In the past I’ve hated preparing for emergencies. It made me nervous and like most people I procrastinated because I hated playing out a potential tragedy in my head. However it’s easy to say:

I am really happy I made an emergency kit about 3 years ago. I really don’t regret the time or money I spent getting it done. I do think I’m less anxious now.

September is Emergency Preparedness Month so hopefully in the nick of time we can all make preparing our family a priority. Before you read on know that pacing yourself and setting a goal for completing a full preparation can be set months out. Make a goal perhaps that by the end of 2013 you’ll have a communication plan, a 3-day emergency kit prepared, and have met with or talked with a neighbor or two about how you can work together in the event of an earthquake, tornado, other weather-related emergencies, fire, or safety threat that cuts you off from others’ help. Experts recommend you have enough supplies, first aid kits, medications, water, and some battery backup to last you for at least 3 days. If you’ve already purchased and/or assembled a kit, don’t forget to refresh it. I realized just this week that the water in our emergency kits had somehow leaked and/or partially evaporated. Time to replace it. Water does expire so instructions for “making” safe water from the Centers for Disease Control help.

Make An Emergency Communication Plan

  1. Teach your child one parent’s cell-phone number or a good contact number for you or your partner. Starting at around age 5, kids are developmentally able to memorize a 7- or 10-digit number. Practice with your child today and tomorrow. Get that number locked in. Experience has taught me to re-visit these numbers as my 6 year-old proves every once and awhile that numbers slip away from memory!
  2. Designate an out-of-state contact. Chose a family or friend distant from your home who answers their phone regularly. This will be a resource and point person for your family to call during an emergency.
  3. Choose a safe location. Designate a location other than your home where your family can meet in case of danger or unsafe conditions in your home. This is the kind of place you may need to go there in case of a fire, tornado, or an earthquake. Your meeting place might be a local park, school, or shelter. Walk to the site with your child so he knows exactly how to get there.
  4. Designate a trusted friend or family member who can pick up your child at daycare or school if you are unable to get there in a disaster situation. This week, give official permission to release your child to that person. Ask about this tomorrow morning at drop-off.
  5. Make a communication card. Put the card with your communication plan in each adult’s wallet. Include contact names, the emergency location, and the out-of-state contact number. Put a copy in your school-age child’s backpack, and discuss the plan with your kids.
  6. Tell Grandma. Inform caregivers and nearby relatives of your plan. Be sure to give a copy of your plan to your child’s teacher too.
  7. Write a letter for your child. Write a note your child can have in case of an emergency and leave it with childcare or school. Here’s a sample of the letter I wrote for my then 3 year-old at preschool. I found this to be especially difficult (and kind of hard to swallow), but I did it and you can, too. If you’re ever separated from your child, you’ll both be comforted that the letter is out there.
  8. During an emergency a TEXT is better than a call. If you’re no good at texting, improve your skills now. A reminder that during disasters cellphone use goes up as people make calls while the signal out can decrease making texting preferred. A text message uses less bandwidth and network capacity.

Make A 3- Day Emergency Kit

    1. Go buy two, 20 gallon plastic or Rubbermaid type containers with lids. Once you have those, you’ll have a place to organize your emergency gear.
    2. Make some REFRESH cards. That is, keep a list on top of your emergency kit of what items need to be replenished and when. I never read about doing this but with the realities of our busy-parent-lunatic lives, one of the things we need to do if remind ourselves. Tape an index card to the top of your 20 gallon tub. This is going to be your reminder card for things in the kit that are going to expire.  For example, the water I bought expires in 2015. The food, mostly in 2015 but some in 2014. They are on my list.  Put a reminder in your smartphone, g-calendar, or blackberry that alarms and reminds you to go to your kit to see your REFRESH card and replace items.
    3. If you can afford a pre-made family 3-Day Emergency kit buy it online today. Kits will typically include some food, sanitation gear, flashlights, battery-powered radios, and scant medical supplies. Be careful as many kits do not include a first aid kit so you may need to buy that separately or assemble one yourself. You’ll need to add additional items (like clothes for kids, wrenches, fire extinguishers, medications, documents, etc). My only complaint about the pre-made kit we previously bought is it included water and I really think you can buy that yourself. Furthermore, the water in the kit expired within a year while the water I bought in the grocery lasted 3 years. If  you can afford the pre-made kit, it will save you hours (from $50 www.redcross.org)
    4. Talk with the other adults in your home and make a plan for where to store your kit. Ideally in a garage or lower level near a door. Outside is not a great place to store a kit with food.
    5. If your home has natural gas, go and find the area where gas enters your home. Learn how to turn off the gas. Buy a 12-inch crescent wrench or pliers that allows you to turns it off and LEAVE the tool at the site of the valve on the outside of your house.

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