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Parents Can Teach Kids about Hazards and Disaster Preparedness

March 24, 2014

The image here is from a book by the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. It is called Safari et Les Inondations (in French) and Safari’s Encounter with Floods (in English). Safari is a little boy in Kenya who learns about floods when his village and the village where his grandmother lives are flooded. Copies can be downloaded at the UN ISDR educational resources site. For older children and adults, PDC’s Global Hazards Atlas will provide a challenging and interesting learning opportunity. 

This article is actually a list of online resources that will help the children in your family, classroom or neighborhood learn about natural hazards and disaster preparedness. You may want to look through the options on your own and make notes. Some will be sites where you will download files, like the book pictured above. Once you’ve looked at some of the other resources, you may decide to just open the websites, and then put a child in the driver’s seat to navigate to the information and online activities that capture her or his imagination.

Many of these resources are made for relatively young children, but you be the judge of what is appropriate for each child. With good computer and reading skills, older children are likely to find that they can learn a great deal from the PDC website. Under the Resources tab, for instance, there are background pages on drought, earthquake, flood, high surf, high wind, hurricane, tsunami, volcano and wildfire. Tsunamis are dramatic events that young people may be fascinated by, or even fear. PDC’s Tsunami Awareness Kit is a suite of educational materials, useful in any setting, including the family living room. Often, young people will be more interested in learning about something that is “really happening.” By going to PDC’s Global Hazards Atlas, they can see what is happening all over the world, and navigate to learn what interests them about various hazards and events. Other resources that might interest children (and adults) who are looking at current hazards include the PDC Weather Wall and PDC’s free Disaster Alert app to view global hazard information on mobile devices.

Here, the user of PDC’s Global Hazards Atlas has asked for two hazards in Australia to be “identified” by selecting the “i” tool and sweeping her cursor over the area of the two icons. The ID box popped up, giving—for each of two floods—the location, severity, date and most recent update (in this case Jan. 23, 2012). The “Identify” results also provide links to additional information.

The links below are in no particular order. PDC offers no special recommendations about any of these sites. We just want to help you get started exploring.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN ISDR) offers Riskland, a downloadable Chutes-and-Ladders type game about natural disaster preparedness. The game is available in several languages, and you are invited to provide a translation to your own language. 

UN ISDR also has an extensive compendium of links to educational sites, most are in English, some offer information in Spanish and French, too.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has a site for its worldwide youth movement.  While this is not intended as an educational resource, it may be inspiring for older children and young adults, and includes a downloadable newsletter.

The American Red Cross offers the Masters of Disaster curriculum, including educator materials.

FEMA for Kids also has special areas for parents and teachers.

Another site by FEMA, called Ready, leads little ones to “graduate from Readiness U.”

NASA for Kids has a lot of interesting pages, and a small section on natural hazards.

One NASA site has kids in grades 5 to 8 asking “What could a hurricane do to my home?”

Sparky the Fire Dog talks mostly about house fires, but he may be the best first teacher for younger children about the bad things that can happen to people, families and communities. His website is very lively and extremely kid-friendly. Even very young children will quickly master navigation from the home page. Also, although all of the links are intended to be family-friendly, when a child clicks on a page that is more appropriate for an adult (like how to plan a child’s Sparky birthday party), they are warned… if nothing else, adult pages might be boring to kids. 

Here is the warning to a child user of Around the dialog box, the user can still see the colorful website, and is sure to return to the fun learning experience offered there. 

Another site has Sparky teaching kids up to grade 5, and includes teacher and family resources, and many printable activity pages. This site is specifically tailored for teachers (and parents). 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a lot of educational resources for all ages and grade levels, and the site is rich in links to other safe government sites. One way to explore here is by grade level: K-6, 7-12, and Undergraduate. offers “How to Teach Kids About Natural Disaster.” At the very least, the site will give you some guidance about how to talk to children about this subject, and help you understand the importance of doing so. 

Another Red Cross site offers lessons on earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, winter storms and general preparedness. Some items can be downloaded, others are found at Red Cross offices. The materials are described as “For Teachers and Schools” or “For Children.” Materials here are suitable for pre-school and early grades, at least. 

Discovery (Channel) Education has many lesson plans for various grade levels. For K–5: Science includes weather maps and a video to help kids understand weather, plus lessons on volcanoes, the four seasons, how to use Google Earth to investigate related areas of information. For 6–8: Weather includes hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., and Earth Science includes avalanche, earthquake, flood, tsunami and more. For 9–12: Ecology includes forest fire, and Earth Science includes two lesson about earthquakes.

NASA's "Our Mission to Planet Earth" is a fun teaching guide that covers all the basics of earth science as seen from space. That should interest kids of most ages. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) education site has areas marked Primarily for Teachers, Primarily for Students, and Cool Sites for Everyone. NOAA also published a tsunami awareness booklet to help educate Hawaii keiki about the dangers of tsunamis.

National Geographic for Kids usually has a lot of natural hazards information. Check the site map (bottom of the page) or enter keywords like weather, tsunami or hurricane in the search box (top of the page).


More from Pacific Disaster Center

To keep yourself up-to-the-minute about hazards and disasters:

For the latest Weather and Disaster News, use the PDC Weather Wall.

While you are thinking of hazards, think of preparedness. PDC provides disaster preparedness information, including printable instructions for assembling a Disaster Supply Kit and rehearsing a Family Disaster Plan.

For more information on DisasterAWARETM products:

  • For details, see the Training Guide for Web-accessible Disaster Alert,
  • Read and understand more about custom versions, such as DMRS and VinAWARE,
  • Watch the ASEAN DMRS video on YouTube.

About PDC:

Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) envisions a safer, more secure world—where populations live in more disaster-resilient communities informed by science and technology, and equipped with sound decision support tools. To help make that vision a reality, PDC is dedicated to supporting evidence-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts by providing actionable information and applications to the public and disaster managers worldwide. PDC, a program managed by the University of Hawaii, was established by the U.S. government in 1996.