By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
All is well! All is well! Or so we thought! Our oldest son had a GREAT idea: let's test our family’s preparedness level by holding a drill, evacuating from our home! So, without telling anyone about it (except for me), we gathered for our weekly Family Night, and he announced: We had 5 minutes to get whatever we needed and off we would go in the Durfeemobile to our designated meeting spot for further evaluation. No problem, I thought. Surely we know what to do. Easy peasy! Except that the kids had their own ideas on what was important . . .
While I was finding my phone and purse, my four-year-old son went directly to the pantry to get a large can of “fruit cottontail” (as he called it) -- then he dropped it on his toe, causing squeals of pain. Instead of spearheading our evacuation, I ran to give comfort and administer first aid to his bleeding wound. Four minutes later, I rounded the corner to find that our two-year-old had dumped his Halloween candy onto the floor in order to find the best pieces to take. I'm not kidding!
I hurriedly shoved some shoes onto his feet and grabbed our coats as the girls came barreling down the stairs with a laundry basket full of ... their stuffed animals. Really! I just about lost it, but time was up, so we all piled in the car. Once we arrived at the church, we laughed hysterically as we surveyed the load in our car. Thankfully, my husband and oldest son had managed to heave our 72-hour kits and a few jugs of water into the car, so we could have survived, but we knew that there were some things lacking in our emergency preparedness mindset that we needed to remedy.
If you’re like our family, you try to surge through life hoping for the best, but often find that accidents are just so, well, accidental! Life as we know is full of bumps: flat tires, injury, job loss, sickness, death, and natural disasters can sneak up on us without warning. I want to be ready, how about you?
When the time for an emergency arrives, the time for preparation is past. So let's head off the stress and panic that can come at the moment of an emergency by deciding now to be prepared? With a few guiding principles and a little time educating ourselves and planning well, we can create safe places for our families no matter the storm. So buckle your seat belt folks, ‘cuz ready or not, here we come!
1. Start small. Start today. There are about a billion ways we could begin, and endless resources, but don’t let that stop you! Don’t wait until you have a lot of $ saved up. Don’t wait for a better time! This is no time to be a victim of all or nothing thinking. Keep it small. Keep it simple. Your ideas are the right ones for your family. Gather a few items together that you already have and build from there.
2. Anticipate needs and make a plan with your family. Mr. Fred Rogers said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” Likewise, as we talk about and plan for emergencies, they become less scary and we can help our families become emotionally resilient.
What disasters are prevalent in our area?
What might happen?
What do we do if . . .?
What needs could arise in each instance?
What would be helpful then?
What insurance do we need?
How will we communicate during an emergency?
Do the children know their phone number?
Who could be our out-of-town emergency contact?
What needs would our baby have? An elderly friend or parent? Pets?
When will we practice our plan?
By anticipating our families’ needs, we create more options and access to lifesaving supplies that would otherwise be in short supply at the time of a crisis.
(See also, “Helping Children Cope With Disaster,” https://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/children.pdf)
“Family Emergency Planning,” https://www.ready.gov/kids/family-emergency-planning
3. Have the good sense to save some cents! I like Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” Since we never know when an emergency will pop up, it makes sense to have a little extra money in our savings. My husband and I were students for the first ten years of our marriage, so we learned early on the value of buying what we really needed and saving up for a rainy day. I’ll admit that sometimes I felt sorry for myself for not being able to buy some of the things on our want list, but as we continued to set aside a small (and I mean small) amount each month, it eventually added up. During those months when he didn’t get paid, we could pay ourselves - a true investment!
(See also, “One for the Money,” Elder Marvin J. Ashton, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2007/09/one-for-the-money?lang=eng
4. Home Safe Home: Because many accidents can begin in the home, it is important to make our homes a place of safety. Again, good ole Benjamin Franklin provides the answer: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So the first step in having a home that is secure is to prevent a problem in the first place. Let’s start increasing our awareness of our home environment by taking a quick survey of our homes:
What possible hazards do you identify?
