September is National Emergency Preparedness month. I didn’t know there was a month dedicated to this. And because I didn’t know and I consider myself to be well-informed I figured you may not know either.
As part of the Verizon Influencers group I participate in the weekly #vzwbuzz chat on Twitter (Friday at 3pm ET if you want to join in!). As part of the recent chat about using smartphones in emergency preparedness planning I mentioned a few tips for parents of tweens and teens. Based on the conversation and shares, I realized this is an area where we, as parents, really need to step up and help our kids.
As adults we’re not always prepared for an emergency. We take the jumper cables out of the car and forget to put them back. We can’t find the flashlights and never got around to downloading one on the phone. We don’t know the names and phone numbers of our kids’ friends.
And if we don’t have it all together we can’t expect our kids to have it together either. Especially when it comes to having many of the tools at the ready on their smartphone. Talking to our kids about this isn’t easy. These “just in case” type scenarios are often met with blank stares. That is if they’re even willing to take their eyes off the device and stare at you.
But we need to have the conversation and talk about what to do in case of an emergency. And not just leave it nebulous and broad, but talk about different scenarios. It has to be an easier conversation than the ones about sexting and bullying, right?
So I’ve come up with 6 things that MUST be on your kid’s phone in case of emergency.
1. Parent’s Name – none of this “mom” or “dad” only stuff on the phone. Even if the main name is Mom, in the notes put mom’s full name. Anyone with a title (mom, dad, grandma, etc.) or nickname should have the full name somewhere in the contact file. This is mainly for first responders who may need to contact you. Adding photos with the entry will be great help for emergency personnel, too.
2. ICE Entry – ICE stands for In Case of Emergency and every person with a smartphone should have a contact with this name. In here you put the main number to call, but also add in any other pertinent information. Include alternative phone numbers, allergy information, key medical information that doctors or emergency service personnel would need to know. Even things like, “wears contact lenses”, “broke right wrist in July 2012”, or “picks up sister from XYZ Elementary school” are important.
3. Flashlight app – kids will download a zillion different apps, but may not think of a flashlight app. There are many different types for Android, iOS, and WindowsPhone. A flashlight could come in handy in a power outage, be used to signal for help, or even just help you be found in the dark.
4. Programmed Emergency Numbers – maybe 911 isn’t who needs to be called and they can’t reach you. They may not remember the grandparent’s or close friend’s phone number. Having access to an alternative safe adult is key to ensuring kids have someone to call if they can’t reach you. If you child does babysitting (or pet sitting) make sure they’ve included the parent’s information in their phone in a clear and understandable manner. We’re so good at shorthand, but emergency personnel don’t have time to figure out what we were thinking.
5. Family GPS App – There are apps that help keep families in communication with each other without being overly complicated or intrusive. By downloading an app like Life360 you not only are able to communicate discreetly with your child, but there is a GPS functionality that will show you where the phone is located. Rather than being used to spy on the kids, a GPS app can be a safety measure and give a child peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to find them in an emergency.
6. First Aid App – While younger kids may not use this, older kids may find the Red Cross First Aid app helpful in a variety of situations. While it’s always advisable to call 911 in case of an emergency, not everything requires a call to 911. Instead of having to search the internet, it’s helpful to have one app that will give them reliable and accurate information. While an app is never a substitute for taking a first aid or CPR class, having something that can guide you through a situation can be very helpful. Again, if your kids are responsible for another child (whether because they babysit or watch a younger sibling) have them take a babysitting class so they’re not solely relying on an app.
Now that the easy part is done on the smartphone, it’s time to talk to the kids and actually prepare them. In emergencies we aren’t calm and perfectly aware. We can’t expect our kids to be either. Especially younger kids. And while it might be easier to do all this yourself once they’ve gone to bed, let the kids be involved. It shouldn’t be scary for the kids. And they should know why you’re putting all this stuff on their phone. While we don’t expect emergencies, it’s like going on a plane trip – you have to know a few safety rules before you go.
What other “must haves” do you think should be on this list to help kids stay safe in an emergency using their smartphone?
Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team and share information about technology. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”