We see it too often in the news these days–a perfect storm wreaking havoc on the East Coast, a random tornado in Italy, an earthquake in Japan, a tsunami in Thailand. We don’t know when disaster will strike, but we do know we can be prepared.
Here are 10 tips for dealing with an emergency:
1. Keep a list of important persons’ names and telephone numbers. If your babysitter is watching your kids while you’re out to dinner and you get in an accident on the way home, unless the babysitter knows it is an emergency she should call your list of important people first–not the police. This will ensure your children don’t end up in state custody and that the person you choose is who has custody of the children temporarily. Keep this list in a conspicuous place, such as on your fridge.
2. Put a “Mommy Card” or “Daddy Card” in your wallet. If you’re in an accident, the EMT is trained to ascertain whether the people involved have minor children at home. They will peer in your car and if they see a car seat base or a “Baby on Board” sign, they will know you have minor children at home. If you keep a “Mommy Card” or “Daddy Card” in your wallet, the EMT will know immediately what your children’s names are and who to contact.
3. Plan ahead to keep people informed. If you can, make a post on Facebook and other social media websites about how you intend to deal with an oncoming emergency, such as Hurricane Sandy. If you own a business, put up an “Office Closed” sign to make an announcement to the public that you’re closing and include a phone number.
4. Backup your electronic files. Use a service like Carbonite to backup your electronics and precious files. Find a service that provides automatic backup so you don’t have to worry about forgetting or about an unexpected outage that compromises your files. If you don’t prefer online backup, use an external hard drive instead.
5. Have an estate plan. You want to know what happens to your children if something happens to you. The only way you can be sure is to have an estate plan in place with appropriate guardianship documents. Without an estate plan, where your children will live will be decided by a probate judge after entertaining all interested parties’ viewpoint. Avoid this upheaval in your children’s lives and get an estate plan before there is an emergency.
6. Keep your power of attorney documents close by. If there is any estate planning document that comes in handy in an emergency, it is your power of attorney document. This grants legal authority to the person you choose to handle your affairs if you’re unable to. Save a copy to Dropbox or another website that stores files, and make sure someone besides you knows the password to get online. A copy works just as well as an original when it comes to your chosen person acting under your power of attorney document.
7. Have an emergency preparedness kit. The Red Cross suggests that you have an emergency preparedness kit to keep in your car or in your home, or both. It should include food, water, a change of clothes, and other supplies that will keep you safe and healthy for at least 72 hours. You can buy ready-made emergency preparedness kits.
8. Get training in first aid and CPR/AED. At least one person in your home should be properly trained in first aid and CPR/AED, and your babysitter should be too. Also know the nuances for infant CPR if you have a baby at home. You don’t have to necessarily get a certificate, but at least take a course so you know the basics. Courses are held at most local hospitals and are inexpensive.
9. Be familiar what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in your community. Knowing ahead of time what type of disaster might strike informs your decision about what kind of emergency to plan for. If a tornado is not common in your area, don’t focus on an underground shelter. If flooding is common, have a plan for getting to high ground quickly and safely.
10. Know how to respond appropriately to children. Children depend on daily routines but when emergencies or disasters interrupt this routine, many children may become anxious. The Red Cross encourages people to respond appropriately to children in an emergency. In a disaster, your children will look to you and other adults for help. How you react to an emergency gives them clues on how to act. If you react with alarm, your child may become more scared. If you seem overcome with a sense of loss, your child may feel their losses more strongly. Children’s fears may also arise from their imagination, and you should take these feelings seriously–a child who feels afraid is afraid. Your words and actions can provide reassurance. When talking with your child, be sure to present a realistic picture that is both honest and manageable.
When disasters happen, we are reminded that sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. However, if you follow these tips on the things you can control, it will add some organization to the chaotic environment encountered during a disaster or emergency.