“Drop, Cover, Hold”…and Love

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by Kay Helbling

April is Earthquake Awareness Month in Oregon. Since the risk is greater than most states, the situation is taken seriously. Preparing for disaster and mitigating against its worst effects can save lives and speed recovery. At the state capitol it may be about building codes, in the local fire halls it’s putting together a community disaster plan, and in classrooms it’s teaching students to drop, cover, and hold.

We have many resources available that help us safely maneuver through the practical things to be done if an earthquake should hit. But, as parents, there are some additional steps to be considered if our children are not with us when it occurs. For this we must also prepare.

Imagine how alone and terrified your young child would feel if you weren’t there. This may be likely. Roads could be destroyed, or roadway and bridge use halted. Communication lines could be intercepted for emergency use only. And there sits your child, out of your reach and unsure of what is going to happen.

This first crossed our minds when we sent our 3 & 4 years olds off to preschool. Fortunately, they had a wonderful teacher who already had a plan. She asked that we put together a special Earthquake Care Package for each of our children. No, it didn’t have water bottles or band aids. With parent donations the school took care of all of that. What we were asked to provide is quiet reassurance and love, even if we weren’t present.

In the Package would be items that could help them redirect their fear, things that would help them feel a little bit of home as they waited out the time till we reached them. To some, it may have been a little box of Legos or a doll. To others, a favorite stuffed animal that had been tucked away a couple years before. Some would find their favorite snack or drink. Others, a familiar book or a new box of crayons and paper so they could write a letter or draw a picture.

But, the most important item we were asked to put in each box was a letter. It was to be written from us to our child. It was our chance to talk to them. It could explain in simple terms why we couldn’t reach them and to reassure them we’d be there as soon as we could. Some of us told them a funny story or about what we’d do together that evening. Others told them how special they are or what we think they’ll be when they grow up.

All of us told them how much we loved them.

Click for a link to the Drop, Cover and Hold procedures.

Click for a link to free games, coloring books, stories and other Earthquake awareness stuff for kids from FEMA. 

Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now looking forward to an empty nest with her best friend—her husband.