What can we do to prevent slips and falls?
Drowning, suffocation, and strangulation?
Fires and burns?
Medications and poisons locked away? Check!
Batteries for smoke alarm tested? Check!
Fire extinguisher within reach? Check!
What other preventative measures can you think of to reduce the risks and avert the booby traps in your home?
(See also, “Safe Kids Worldwide,” https://www.safekids.org/
“A Guide to Home Safety: Identifying and Preventing Hazards,” https://www.safehome.org/resources/home-hazards/
5. Having supplies, water, and food puts you in a good mood! With a little planning and occasional rotation, you can have lifesaving items ready for use right in the safety of your own home. And when hungry tummies come calling, you’ll be so glad that you’re ready! I found that by stocking up on basic items when they were on sale, we were able to build up our supply to a reasonable amount over time.
An easy place to start is to ask questions like these:
Water, as you know, is also important, not only when we’re thirsty, but to aid in food preparation, hygiene, and sanitation. And so, my friends, we ask the hard question, “what will we do if we can’t get clean water out of our faucet?” When the apartment of one of my daughters had to turn off the water for three days, she and her husband were well taken care of, having stored water ahead of time in juice and soda bottles that they had rinsed out and refilled. What could you do to prepare for such a time?
If we are truly going to be prepared at home, let’s not forget other necessities:
Is our first aid kit updated?
Do we all know where the flashlight is and do we have extra batteries?
Do I have a secret stash of cash on hand (in small bills)?
And do we have blankets and warm clothing in case the power is out and we have to dress more warmly?
Now there are a few sanity savers right there! And last but not least, may I mention that having some extra supplies in the cupboard such as deodorant, hand soap, toothpaste, dish soap, laundry detergent, feminine products and -- of course -- toilet paper (boy do we all know this!!) will go a long way in keeping this mama happy!
(See also, “Food and Water in an Emergency,” https://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/f&web.pdf)
“What’s That Smell: Sanitation When Systems Fail.”
6. On the Road Again: Because we are in our cars so much of the time, we would be wise to doublecheck that we are taking precautions to ensure that our family is safe there as well:
As part of our preparation, we might even include a little refresher course on a few things like how to change a flat or how to USE those jumper cables. I’m sure you can think of other things. Most of these safety measures only take a few seconds, but in the long run, you’ll thank yourself and your family will too.
(See also National Safety Council - https://www.nsc.org/road/safety-topics/child-passenger-safety/child-passenger-safety-home
7. Emergency Evacuation: In the event that you need to leave your home, what would be a good gathering spot for your family? Where will you meet if all of you are not home when the need to leave arises? As our family found out, in a moment of panic, it is easy for our minds to forget what things we need to have. To remedy this, we wrote up a list of our Top 10 items that we should grab in case of an evacuation and posted them on a paper by the garage door:
1. 72 Hour Kits
3. Important Papers binder
4. Cell phone/charger
6. Shoes and coat
8. Family Photos
10. Laptop Computer
My daughter, now a grown mother, has created a very nice detailed list prioritizing their list of items as determined by whether they have 5, 10, or 15 minutes to leave and stating where in the house the items are located.
What would be some things that are important to you in case your family had to leave your home?
Will planning and preparing make a difference? Well . . .When our family lived in Illinois, we often had tornados raging through our area. To help us to be ready for a possible disaster, we assembled 72-hour kits that we safely stored in the closet underneath the staircase with simple items such as a change of clothes, snacks, water, a battery powered radio, a flashlight, and books and small toys for the children. When the tornado sirens would go off, we knew the drill: we would gather the kiddos and go into the closet until the storm had passed.
Imagine our surprise when one day our son prayed that we could have another tornado! GASP! That’s going a bit far, wouldn’t you say? When we asked him why on earth he had said that, he replied that he wanted to play in the closet. It was fun! Well, at least he felt safe and we as his parents had greater peace of mind, knowing we had done what we could. We were ready!
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