Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean, is the stuff of nightmares. Originally designated Category 5 — the highest classification possible — Irma churned through the Caribbean with wind speeds of up to 185 miles per hour, destroying buildings, causing major flooding, flattening the small island of Barbuda,. Next Irma battered Florida and Georgia with a catastrophic storm surge, wind and rain. Even families outside the path of the storm cannot escape news of its wrath and its increasing damage.
To make matters worse, Hurricane Jose is still a potential threat to Florida, and Hurricane Katia struck Mexico not long after 50 million people felt a magnitude 8.2 earthquake — the strongest to hit Mexico in a century — that struck off the nation's Pacific Coast.
Although it is still too early to know the full impact of this wave of natural disasters, UNICEF's humanitarian warehouse in Copenhagen has supplies packed. Drinking water, nonperishable food, medicines and emergency kits are ready to deploy at a moment's notice, when and where they're needed. The Copenhagen warehouse, the world's largest, can ship emergency supplies anywhere in the world in 48 to 72 hours.
UNICEF is reliable, with a 70-year history of being in the right place at the right time. In 2016 alone, UNICEF responded to 344 humanitarian emergencies — from conflicts to natural disasters — in 108 countries. Read about UNICEF's response to Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas here. In the weeks and months ahead, UNICEF will be helping children affected by the hurricanes resume their educations.
Families can help themselves get emergency-ready
Talking about natural disasters and emergencies can be difficult for kids, whether they are personally affected or not. The American Psychiatric Association recommends that parents create an open and supportive environment where children can ask questions. Assess what kids already know, use words and concepts they can understand and give honest answers and explanations. Be reassuring, but don't make unrealistic promises. Emergencies can't be wished away, but it's important to remind children that when something scary happens, there are people to help.
Being prepared for severe weather can give children a sense of security. Keeping a bag packed with essentials — medication, boots, gloves, raincoats, clothing, a favorite toy, books — can help kids feel safe and protected. Other useful emergency supplies include drinking water, a three-day supply of non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, and a flashlight and radio with extra batteries. Have an emergency plan in place, and discuss it as a family.
Follow these guidelines to prepare your family for emergencies:
Photo at top: A shelter at St. Thomas Presbyterian Church in west Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP.