The tornados that ravaged central and southern US, and the severe weather that gave Dallas-Fort Worth a run of hail and possible tornados gave me many reasons to panic. Sitting with the kids in the closet and/or bathtub, in the midst of all the chaos outside, a parent begins to wonder if they really are prepared.
My experience last night was a little scary and chaotic. I heard the sirens, grabbed the kids and got in the closet. Being six months pregnant, with a four year old and a 10 month old, I realized that I was much UNPREPARED which made me panic. I heard the sirens and went for cover. Yes we are one family but obviously unprepared. I had no diaper bag with me in the closet. If something happened, I would have nothing to feed my baby and no diapers to change her. As for my oldest, she had no clue what we were doing.
So as a parent, especially a single parent, there is more motivation to ensure my disaster preparedness plans are in place for when the whole family is at home and for those times when we’re apart (I’m at work and the kids are at daycare).
Family Emergency Plan
A family emergency plan is a document that includes contact information for your family members and important people and places involved in your emergency plan. It may include what family members are allergic to and who their doctors are. You can make copies of your family’s emergency plan and share it with the important grown-ups in your child’s life, such as your family members, your emergency contacts, her teacher, a key caregiver, or a special neighbor.
Some Family emergency plans you can download are the Sesame Street, “Let’s Get Ready!” Family Emergency Plan which has comprehensive information that you can complete and send to your family members. Remember to keep a copy in your Family Emergency Kit as well.
The scene at the Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington , TX May 24, 2011
An emergency that happens at Home
If an emergency happens at home, the one thing we need to do is to have a Family Emergency Kit. Here are some items that should be included in the kit:
- A copy of a family emergency plan
- Identification for all family members
- $20 to $50 minimum cash
- Extra copies of family health records, prescriptions, insurance documents, estate plan documents
- First Aid Kit and manual
- Prescription and Non prescription medication for 3 days – (prescription eyeglasses if applicable)
- Three gallons of water per person
Three day supply of non-perishable food with a manual can opener
- Pop Tarts, Granola Bars, Dry Cereal
- Battery Powered/Hand Cranked Radio
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- Tools (wrench/pliers) to turn off utilities
- Personal Hygiene Items – deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, sanitary napkins
- 1 comfort item per child – toy or blanket
- Pet Supplies (if applicable – food, water, pet carrier, collar or leash)
- Babies – formula, diapers, bottles
- Whistle to signal for help
- Spare sets of keys
- Local Maps
- Paper cups, plates, utensils
- Blankets/Sleeping bags
- Towelettes or hand washing gel
- Plastic Trash Bags
- Change of clothing, rain gear, and sturdy shoes
- Sunscreen and insect repellant
- Children’s travel games, paper, crayons
- Special items for infants (Toys, snacks) and elderly
- Dust mask to filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape
Teaching very young children
Teaching very young children basic identification skills can be a challenge but it may be what saves them in case you are not with your children during an emergency. Nothing will worry a parent more than being separated from her child and as the events in Joplin, MO have shown there are many children that are at various places who can’t give out their names or the names of their family members. The Sesame Street “Let’s Get Ready!” Tip sheet has some great information that you can practice with your young children. One of them is a song to help children remember their full name. Print out a picture of your home and have your child write down the address or practice writing or saying your address. Lastly, practice dialing the parent’s phone number on a play phone. All of these suggestions are great but can go a long way if your child knows just one of them, especially their complete name and yours!
An emergency that happens when you are not with your children
As I was watching the news, I saw the television reporter tell the weather guy, “You handle the weather, it’s heading for my house, and I need to take a phone call.” This was obviously a concerned parent wanting to check on her children and family. So is there a plan when you are not with your children, say you are at work or at a school meeting? All of these items should be detailed in your Family Emergency Plan.
Choose two emergency contacts – one out of town and one local. An out of town contact can check to make sure everyone is ok. A local contact can help with picking up the kids. I may be in Dallas, while my children are in Fort Worth – the storm may affect me in Dallas but I may not be able to get to my kids so your contact can do it. Also, select an emergency meeting place. My suggestion, the Wal-Mart or 7-Eleven – typically these places are open 24 hours. Reach out to your community and teach your children to recognize fire department personnel, emergency workers, and police department so they know who to go to for help.
Local and Civic Disaster Preparedness Plans
It’s important to become familiar with your local and civic disaster preparedness plans. The North Central Texas Emergency Management agencies have put together a preparedness site called KnowWhat2Do. One of the many features of this site is that they also provide you information on building your family emergency kit and putting together your emergency plan. They offer ideas on emergency supplies for your vehicle such as:
- First Aid Kit
- White Distress Flag
- Bottled Water
- Non-perishable food
- Blanket, gloves
- Auto Repair supplies – tire repair kit, jumper cables, pump and flares
- Local Maps
One of the features I love about this site is that they have a Pocket Emergency Planning tool! You build it by filling in the information and then you have the option to print it out, email it or save it to Google Docs. There’s also a section that helps kids understand emergency preparedness with their friend the Ant-E-Nator. Know What to Do is also available on Twitter and Facebook. Another good website is the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management site. They have useful information on disaster preparedness as well as a map with locations of the warning sirens. Check with your local city about their disaster preparedness plans.
Single Parents – Insurance and Estate Planning
I’m not going to go into details on insurance and estate planning for single mothers since that will be covered in a different article, however, I want to reiterate the importance of having these valuable items and keeping copies of them in your family emergency preparedness kit. Here’s quote from a colleague of mine, Mr. James Esh of Hodges & Esh, P.L.L.C. in Dallas, TX
Estate planning is more than deciding what to do with your assets when you are deceased. In fact, do you know who will take care of your children if you become incapacitated? Do you have a plan in place and one which the law will recognize? (There are) pitfalls of failing to plan.
As a single mother or single parent, a natural disaster can kill you or leave you incapacitated, then what will happen to your children while you are in the hospital recovering OR if you passed away? Estate planning will be on the agenda in more detail to come. Please subscribe so you can be informed when that is available.