As hurricane season kicks off with Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful tropical systems ever observed in the Atlantic Ocean, millions of people in my home state of Florida have been preparing for potential impacts from storm surge, heavy wind, and rain. Florida is particularly vulnerable to hurricane damage given its southern location near the tropics and risk for sea level rise and flooding due to its flat, low-lying, porous geology and extensive coastal community development.
Those living throughout the peninsula, and in the projected path of hurricanes, know the risk that face each year. When the watches and warnings are announced, people still can get caught off-guard. But with proper planning, families living in areas with these extreme weather events, can ensure their children stay happy and comfortable throughout this stressful event if they take precautions.
Preparing Children for Extreme Weather Events
Although hurricanes in Florida are nothing new, scientists know that climate change is already fueling slower, larger, wetter and more dangerous storms as a result of warmer temperatures, and they concur that this trend will continue if we don’t act swiftly on climate change. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasted a 45% chance that this year’s hurricane season will see above-average activity.
News about large storms and climate change can be frightening to children, so it’s important to keep a calm home environment during storms. Here are some ways to prepare children for a hurricane and its aftermath:
- Make learning about extreme weather and climate change fun for your kids – read books, attend science education events, and visit museum exhibits.
- Talk to children about the connection between human activity, climate change, and extreme weather events. Although news organizations across Florida have teamed up to report on climate change as a collaborative effort, very little is still being reported about these connections. Encourage children to do their own research on this topic and to share it with friends.
- Avoid watching excessive television coverage before and during the storm, since the dramatic, intense images can upset children.
- Keep to routines so children feel comfortable.
- Reassure and comfort children so they feel loved and protected no matter what happens, and let them know they can talk about their feelings with you.
- Keep an eye out for changes in behavior like sleeping patterns or eating habits that indicate they may be anxious or depressed. Seek professional help if needed.
Create a Family Emergency Kit
- It’s critical to be ready for a storm with the essentials—food, water, and medicine—for at least a week in case the power goes out during the storm. Jessica Gray, founder of Boca Save Our Beaches in Boca Raton, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the marine environment, recently appeared on a local television news program to spread the word about eco-friendly ways to prepare for storms. Her main request was that people avoid buying so much single-use plastic. “Rather than buy cases of plastic water bottles, reuse containers you already have laying around your house. Re-purposing containers will help you avoid dozens of single-use throwaways. Think pitchers, juice containers, stainless steel cups, mason jars, and large water coolers. Most of these items we use on a daily basis and can be found in your kitchen or recycle bin,” she explains.
- When stocking up on groceries, choose non-perishable items like organic and sustainable brands of BPA-free canned beans, fish, and vegetables that your family will enjoy eating even after the storm (be sure to recycle the cans when done). Also, buy snacks and other dry goods in large bags and containers instead of single-use ones. Keep these items in your home until hurricane season is over in late-November. Donate extra items to a local food pantry.
- Consider purchasing a reusable 5-gallon water cooler, which can also come in handy for future family parties.
- Choose either solar flashlights or LED flashlights, and buy rechargeable batteries to reduce the total number of batteries you use over time.