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I am the founder and CEO of the start-up company Man Made Survival. When I was 8 years old my dad and uncle, on two different occasions, lost me at the Six Flags amusement park. I was scared, and it felt like forever before I was randomly found. Now I have three kids, ages ranging from 4 to 8 years old. What we do as a family is that we get a map of the amusement park and divide it into time zones. Each time zone has two assigned safe spots that we tie a yellow flag to and, according to what time they realize we got separated, they look on their copy of the map and head to that specific zone. They know not to panic, cry, or talk to any strangers and just wait for me to arrive. We have practiced this successfully with my 8-year-old, but still have some work to do with the younger two. I recommend this tactic to every parent who plans on going to a crowded place with their little ones — it offers a practical solution to the panic of a lost-child situation.
My wife and I use laminated cards with several family member phone numbers on them for my kid’s school bags and emergency bags. Another friend simply puts a list of them inside a Ziploc bag. These lists come into play in the event of a cell phone/internet outage in the area. Landlines will still function, and my kids will have a way to know the phone numbers, other than searching their cell phone contacts list. It also gives first responders a list in the case my children are injured or in need of assistance.
Firearms: Teach your kids the four firearm safety rules from a very early age. Even 2-year-olds can understand the concepts of the rules. Demonstrate the rules with NERF guns and other toy guns until they are mature enough to handle a real firearm with your close parental supervision. Each child is different so it’s our job as parents to gauge when they’re ready to follow the rules and listen to our instruction. It’s also our job to teach them the respect for this tool (firearm), and to take the taboo away so curiosity won’t get the best of them. As parents, we are training them for the worst-case scenario with firearms — for example, finding an unsecured firearm at a friend’s house when we are not there. By eliminating the taboo they will be less likely to want to “play” with it and more likely to attempt to control the situation by leaving, peer pressuring to put it away, telling an adult, or calling parents to come intervene in the situation.
Technology: Technology can be a huge asset in keeping your kids safe. It can also be a detriment if we are too distracted by our screens. Part of being a prepared parent is avoiding distractions. The more aware we are of our environment, the more capable we will be of mitigating a potential threat to our children. Put the phone down and enjoy your kids — be aware of what’s going on around you.