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Prepared for disaster

When my 8-year-old opened the emergency backpack I'd put together for him, he exploded with joy. "This is awesome!" he said as he pulled out the flashlight, rain poncho, cans of soup, granola bars and mini first aid kit. He then carefully looked over the notebook, crayons and stickers and exclaimed that he couldn't wait for a disaster.

My 10-year-old, on the other hand, glumly glanced at the backpack I'd given him and set it aside.

"Ben, don't you want to see what's in it?" I asked him.

He looked at me blankly then dutifully unzipped it, eyed the contents and zipped it right back up again.

After doing a few emergency drills for which Ben was unusually quiet I asked him what was wrong.

Volunteer Julianne Hall gives fair patron Mary Johansen a 72-hour starter kit.
Volunteer Julianne Hall gives fair patron Mary Johansen a 72-hour starter kit. Photo: Photo by Amy Weir

"I don't like this, Mom," he replied.

"You don't like what?"

"This emergency stuff; you're scaring me," he scowled.

My first inclination was to tell Ben how he needed to take this seriously because deadly situations could arise, but then I quickly recalled the "Teaching Kids How To Deal With Emergencies" class I'd taken the day before at the annual community Emergency Preparedness Fair put on by the Church.

"Don't make preparedness into a big scary thing," the instructor had said. "Make it more of a game or a simple fact of life without any scary emotions attached. The kids will pick up on how you view emergencies and will react accordingly. If you panic, they'll panic."

KNWA weatherman Dan Skoff explains Doppler radar to a group of kids.
KNWA weatherman Dan Skoff explains Doppler radar to a group of kids. Photo: Photo by Amy Weir

So I quickly steered away from "panic" by shelving the "if we don't do this we could all die" lecture and said to Ben, "We just need to be ready for whatever may happen, no big deal. We'll most likely never ever have to use that backpack, but it'll be good to have on hand, don't you think?"

"Yeah," he admitted as his demeanor softened.

I patted myself on the back for this small triumph and was so grateful for the fair. Almost 1,000 families had gone to the "Third Annual Emergency Preparedness Fair" held in Bentonville, Ark., on Sept. 12, each receiving a 72-hour starter kit as well as information from the dozens of different booths that were lined up in the cultural hall and parking lot of the stake center.

Along with the first aid and food storage booths that you'd expect to see there, local TV channels had weathermen giving Doppler explanations with big screen televisions and the police station had a booth where kids could get their fingerprints and photos taken for ID cards. The kids could explore tornado shelters, fire trucks, bounce houses and hospital helicopters outside, while the adults took classes, enjoyed samples and donated over 230 pints of blood. Three thousand free lunches were served thanks to sponsors, and the whole fair was a huge success thanks to the 250 volunteers that came from different wards all over the area.

But the fair was a success in a different way as well.

"Since the bathroom is the place we'd go in case of a tornado, let's put the backpacks under the bathroom sink," I said to Ben.

"OK," he replied, "but can I maybe have just one sticker out of it first?"

"Sure," I answered as we unzipped the backpack and fished through it for the stickers.

Even if our family never has to face an actual disaster, the fair helped me successfully avert a small disaster with a sensitive child.

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