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Teaching Children to Use Their Superhero Skills by Stacy Gerlich

So, I have been thinking! As a professional Firefighter/Paramedic, I have witnessed all too many times how children react during traumatic situations. Growing up, most children think that being a firefighter would be nothing but fun. Who wouldn’t want to dress up in those cool turnouts, climb a 100’ extension ladder into the sky, and rescue someone from a burning building?

Teaching children and adults about the inherent dangers of firefighting can save their life one day. There is a great deal of discussion about fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and emergency drills in the home (EDITH.) Taking the time to sit down as a family and draw your exit plan on paper has many advantages:
· It reinforces in everyone’s mind how to get out of the house should it catch fire
· It clearly defines where the family would meet outside the home in a safe area
· Gives children a feeling of inclusion and safety by including them in the discussion
· It takes the fear out of not knowing what to do
All of the things mentioned are valid and proven to save lives, but it isn’t a one-time exercise. Like with most skills acquired by all of us, practice makes perfect. Scheduling annual drills with the family is as important as changing the clocks for daylight savings. It also reinforces the idea that security sense is common sense, and EVERYBODY has a role and responsibility.
For those parents who grew up during the times of getting under their school desk during the air raid siren test or taking cover under a solid object during an earthquake drill, it is our responsibility to teach our children why those acts are important. Depending on where we live, there are different types of disasters that require different safety actions:

· Hurricanes
· Tornadoes
· WildFire
· Earthquake
· Terrorism
· Cyber Attacks

Imagine how confusing this can be to children, let alone adults. Should we Stop, Drop, and Roll; Duck, Cover, and Hold On; Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep; run to the basement and wait out the storm? Through the pandemic, when do we wear a mask, how do we social distance, and how long do we need to do that? Explaining these actions to our children helps them understand the reasons why we take these actions, and it builds muscle memory towards preparedness, which will become a lifelong skill.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a great opportunity to practice many of the aforementioned skills and exercises. Engaging the entire family in your preparedness plan is essential to ensuring that everyone has the needed information to survive a catastrophic situation. Make plans to gather around the table and discuss these major points;

· Make a Plan
· Build a kit
· Stay Informed
· Discuss with family regularly

You do not need to spend a lot of money to build a “Go Bag.”

Consider building a bag for each member of the family. Some of the items to include for Adults might be:

· Flashlight
· Whistle
· Batteries
· Glasses
· Medication
· Hearing aid batteries
· Small denominations of cash ($30-$50)
· First Aid supplies
· Extra clothes, shoes, jacket, etc.
· Phone charger
· Important documents (deeds, passports, etc.)

Similar items work great for our children with the addition of toys, books, games, etc., and don’t forget about the pets! They need food, water, medications, toys, leash, collar, carrier, and blankets.
Following the 6 “P’s” of preparedness can quite possibly make the difference between Life and Death!!
Proper preparedness planning prevents poor performance.

About Battalion Chief Paramedic Stacy Gerlich, LAFD

Stacy is a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles City Fire Department and currently assigned as the Operations Valley Bureau, EMS/Resilience Officer. Chief Gerlich was part of a 23-member team that responded to the World Trade Center Attack on 9/11/2001. Chief Gerlich is most known for her position as the Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) Commander. During her time in that position, she was instrumental in the delivery of the CERT program to over 40,000 community members. Chief Gerlich is also a FEMA certified CERT Instructor and Program Manager Instructor. Stacy earned two Master’s degrees; Organizational Management and her most recent Master’s from the Naval Post Graduate School in Homeland Security Studies. In 2013, Chief Gerlich received the White House Champion of Change Award for her work in preparedness and education.
Stacy is a professional woman who is driven by a holistic approach to increasing resiliency and awareness as it relates to disaster preparedness. She enjoys interacting with people from all walks of life and all professions. As a career emergency responder, she is most thankful for the opportunities of serving the public.
On her days off, Stacy enjoys spending time with family at her mountain home as well as creating projects in her woodshop.

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