Preparing Your Child for an Active Shooter Scenario

Chances are you have taught your children what to do in emergencies, such as fires and earthquakes.  But what about an active shooter scenario?  According to Deputy Mike Perez, SWAT Team Leader in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, parents should teach their children, particularly older kids who may not always be supervised, what to do if they are faced with an active shooter.  While details will vary based on a child’s developmental age, parents need to be honest and consider the basic premise of Run, Hide, Fight, says Perez.

OCSD

Run
Teach children to do anything they can to quickly get away from the situation.  Leave belongings behind.  Families should agree on a word that promptly gains the attention of children, who should drop whatever they are doing and follow mom and dad. Perez encourages parents of teens to talk to them about ignoring any tendencies to explore loud noises or disturbances.  “In today’s world of camera phones, teens tend to gravitate to situations they think make for great video footage or social media fodder, when they should really be removing themselves from any potential harm,” explains Perez.

Hide

If children are unable to run away, the next best option is to hide. If possible, take extra precautions to create the appearance of a deserted area by turning off lights or closing blinds. Lock doors and create barricades.  If there’s no hiding place, stay as low to the ground as possible and remain still.

Turn cell phones on silent and turn down the screen brightness. Even a vibration could give away a hiding place. Leaving the phone on allows the user to communicate to law enforcement, if it’s safe to do so.

Fight:

As a last resort— and only if in imminent danger— individuals who are physically able to should attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter, says Perez.

Other tips for parents:

Be aware of the emergency plan at your child’s school, and make sure your child knows what to do. For safety reasons, administrators may not be able to provide all details of the plan, but should be able to provide you with enough to feel confident. Ask local law enforcement if the school’s plan coincides with what they recommend.

Kids and teens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and notice if anything stands out. If something looks suspicious or just doesn’t feel right, they should alert a trusted teacher or adult.

Teach children to always look for the nearest exits.  Knowing this information for frequently visited locations may actually reduce fear and anxiety when emergencies arise, shares Perez.

No matter their location, tell kids to remember that help will be on the way.

For more information, watch a short video by the Department of Homeland Security.

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Helping Children Cope with Tragedy

It’s hard for grownups to make sense of a tragedy, so consider how difficult it must be for children.

Depending on their age and media exposure, children may know more than grownups think. And even if unaware, children still might sense tension and anxiety from adults around them.

Mental Health America has offered these ways that parents can help their children cope with tragedy-related anxiety:Dad comforting child

Quick tips for parents

  • Children need comforting and frequent reassurance of their safety.
  • Be honest and open about the tragedy or disaster.
  • Encourage children to express their feelings through talking, drawing or playing.
  • Try to maintain your daily routines as much as possible.

Preschool-aged children

  • Reassure young children that they’re safe. Provide extra comfort and contact by discussing the child’s fears at night, telephoning during the day, and providing extra physical comfort.
  • Get a better understanding of a child’s feelings about the tragedy. Discuss the events with them and find out their fears and concerns. Answer all questions they may ask and provide them loving comfort and care.
  • Structure children’s play so that it remains constructive, serving as an outlet for them to express fear or anger.

Grade school-aged children

  • Answer questions in clear and simple language.
  • False reassurance does not help this age group. Don’t say that tragedies will never happen again; children know this isn’t true. Instead, remind children that tragedies are rare, and say “You’re safe now, and I’ll always try to protect you,” or “Adults are working very hard to make things safe.”
  • Children’s fears often worsen around bedtime, so stay until the child falls asleep so he or she feels protected.
  • Monitor children’s media viewing. Images of the tragedy are extremely frightening to children, so consider limiting the amount of media coverage they see.
  • Allow children to express themselves through play or drawing, and then talk to them about it. This gives you the chance to “retell” the ending of the game or the story they have expressed in pictures with an emphasis on personal safety.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Part of keeping discussion of the tragedy open and honest is not being afraid to say you don’t know how to answer a child’s question. When such an occasion arises, explain to your child that tragedies cause feelings that even adults have trouble dealing with. Temper this by explaining that adults will still always work hard to keep children safe and secure.

MomComfortGirl  Adolescents

  •  Adolescents may try to downplay their worries, so encourage them to work out their concerns about the tragedy.
  • Children with existing emotional problems such as depression may require careful supervision and additional support.
  • Monitor their media exposure to the event and information they receive on the Internet.
  • Adolescents may turn to their friends for support. Encourage friends and families to get together and discuss the event to allay fears.

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Earthquake Preparedness Tips For Your Family

It’s Earthquake Preparedness Month. To help keep you and your family safe during an earthquake, check out these important guidelines. Be sure to talk to your kids about the importance of being prepared for this, and other emergency situations.

 Have a safety checklist to make sure you’re prepared:

• Become aware of fire evacuation and earthquake plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly.

• Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.

• Practice drop, cover and hold on in each safe place. If you don’t have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.

• Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances, as well as bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture, to wall studs.

• Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit or sleep.

• Learn how to shut off gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.

• Keep an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-access location. In addition, keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed.

During an earthquake:

• Drop, cover and hold on.

• Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.

• Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. If you must leave the building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage.

• If you are outside when the shaking starts, find a clear spot and drop to the ground. Stay there until the shaking stops (away from buildings, power lines, trees, streetlights).

• If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.

After an earthquake:

• After an earthquake, the disaster may continue. Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks, landslides or even a tsunami.

• Check yourself for injuries and get first aid, if necessary, before helping injured or trapped persons.

• Look quickly for damage in and around your home and get everyone out if your home is unsafe.

• Listen to a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio for updated information and instructions.

• Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.

• Help people who require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or disabled.

• Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and stay out of damaged areas.

• Keep animals under your direct control.

• If you were away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit www.redcross.org.

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An Open, Honest Discussion Is Best To Ease Kids’ Fears

As the community continues to try to make sense of, and mourn the lives lost in the recent Seal Beach shooting, many parents may be left with questions about how to talk to their kids about such a tragic event and help them ease their fears.

In a recent Orange County Register article, Dr. Mery Taylor, pediatric psychologist at CHOC, addressed this topic and suggests talking openly with your children about what they’ve heard and how they feel, and assuring them that their feelings are normal. She recommends limiting their exposure to media coverage and answering their questions honestly and in an age-appropriate manner.

Parents should also watch for signs that their kids are distressed, irritable or aggressive. Read the full story.

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