Free Emergency Preparedness Unit Study

This is a three week unit study on emergency preparedness perfect for kids in grades 3rd-5th. If kids ever encounter a crisis, knowing what to do can save precious time. In addition, practice and discussion will result in making better decisions during an emergency. During the first week kids will learn to recognize an emergency. The second week covers what to do in an emergency - stay calm, call 911, check Airway, Breathing and Circulation (ABC's). The third week is reserved for hands-on practicals. It can be completed with a family or group of families.

Week 1: Recognizing and Emergency

Discuss different emergency situations. Learn about different types of emergencies. Talk about emergency related vocabulary and make family fire emergency plans. Prepare for an emergency by exploring different scenarios.

What is an Emergency?

Should emergency services be called if:
the house is on fire?
mom falls down the stars and is acting strange?
the roof blows off the house and a sister is stuck under a bookshelf?
the baby is playing with blood pressure medicine and the top is off the bottle?

Give the kids sticky notes and pens to write down possible emergencies. Then have them decide if the emergency is a Natural Hazard or Disaster, Man-Made Hazard, Criminal Emergency or an Injury/Medical Emergency.

Emergency Language
Many words associated with emergencies aren't part of our everyday conversations and are therefore unknown to lots of children. Introduce the kids to the words unconsciousness, impaled objects, and possible neck or back injuries. Give them an opportunity to tell personal stories relating to emergencies and injuries.

Fire Emergency/Family Plan
Discussing what to do in case of fire before hand is of critical importance as it makes reactions automatic. Go over the following information with the kids.

In case of fire the number one priority is to get to a safe place. Assist siblings if necessary, but don't put yourself in greater danger by searching for a pet or phone inside a burning house. Know your designated family meeting spot away from the house. Stop, Drop, and Roll if hair or clothing catches on fire. If the smoke is think crawl because the low air is more breathable. 

Phone Number List
Placing a sheet of paper near the phone with fire, police, poison, and other emergency numbers can help those who forget everything under pressure.

Week 2: What to Do in an Emergency

Thinking about emergency situations in advance helps both kids and adults prepare. Tell the kids to:
  1. Stay calm and breath. 
  2. Make sure the scene is safe. 
  3. Decide whether to call 911.  

If kids are involved in an emergency situation, there are actions they can take before the paramedics arrive. Knowing what to do, and what not to do, is very important. This week the kids will learn basic first aid techniques.

ABC is an emergency acronym which stands for Airway, Breathing and Circulation. In an emergency, the first responder should first check to see if the injured person's airway is clear. Once it is, the first responder should check to see if the injured person is breathing. Once the person is breathing, circulation is checked. Discuss the ABC's of emergency response.

When somebody is choking (has a blocked airway) and cannot cough, performing the Heimlich maneuver can sometimes dislodge the blockage. It can be performed with the person who is choking both sitting down and standing up. Using additional leverage from the back of a chair will assist small people trying to perform the Heimlich on bigger people. Take turns pretending to choke and pretending to do the Heimlich Maneuver.

Other ways to open an airway include tilting the head back or rolling a person who has been vomiting on his/her side. Take turns simulating these scenarios.

Once the airway is clear, the first responder should check to see if an unconscious injured person is breathing by listening for breaths. If the person is not breathing, rescue breathing can be performed. Take turns listening for breaths. Watch a video on rescue breathing and talk about protective equipment.

Sometimes, in order to perform rescue breathing, the person needs to be repositioned. If no head, neck or back injury is suspected and the person is not breathing, even a small child can roll him/her onto his/her back. Rolls may also be required to move a person away from a hazard. Practice rolling from stomach to back.

Rolling should not be done if a fall or any type of spinal injury is suspected.

If the injured person is talking it can be assumed that the airway is clear and he/she is breathing. The next step is to check circulation. Bleeding could be a problem. The first responder should work to stop the bleeding by applying pressure and elevating the wounded area. Something clean should be held against the cut if possible; towel, shirt, tissues. Impaled objects should not be removed. Take turns pretending injuries and fetching towels to stop bleeding.

If the person has severed a body part completely - the bleeding should be first stopped, then the bleeding area should be kept clean and finally the search for the severed part should begin. The severed part should be wrapped in a clean towel and kept cool by setting on ice if possible. Discuss and/or act out this scenario.

Discuss medical emergencies such as heart attacks and watch a video on CPR. Act out a heart attack scenario.

The purpose of this unit study is to prepare kids for various types of emergency situations, not to make them into first responders. Learning to recognize an emergency and having an idea of what to do will make them more confident and effective should they ever need to use those skills.

Week 3: Emergency Scenarios

Last week several different emergency scenarios were discussed and acted out. This week similar scenarios will be enacted and the kids will decide what action to take.

Prepare emergency scenario cards for participants. Each scenario should be outlined with symptoms and steps for the children to take. Don't show the cards to the children acting as first responders. The cards should serve as a check-list to help the injured actors make sure the first responders take appropriate action in the simulated emergency.

If you are into make-up or stage theater you can make the injuries look very real.

Here are some scenario ideas.

Mom's cooking and cuts herself badly with the knife

Mom's eating and chokes on a nut

A loud crash is heard and the kids run upstairs to find mom unconscious with a ladder on top of her (The ladder was already removed when the photo was taken.)

A kid comes zooming out of the garage on a bike and falls down.

Mom was walking with scissors and tripped. The scissors are impaled

Mom was found unconscious and not breathing.

Mom was having difficulty breathing and then fell into an unconscious state.

In each case the rescuers should decide whether or not to call 911 and what to do while waiting for paramedics to arrive. All of this practice will make everyone feel much better prepared for an emergency.

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