Tell Us How to Make It Better

Preparing Children for Disasters

March 14, 2022 George Siegal Season 1 Episode 29
Tell Us How to Make It Better
Preparing Children for Disasters
Show Notes Transcript

March 14, 2022
29.  Preparing Children for Disasters

Are your children prepared for the next disaster? Disasters are scary for everyone, especially kids. That’s what motivates Heather Beal to write children’s books to help ease their fears. She has books on Earthquake Safety, Fire Safety, Hurricane Safety, Thunderstorm Safety, and Tornado Safety.  Heather is a navy veteran, mom, wife, and scholar.

Facebook.com/train4safety
 
Here are some important moments Heather talks about in the podcast: 

At  3:07 What is the focus of the books?

At 6:34 What did you bring from your experience in the military to the books you are writing for kids?

At 8:14 Give us an example of a couple of disaster scenarios you talk about in the books?

You can reach Heather and buy her books on her website:
Train4safety.com

You can also follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/train4safety

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please share it with your friends. Also, make sure to like it and subscribe to become a weekly listener. And if you can leave a review that would be great too.

If you have ideas for podcasts or want to share your thoughts on what you’ve listened to, we’d love to hear from you: https://tellushowtomakeitbetter.com/contact

InstinctReady.com

Sawyer.com

George Siegal:

Tell Us How to Make It Better is partnering with The Readiness Lab, the home for podcast webinars and training in the field of emergency and disaster services.

Heather Beal:

So what I've been working on is trying to help prepare kiddos for disaster. A lot of times we forget about them and just assume they're going to be okay. But the reality is, is we may not be with them when something. So, if they're prepared to know what to do, it's a better chance we get them back home.

George Siegal:

I'm George Siegal, and this is the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week, we introduce you to people who are working on real world problems and providing actual solutions. Hi everybody. Thank you so much for joining me on the streets. Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week I try to introduce you to somebody who has recognized a problem that exists and is working on a solution to make things better. Now I've had a lot of episodes where we've talked to people about the environment, about climate, about disaster preparation. And a lot of that is from the adult perspective. My guest today is taking a look at disasters, but gearing it towards children. My guest today is Heather Beal. She's a Navy veteran, mom, wife, and scholar who has chosen to help prepare children and those who care for them for disaster. Heather, welcome. Thanks for coming on.

Heather Beal:

Thank you so much for having me.

George Siegal:

Now first, let's say that that is a real background behind you and it looks spectacular. How cold is it where you are though?

Heather Beal:

I think we're about 30 degrees right now, but it's so pretty.

George Siegal:

Oh my goodness. And I'll say what people hate when they know you're in Florida. Is that it's 84 here and actually a little warm. Yeah. Okay. We'll just move on. You don't even have to say anything. What is the problem or issue that you've been working on?

Heather Beal:

So what I've been working on is trying to help prepare kiddos for disaster. A lot of times we forget about them and just assume they're going to be okay. But the reality is, is we may not be with them when something happens. So if they're prepared to know what to do, it's a better chance we get them back home.

George Siegal:

And what is the way that you have chosen to approach this? Like what's the age range of kids and how do you educate them?

Heather Beal:

So what I focus more on the preschool and a and younger group, a three to eight years old. Typically, even though that's early elementary, if you can get a sense of normal into them for being prepared, like fire drills, , my goodness, all the kids know what to do in schools. And even in preschools, my son and my daughter both had fire drills, so they know what to do. And they don't like the sound of it. I don't like the sound of it. I'll be honest, that alarm is loud, but they know what to do. So if we can normalize the rest of the things and just kind of focus on, uh, what do you do to be safe? Making smart decisions. It's going to be part of their normal and knowing how to take care of things.

George Siegal:

Now I used to be in the news business. I was a television weather man, and I would go and talk to schools and kids would always ask questions about tornadoes and earthquakes and all kinds of disasters. And that, that could be a really scary time for a kid because they're, they're afraid. When, when they're away from their parents, they're definitely going to be more concerned. So how do you approach all this to give them a comfort zone so they can survive all of this?

