Today was the Great Shake Out. My boys let me know what happened at 10:15 today at school: “the ‘ole drop, cover, and hold” said my 6 year-old. The technical instructions are “drop, cover, and hold on” but we get his drift. The numbers couldn’t have been better today 10-15-2015 for a 10:15am reminder of how important it is and how good it can feel to know what to do when an earthquake strikes.

Another thing: when you’re having a bad day, why not practice the drop, cover and hold? I mean…..

Okay but seriously, Dr. Suzan Mazor and I are teaming up again to work on updating our emergency/disaster kits. You might have seen us putting together our first kit back in 2010. The New Yorker article that made headlines this summer re-ignited my decision (and remarkable fear) to have a plan in place should the worst happen. You read the article and I know you’ll say, “like I needed another reason not to sleep at night?” Great thing is planning and preparation truly is the antidote to fear.

My REFRESH card prompted me to realized that our water expires this year and it’s pretty obvious since it has nearly evaporated. True.

All instructions for what you need in your kit and what you need in your communication plan are below. You’ve waited until now. Seriously no reason to wait any longer if you don’t have a 3-day kit in place. A promise for me that is easy to make:

I know you’ll feel better having done this.

Mama Doc’s To Do, Today:

  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 working-parent-lunatic lives, one of the things we need to do is 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 originally expired in 2013. The food, mostly in 2013 but some in 2012. They were on my list.  Put a reminder in your smartphone or calendar that alarms and reminds you to go to your kit to see your REFRESH card and replace items every single year.
  3. If you can afford a pre-made family 3-Day Emergency kit buy it online today. Then add additional items below (like clothes for kids, wrenches, fire extinguishers, medications, documents, etc). My only complaint about the pre-made kit we bought is it included water and I really think you can buy that yourself. Furthermore, the water in the kit expired in 2011 and the water from the grocery didn’t expire until 2013. But if you can afford the pre-made kit, it will save you hours.
  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 it at the site of the valve on the outside of your house.

Mama Doc’s Grocery Store Tips:

  • Water: 3 gallons per person or animal. That’s a gallon a day for 3 days for everyone. This is the most important thing you have in your kit. You’ll need a little more for breast-feeding mothers. Pay attention to expiration dates! It’s true that water expires. Just let go of the controversy and believe the experts.  If you make your own bottled water, you need to replace those every 6 months.
  • Food: Buy canned, high-calorie foods that will feed your family for 3 days like chili, tuna, veggies, soup, peanut butter, crackers, snacks. And some comfort foods like chocolate or candy. Buy foods with the similar expiration dates to make it easier to refresh your kit. Formula for babies. Storable milk for toddlers.
  • Medications: First aid kits don’t include these! Specifically, they don’t have children’s medications. My advice is to include Children’s or Infant acetaminophen and 1 container of Sunscreen (30 SPF or higher). Also, write down your infant or young child’s dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) because often the bottle doesn’t include it. In a stressed situation, you may forget. Ideally you should have a 7 day supply of any prescription medication you or your child is taking. This is seemingly impractical with the way that insurance companies allow prescription refills (ie they only give you your month supply). If your child is on an important daily med, ask your pediatrician for a 1 week supply prescription. Remember to add the expiration date of meds to your REFRESH card.

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 often. 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.