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`Operation Safe Summer:` Experts teach families how to survive when danger hits

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BELLEVUE — Talking to your kids about what to do in emergency situations can be hard, but experts say it`s a must.

The key is to be prepared without being scared.

Imagine you’re awakened in the middle of the night because of a violent shaking from an earthquake or maybe even from a fire. What would you do and what have you told your kids to do?

“At a younger age the more that you do something the more they’re going to understand what to do in the situation,” explains Stephanie Kerns, co-owner of InSights Training Center in Bellevue.

She teaches courses helping families plan ahead. Kerns says, “When we started doing our kids safety school we asked the kids and the parents to do a family plan of their home and we asked the parents who here has done that with their kids and I was fairly shocked that maybe one third.”

Kerns believes that just as there are fire drills and earthquakes drills in school, parents should do the same with their kids. “What we recommend is sitting down at a time when the family can get the crayons out, get some graph paper out and actually go through the house, look at all the rooms then sit down and map it out,” Kerns suggests.

And talk it out. Discuss not only how to get out of your home safely, but where to go once you leave. “They’re going to know where the designated spot is that they are going to have to meet. Now that’s going to be different for fire, maybe it will just be across the street. For an earthquake it might be just up the street. It’s going to have to be some place that they know they’re going to be safe.”

And you also want to make sure your kids have emergency backpacks complete with any medication they take and emergency phone numbers. “Here’s an example,” Kern says, “It’s in the middle of the night and the fire alarm goes off and the kids have just their pajamas on. They know to grab their backpack. It’s going to have a pair of shoes, it’s going to have a warm jacket in there, it’s going to have maybe some water and some food.”

Having emergency ladders can also be a good thing as long as everyone in the house knows how to use it. Most just hook to your bedroom window or balcony and allows you to quickly escape, but make sure that you have one of these in every bedroom upstairs because if a fire breaks out in the one room you store this ladder your emergency plan could go up in smoke.

Kerns says, "Have the kids go around and say ‘Okay, if I need to get out, I’m going to go into this room, I’m going to use this door or this window.'"

The most important thing is to have a plan. Kerns adds,“It’s not about being scared or in fear, it’s about being prepared so when you’re sitting down and talking to your kids about this, it’s a serious discussion but it doesn’t have to be about fear.”

For more information and ideas on how to talk to your kids about emergency planning, Kerns says parents can log onto sparky.org