Heather Beal:

Well, we focus on the things that they can do to be safe, kind of empowering them. A funny story is my daughter, I tried to explain what a, what a tornado watch was to her right before she went to bed on a nice stormy night in Maryland. As you can guess it did not go well. Well, I just really messed it up. So I started looking for books and stuff to try and figure out if we can talk about this ahead of time in a way that's kind of more story-like then maybe she'll follow along the characters and be able to do it. So that that's actually the impetus for why I started writing children's books. But with the, with the, what we do is we teach kiddos this is what the event is, and there's lots of wonderful science and other books out there for kids on that. But what we don't tell them is what to do to be safe. How to help themselves, how to be, you know, a big boy or big girl and help others. And that's kind of the focus here is it gives them a chance to know what to do and kind of be in charge of a little bit in a situation that generally is not a good situation to be in, but it does help them.

George Siegal:

Now do you do it through the books? Do you go talk to groups? What is the primary way that you get this message out to people?

Heather Beal:

A couple of different ways as I have the books that I write, I also run a nonprofit blocks that helps prepare childcare and children for disaster. So we'll go in and do trainings and as we use the books, sometimes it's, , we have this kind of like the pillowcase project. It's, uh, I'm ready sells teddy project where we go in and teach kiddos what to do. And I just remember my daughter going through what we call the line leader phase. No, mommy. I want to be in charge. I want to open the door. I want to do this. Kids at that age want to do something. They want to have a say, and if we can provide them, here's what you do. They'll take it home. They'll do it. Look at mom and dad to do it as well as brother and sister.

George Siegal:

Yeah. I mean, it sounds like you would have in reality, a more receptive audience among young people, because as I've found in the projects that I've done, Most grownups don't even worry about it. They don't think about it. They're not prepared for it. So maybe it starts with the younger generation of making the grown-ups understand?

Heather Beal:

That's kind of exactly what I do. I absolutely. I mean, I, I love all of our emergency management outreach programs and the people that do come, they care, they want to get better, but most of us, we just kind of sit at home and go it's like insurance, it might happen. Maybe we look at it as a possibility, not a probability. So if we just put this into the normal for kiddos, you know, this is what you do before you cross the street. This is what you do if there's a fire drill, this is what you do if a stranger talks to you and you add all these other, this is what you do if there's a tornado, they know what to do. It just makes it their new normal.

George Siegal:

Yeah. So what obstacles do you run into when you're trying to get this word out there? What's the, the thing that keeps people maybe from, from doing it and getting on board?

Heather Beal:

Sometimes it's it's that insurance policy kind of idea. I told you on some probability possibility question, a lot of folks are afraid to because they think it's too scary. And I'll be honest. I don't focus on any of the scary stuff. If we truly had that 9.0 Cascadia here, it's going to be bad. But what I do focus on is the things we can do to help ourselves and our friends and, and anyone else's our family with us and how they can be as safe as possible.

George Siegal:

And what is it in your background that, uh, that got you into this? I mean, you're a Navy veteran. So as a parent, obviously you're going to have concern for your kids. What did you learn in the military?

Heather Beal:

So I had a pretty, a very career in the military. , by the time I was, uh, the last five years or so I started doing exercise planning. And so you're always working on a plan for, you know, what, if the adversary does this, how do you counter that? You know, trying to anticipate next moves and what do you do if, so I realized that that kind of planning, that kind of, what if isn't being looked at for kids, everyone just assumes, oh they'll be with mom or dad. Well, the truth is children's six and under spend an average of 33 hours a week in some sort of childcare arrangement. What I mean that doesn't really have good odds for being at home with mom and dad cause earthquakes and such don't wait to schedule themselves conveniently. So I've kind of taken that mentality and just kind of switched up the, okay. The adversaries are the disasters and the kiddos are the good guys. So how do I arm the good guys to win?

George Siegal:

Yeah. I mean, human nature seems to be so against what grownups think, you know, that they're, they're blindly going through not worrying about it, but grownups do worry about their kids and, you know, gosh, we see these horrible things happen at schools. We see kids getting separated from parents in disasters. I mean, there's so many things to worry about as a parent, I think it would give parents real comfort to know that their children did have an understanding of what to do?

Heather Beal:

I absolutely agree. I said that my kids don't always listen to everything I say, but as children do, but we try our best and uh, that's we try our best. That's absolute. That's all we can do.

George Siegal:

Yeah. So give me an example of some of some different types of types of books. Let's, let's walk through a couple of examples.

Heather Beal:

Sure. So, so I, like I said, I started with tornadoes because that's the one I messed up with my daughter. , I've moved on to earthquakes out here in Washington. That is a real concern, uh, storm safety. We've also talked about hurricane preparedness in one of my books. The kiddos go visit an aunt and uncle and there's a hurricane coming, so they need to know what to do and what that means. And the latest one here is called a Burnt Toast and Snow Cream Cone. It's actually based after a, uh, a fire drill or an alarm that kind of went off at the daycare when, uh, it was a snow day, they were really making snow cream cones and, uh, the teacher burnt the toast. So we ended up setting up the smoke alarms and everyone went outside.

George Siegal:

Wow. It's a being outside in the cold. That's two things they needed to be prepared for the fire and the, and the cold weather. And that kids say amazing things. What are some of the questions that kids have asked, or that you've had some great stories of things that come out of their mouths when it comes to these kinds of things?

Heather Beal:

Oh my goodness. So I usually start out when I go do I'm into the childcares here, we'll use the earthquake books primarily because that's the main focus and it's so funny. Cause one of the things I'll ask the kiddos is, well, what's an earthquake? And you wouldn't believe all the crazy stories. It's a meteor, it's lava. It's just, you know, it's, it's, I haven't heard the abominable snowman yet from them, but you never know what they're going to say. And it comes out of the sky or it comes out of trees. I was like, well, no, not actually. And everyone's convinced it's a Hollywood model of big holes opening in the ground. It's like, no, no, it's not quite like that. So it's really fun and interesting to see what they think it is. And help them shape a perspective that makes sense to them in their language so they can understand it.

George Siegal:

Yeah. I think it's important for them to be educated more than we are when I was in the news business also anytime there was an earthquake and then there was a tsunami warning the news director would send a news crew down to the beach. And I would always question that and say, are you kidding me? Shouldn't we be going the other way? What if there is a tsunami and there's, there's been a warning that's issued why are we going to the beach? So you almost want kids to be smarter to overcome the stupidity of grownups.

Heather Beal:

That is a tall task, sometimes 10 minutes, but kids can do that. I mean, Tilly Smith, the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami, she was a little British girl on holiday in Thailand with her mom, dad, and little sister. And she saw the water doing something really weird. It was all kind of frothy and it had receded back and they had no indication of that. Indonesia, Indonesia, that earthquake that happened in Indonesia, they had not felt it there. And she just kept on mom and dad, mom, dad, there's something wrong. There's going to be a tsunami. I learned about it in geography class. And she kept at it and kept at it. And eventually dad went to the pool guard and said, Hey, I know it sounds crazy, but my daughters convinced. And that's when they found out about the earthquake and the men started rounding people up. She probably saved hundreds of lives.

George Siegal:

Wow.

Heather Beal:

That's what our kids can do.

George Siegal:

Yeah, no, that's, that's. That's amazing to a T to hear of an example like that, because we see it in so many other kinds of, of disasters that, you know, again, when, when there's really cold weather or when there's a hurricane, you see the news crews outside for hours telling you not to go outside. And I always thought maybe we should be inside. So they would see that that's where you want to be as opposed to being outside. So I don't think we really model very well for children.

Heather Beal:

No, no, I don't think we do for children at all. I mean, those newscasts too. I mean, it's the adults watching that, but if the kids happened to be watching it, like you said, that's not the role model that they want to, they should be emulating as far as their own safety.

George Siegal:

So what is it now, obviously you have some entrepreneurial, , experience based on what you're doing with these books. A lot of people think they have an idea or there's something that they want to do, but they've, for whatever reason, they just don't ever go forward with it. What would you tell people who are in that mindset?

Heather Beal:

If you believe it's important to get it out there, find a way to get it out there. I can't tell you how many hours I spent online researching how to write books and where to get information from and how to get out to people, as well as the nonprofit side, trying to, how do I start a nonprofit? Who do I talk to? Where can I go for funding? And it is a continual thing, and it's a constantly evolving thing, but it's the right thing. And I'm glad I did it.

George Siegal:

Yeah. Having a non-profit isn't really as easy as, as, as people think a lot of people think it's just a way that you can get money for your business, but there's a lot of hoops you have to jump through and things you have to do to maintain that.

Heather Beal:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, there's the state requirements as well as the federal requirements for wherever you're registered and, and it isn't easy. People don't throw money at you at all. It is a constant battle to try and get the funding, to be able to support the projects that you want to do.

George Siegal:

Okay. So how do people get your books and how would they, how what's the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Heather Beal:

So mostly, , the books are available on Amazon Barnes and noble. I think you've been The Readiness Lab has them now. So you can find them in a lot of places. Yeah. Uh, the, as far as how to get ahold of me, uh, you can reach me at, uh, if you look at blocks usa.org or train 4 safety.com, that's what the number 4 either one of those things. The training for safety is the book side and the blocks blocks USA as part of blocks, they do that. I would do the childcare preparedness and prepare your children for disaster on the nonprofit side.

George Siegal:

Great. And what would you tell parents that might motivate them for how important it is for young people to understand what they would do in a disaster?

Heather Beal:

Don't assume. I mean, don't assume that that they're going to be safe or that we're going to be with people that know what to do, that the kids can handle it. They can ha they know what to do. Like I said, you know, crossing the street, dealing with, you know, fire drills, you can help them with these other things that aren't predictable and increase the chances that you don't lose them. You know, we can't prevent disasters. This is what I tell people, but you can prevent a lack of preparedness. And if you prepare the kiddos, you got a better chance of getting them home to you.

George Siegal:

Do you think social media makes it more challenging when you see videos that kids look at online and they're rewarded almost for stupidity and doing dangerous things. And then at the same time, We're trying to educate them about safety. It seems like we're kind of fighting ourselves here.

Heather Beal:

I think in some ways we are, but a lot of the stuff that, uh, there's so much more stuff for the younger kids than there used to be. , one of the things we used to watch when the kids were little was the Daniel tiger show of the spinoff, a cartoon off Mr. Rogers. And they would cover all kinds of more emotional topics, but it was great because the kids could kind of relate to those characters and learn what to do. And there are some channels and things out there like that, but I agree there needs to be more and parents need to kind of keep an eye on what the kids are watching because there are a lot of the other crazy stuff too.

George Siegal:

Yeah. It seems like with Tik TOK and with those, remember those blooper shows used to be on where people would get a good laugh out of somebody skateboarding into a tree or doing something stupid, you know, but then again, when I was younger they used to say, well, the cartoon where you blow a guy's head off and then he bounces back up and runs away. So I guess each generation has their own level of stupidity.

Heather Beal:

Our cartoons were pretty violent back then when you look at them now through different lenses, for sure.

George Siegal:

Yeah. And like I said, you pick your poison of generations, right? Each one. I sound like an old guy sitting on the porch right now. Well, Hey, Heather continued success with, , with the books and with educating people and getting the getting kids ready for disasters. I think it's important work and, uh, I wish you success with it.

Heather Beal:

Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Thank you for joining me on this. Week's Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. If you liked what you were listening to, it would be great. If you could leave a review, share the link with someone else or even subscribe so you can become a regular listener of the podcast. And if you have any questions or comments, there's a contact form on our website. Tell Us How to Make It Better dot com. Thanks again for listening. See you next time.