Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 4.19.56 PMThe news from Oklahoma today is heart wrenching and terrifying. Often we feel helpless when we’re far away from a disaster. A donation to The Red Cross is a good use of your time.

Today, in addition to providing donations and support for those suffering the loss and tragedy in Oklahoma, do something really productive to counter the sense of unease and alarm we all get. Prepare your own family. Buddy up with a friend and get part of this done today and tomorrow.

I suggest you make a 3-day disaster kit. Here’s an article I wrote for Parents Magazine that details how to make a kit. If the work of storing water and emergency supplies seems daunting today, start with something equally as important:

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 while the signal can decrease making texting preferred as it uses less bandwidth and network capacity.