How to talk to your child about emergencies.

How to talk to your child about emergencies.

Talking to children: parents’ guide

Include your children when talking about emergency plans for your house and family – it will help them know what to do in an emergency and help them to keep themselves safe. It will also help them to manage anxiety they may have about emergencies from past experiences or what they have seen in the media.

Children will have different levels of understanding depending on their age. 

Some tips for talking to your children about preparing for emergencies:


• Select a time which is calm and unrushed. Tell children an emergency is something unusual that happens which could hurt people, or cause damage to things like houses and cars. Explain to them that nature sometimes provides ‘too much of a something’ like, rain, wind or snow

• Talk about effects of an emergency that children can relate to, such as loss of electricity, water, and telephone service; flooded roads and uprooted trees 

• Explain that everyone is better able to take care of themselves in emergencies when they know what to do, and have practised in advance. Tell them that is the reason each family needs to create a Household emergency plan 

• Give examples of several emergencies that could happen in your community and help children recognize the warning signs for each 

• Be prepared to answer children’s questions about scary things they have heard about or seen on television, such as terrorist attacks, bush fires and cyclones. Give constructive information about how to be prepared and respond 

• Teach children how and when to call for help. Teach them to call 911 for police, fire, or ambulance. At home, post emergency numbers by all telephones and explain when to call each number. Include work numbers and mobile phone numbers of household members. Even very young children can be taught how and when to call for emergency assistance 

• Teach children to call your out-of-town contact in case they are separated from the family and cannot reach family members in an emergency. Tell them to leave a message if no-one answers 

• Help children memorize the telephone numbers, and write them down on an Emergency contact card they can keep with them (download at 

• Quiz children every six months or when an ‘alert’ has been announced, such as a cyclone warning or fire ban day, so they will remember where to meet, what telephone numbers to call, and safety rules