Kids In Disasters (1) Awareness

Disaster Training –  Awareness Games for Children:

Kids in disasters need to be able think on their feet just like adults do. They may have to make decisions based on what choice is the right one in an emergency situation. Games, songs, and drills are used to help them develop awareness of their surroundings and understand this without really giving them the reason why so they aren’t frightened by this information.

Cover of "Reign of Fire"

Cover of Reign of Fire

In the movie, Reign Of Fire, a fictional apocalypse about earth’s devastation from dragons, the lead character, Quinn oversees a large group of children who have survived. They are already aware of what their source of danger is. In their shelter emergency drill, a bedtime instruction is given, similar to the lines of a riddle. They are instructed for their danger, dragons. They would put their hands together in a prayer clasp and Quinn would ask, “What do we do when we sleep?” Their response, “Sleep with one one eye open!” Then he asks, “Where do we keep that eye?” The reply “On the sky!” Next came, “What do we do during the day?” The children responded with, “Keep one eye on the sky”, again, and then were asked, “What do we do if we see him (the dragon)? The children in unison shout, “Keep an eye on the sky, run for shelter, and don’t look back!”

This is a very stern drill. Seek ways to be softer in your disaster training with your smaller child so the information you want to relay isn’t causing thoughts that may disturb. An older or a more mature, intelligent child may take this in as something they should do because it makes sense and not be bothered by information of this sort.


Awareness (Photo credit: Emilie Ogez)

In reality, schools routinely run fire drills that teach youngsters 6 years and older to exit a school building safely. They are to do this in a calm orderly fashion for the event there is a serious problem on campus. They are told to stop, drop, and roll in the event of a fire on their person. Around areas with earthquakes, youngsters learn to duck under a solid object like a desk or stand in the doorway of the room they are in.

Recognizing danger signs should be instilled early so the reaction is not panic but deliberate action. When they are but toddlers at the age of  2 we must teach them things like fire is hot, knives are sharp, that those electrical outlets and mean dogs do bite. By helping them understand what are dangers they safely avoid these hazards.

Being alert to current surroundings and aware of possible dangers help us be safer and avoid harm or injury.

The Stranger / Helper Game – Hide and Peek

When they are about 4 we spend the time to talk to them about not talking to strangers and to make sure they are not inappropriately mistreated in anyway.

For very the very young to know exactly who it is they can ask for help in disaster times show them pictures of  a cartoon robber or bad guy’s picture. For phase one of this game simply ask if that person is a stranger or a helper. Let them give their response. Help them think about it and then explain to them that this may not be a helper.  Show them pictures of a Red Cross volunteer, policeman, or a fire fighter and help them to understand these people are helpers.

In phase 2 take this a game further by making it similar to hide and seek. Have

Firefighters Competition

Firefighters Competition (Photo credit: EyeNo)

them stand around a wall with each of you on a side so they can’t see you. Let them peek out a little ways to see the picture carefully. Teach them how to sneak a peek around the wall. Show them the bad guy image and teach them to stay behind in the hiding place if they see this kind of a person. Then show them a  helper picture and let them know it is safe to come out for these people to see and help them. Alternate the pictures and have them rehearse staying hidden from the stranger or walking out and meeting the helper. More about this method will be explained later in a section about sheltering for the young.

We need them to know this sort of information if we are raising them in areas that experience terrible weather phenomenon. Teaching them to use good instincts and understanding certain awareness ahead of crisis will lend to a much healthier cooperation in any serious event. It will also aid them in the event they may be left to fend for themselves.

The stranger / helper game is important because they may have to seek out help on their own and they will need to know who they can trust for it.

Reading Danger Signs Games

I am thinking back to my earlier years with a grandmother who was an

panneau danger

panneau danger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

educator. The games and songs she used to share with us were part of our early education and reinforced thought process training. Being aware of our surroundings is an important element with decision making and readiness for emergencies. Knowing how to read movement and elements around us can alert us to dangers such as downed power lines  and other threats.

Grandma played board games and cards with us. Hidden within these activities were lessons of readiness and awareness.

Playing cards gave us basic math skills and strategy. It taught us teamwork and strangely enough it also taught us how to read reflections.  Granny wore her glasses when she played and we could read her cards in the lenses. This may seem like a silly trick but it taught me eventually to recognize someone sneaking up behind me when I had my back turned when looking in to or  standing in front of something that was reflective.

Awareness Activities

Teach kids in a similar fashion by having them use a mirror to look behind them. Have them tell you what they see. The mirror game opens them up to looking at things in a different perspective. This is a random example of where you can begin to train the child’s mind to accept valuable training without disturbing their safe world.

Recognizing Light Beams

Another awareness activity is using a flashlight to cast a shadow. The bunny shadow cast from your hand on a wall is fun play, but it can also let your child understand that something has to be in front of that light in order to create the shadow on the wall. The shadow can be a helper or it might be a problem. Teach them also to read the light beam that is coming from the flashlight. Walk as far back as you can from them and turn the light on pointed towards the floor. Ask them to let you know when they see the beam of light and point out that it gets brighter the closer it comes to them.

Peripheral Vision Conditioning:

Work on peripheral vision recognition so they may be alert to movement from the corner of their eye. Understanding this can assist when they need to assess their surroundings and know if they are safe in the area or be on the look out for help or additional dangers. By moving an object to the side of their vision areas ask when they can see the object. Ask what they see and when they it. Have them keep their eyes straight forward when working with them on this activity.

Reading Nature Signs:

Read nature for the signs around you. What do you see?

Wall Cloud Near Pratt

Wall Cloud Near Pratt (Photo credit: Jon Person)

That black cloud is a danger sign. It might mean a cloud bank is moving through and it is going to rain. A seriously black cloud that is funnel shaped is going to mean a tornado and run for cover! It may also signal a fire and the need to be cautious if it is close to them.

The ground shaking is a danger sign. This means earthquake! Earthquake Drill!

The loud noisy sound is a danger sign! This could be anything related to an unsafe situation.

Look for markings on the ground. A paw large paw print means a possible wild animal is in the area or a shoe print means a human. Help them learn to interpret markings.

An adolescent or teenager will probably ignore these techniques. Work on these suggestions for older kids by incorporating them into odd questions and then tell them why you want them to practice some of these exercises. Let them take these suggestions and give you their feedback.

Update: 7/31/2012Why awareness skills like these are important?

Fairbanks at -40.

Fairbanks at -40. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


There is a reason to learn how to read reflections, light, and shadows. With these abilities we are more sensitive to our surroundings and enables us to proceed with caution where needed. It helps us also to be a lower risk for injuries when it comes to navigating through debris. A falling object causes a shadow. A car approaching in the night casts light beams in our direction. A movement in a reflective surface can alert us to something we might need to be pay attention to.

Add to these skills other sense skills. Touch, taste, feel. The ability to walk around our homes in the dark.  The sharpening of skills on these levels signal the brain that there may be a decision to be made. Do we need to move, run, or is the situation harmless and we can stand our ground and go back to our business? In situations where a youngster may have to be on their own, these valuable skills can perhaps save their lives.

By teaching kids awareness to their surroundings and environment and to read signals and signs we are placing them in a better position to understand what to do next in a disaster and help them be safer in the long run. 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: