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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - As we enter the turbulent spring weather season in Arkansas, it's good to think about a plan of action for the entire family.

LR Family editor Heather Bennett shares some quick advice found in the current issue from Darren Irby at the American Red Cross:

Use toys as a conversation starter about emergencies. As a dad with a boy and a girl, I can't tell you how many ambulance, fire and police cars we have scattered alongside Barbie dolls. Sometimes we use the emergency trucks to respond to Barbie and her friends who had a little damage to their dream condo during a flood or a wind storm. While my daughter always says, "Daaaaaad, that didn't really happen!" I always come back with, "Well, it coooouuuuld." It seems like this type of play always opens up a conversation about what we would all do if something like this were to happen to our family in the real vs. toy world.

Make a game out disaster planning. Even though my daughter has long since outgrown her Little Tykes red plastic car with the yellow roof, she still seems to squeeze into it and play "the medical alert game" with her brother on his bike. They usually are headed to a scene where someone needs help, and they're on the way to provide it. It's great to see them incorporate some of our real disaster talks and training into their imaginative game of response.

Build a kit as a family. A disaster supply backpack and a first aid kit are essential needs during times of emergency. The American Red Cross gives details on all the standard items that should be in your kits, but make sure you're helping your kids be a part of the planning as well. Ask each of your family members to pick out things that bring them comfort. Include items like camo or cartoon bandages for first aid kits or a copy of their favorite book or snacks for your disaster backpack. I love Everlasting Gobstopper candy, so my kids knew I was going to throw that into our kit. While it's great to have energy bars and nutritious snacks, it's perfectly fine to have comfort food as well. Anything to ease the fears and calm the nerves.

Talk about real facts. Tragic and serious things sometimes happen in a disaster. But, I'm always fascinated by the wild stories and imagination of kids when it comes to discussing emergencies. It seems like it's either blown completely out of proportion, or it's so big they don't fully understand the consequences or impact. Make sure that your conversation is both realistic and manageable. Don't make things more dramatic than they actually are, but at the same time, make sure kids know the power of rising water, swirling clouds or fire in the house. Give real facts when you talk about tragedy and make sure that the facts are appropriate for the age of your kids.

Ensure that you're prepared. Your kids will be looking to you during times of disaster and they will more than likely reflect your actions. If you react with alarm, your kids are going to get scared. You're the parent and the adult in the situation and your family needs a prepared leader. It's too late to have a family disaster meeting when the ground is shaking from an earthquake. It's too late to figure out what do to with your pet fish when you're trying to swim out of the house yourself. Build a kit, have a plan and always stay informed.

And finally, when you're in the middle of it, make sure you hug and kiss a lot. Nothing says we're all going to be ok like a good family hug and kisses all around. Oh, and since we'll probably all be in our safe place with our cell phones and not our home phones, make sure you download the award-winning tornado or first aid app at RedCross.org/Prepare/Mobile-Apps.

This information can also be found on page 14 of this month's issue of Little Rock Family.

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