoods.

Communities should ensure that health facilities are well built to withstand emergencies and function in their wake. Health-care staff must be trained so they are prepared to act in emergency situations.

It is important for schools to be located in a safe place, close to where children live and away from disaster-prone areas, such as where flooding or mudslides might occur. Schools should be well constructed to ensure the safety of children and teachers. They should be carefully organized to protect children from attacks, abduction or other forms of violence.

Teachers and school administrators can help children, their families and communities to:

  • understand natural hazards and other emergency risks
  • know how to prevent disaster
  • know what to do in an emergency.

Families, including children, should be encouraged to recognize a warning and understand what to do when they see or hear it. A warning or signal can be as simple as a whistle, horn or coloured flag. Safe locations where families can meet should be identified. Safe places for domestic animals should also be identified. These precautions help to prevent family separation.

Children can be trained to memorize their name and the names of their relatives and their village or town. They can be trained to identify geographical indicators or landmarks that might locate their community if they get separated from their families.

A family emergency bag prepared in advance can be life-saving. It should include a torch (flashlight), batteries, candles, matches, radio, water container and first aid kit. The packet should be checked periodically and ready at all times.

Birth certificates and other important family documents should be kept in a safe, easily accessible place. Storing them in plastic wrap helps protect them from water and damage.