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Tips on How to Make Emergency Drills Less Scary For Your Preschooler

Emergency drills can be challenging for any age. Still, before we talk about the logistics of emergency drills with preschoolers, it’s essential to acknowledge that safety drills are scary and potentially traumatizing. They can also be challenging to conduct because it’s hard to set the tone between severe and dangerous.


We can help our kids feel more prepared for the emergency drills and less scared if we:


Be Prepared

Even if you feel there is nothing you can do to prepare your preschooler for an emergency drill, you are wrong. You can make a plan with your child about what they need to do when they hear a fire alarm or other emergency. You can talk about what each of you should do during an emergency drill (this blog will help) and understand that you will be safe together after the training. Your child may still have fears, but a plan could potentially help them through these challenging times.


Know The Drill

There are three parts to an emergency drill: evacuation, assembly, and shelter. Each piece is very different and has a very different tone than the others. Make sure you know how your preschool or daycare will handle these things so that you can prepare your child accordingly.


The evacuation comes first. When families sit outside in the playground and wait until they hear an all-clear from their teacher or caregiver, often, the alarm will be turned off at this point. Still, sometimes it continues for a while longer while firemen do their job and make sure people are accounted for (this is called a “false alarm”).


The assembly part takes place in the classroom or daycare after everyone will get to be accounted for. Some teachers will talk about what just happened and why it’s essential to be prepared, while other teachers will return to normal activities as soon as possible.


The sheltering part of an emergency drill comes last. Since many preschools do not have designated areas for sheltering during a fire (which is a good thing), they often incorporate this into their regular room routine. During this part of the drill, teachers/caregivers are free to move around the classroom, and they may even open up cupboards or drawers that were previously closed.


Know The Plan

Understand that your child will go through three levels of fear/distress as they comprehend the alarms. Each class will happen faster than the last, so you’ll want to spend a few minutes with each one. If your child moves quickly, don’t worry, there is still time to plan carefully. Here are some ideas for talking about different levels of distress:


Level 1: Denial – Your preschooler may be in denial and won’t believe that it’s a drill and not a real fire alarm. They may think it’s just an annoying sound or that their teacher can fix it if they leave the classroom and come back in. At this point, you can make a game out of it and pretend to be the fireman who is coming in to rescue them. Then, since you know it’s a drill, they won’t worry and can move on.


Level 2: Panic – This level may involve your child screaming or crying and hysterics. At this point, your duty is to reassure your preschooler that everything will be OK and that his teacher will help him out. If they are agitated, wait until the rest of the class has been accounted for.


Level 3: Shock – This is the most challenging level because it will take your child a few minutes to understand what just happened. If they begin to cry and seem upset, hug them or reassure them that nothing wrong will happen to them. It’s OK if they don’t want to move with the others after hearing this level of distress, so be prepared for this. If your preschooler is OK with moving, talk about how everything will be OK once everyone gets through the drill.


Know What To Do During The Drill

Often, teachers do not plan for the assembly and sheltering parts of the emergency drills. It is why each of you needs to know what will happen at each position. Here are some ideas (and we recommend that you use these as much as possible):


During the assembly part, everyone may be hugging and crying together after the alarm stops because they all lost their families. Remember that this is a tough time for everyone who has lost their families or loved ones in the fire. Hug them all like they are a family member who just died. Your child may be able to say their name and find you. However, they may not know where to go after that. Help them by telling them completely what they need to do from here on out. Someone will need to tell you how to get out of the school in a fire.


What will happen during the sheltering part:

Your child may not be able to walk when he sees that everyone else is running. Help them by ringing a bell or making a sound with your voice so that they know to get moving right away. Your kid may cry and refuse to move because he’s scared of the fire. You mustn’t push him along if he doesn’t want to move. This will only make things worse, and he could end up in shock level 3 again. Take your time and let him ask for his toys/other belongings if he needs to.


Why You Should Plan For The Emergency Drills

Having an arrangement in place will help your preschooler feel brave. This helps you maintain your composure, keep your sanity, help other parents get through the drill much more efficiently. In addition, it gives you something to do while everyone else is in the assembly area. If you have a reliable fire alarm on hand, this can also make things easier for the kids. If you put the fire alarm on your child’s back, then he will worry less and play with it during the drill.

What To Tell Your Preschooler About The Emergency Drills

Tell your preschooler that the emergency drills happen on a day when none feels sad and sick. Tell them that they may see some people crying while they are in the assembly area. It is because they’ve lost their families and loved ones to a fire. Tell your preschooler that he should treat this as a real emergency. So do not leave his side until he knows what to do. 


Let your child know that he will be in the assembly area with many other people. Tell them that he should find a friend who is his age or older, and make lots of new friends. It will help your preschooler feel more confident about meeting new people at school.


Tell your preschooler to bring as much of their belongings as they can carry. They must have something to hold since there may not be anything left after the fire. Your kids must know not to let anyone take their belongings besides the firefighters.


Tell them that they can put on coats or whatever clothes they need to stay warm if someone feels cold. Tell them that they need to drink water or juice that they bring with them. They may not be able to go home after the drill, so drinking enough water will help keep everyone hydrated. Tell them that they should not be afraid of crying because everyone feels sad, and it is OK to feel sad. They should try their best to be brave because firefighters are brave when facing danger.


Tell them that they cannot bring toys or electronics with them. If they have a favorite toy, it is best for them to hold it while waiting for the firefighter to pick him up instead of leaving it behind.


Firefighters will pick up children in full gear, so parents must make the drill as realistic as possible. In addition, it is recommended for parents to stay at the staging area while waiting. Furthermore, it creates a familiar setting for the child and remind him/her of real-life procedures after an emergency. It can also be helpful if a parent has food ready for when the child returns.


We hope that this is helpful to you. These are just a few of the many ways that we can help you and your child. Please message us here if you have questions or suggestions.