Getting Ready for an Emergency

What you really need to be prepared for a possible crisis.

Introduction

From natural hazards to threats of terrorism, these troubling times have many parents trying to determine the smartest ways to brace for another national disaster. Should we stock our homes with canned food and bottled water? What kind of emergency plan should be in place?

In times of uncertainty, it's essential to stay calm, says Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment in New York City. "The best way to protect our children is to stay as close as we can to our normal routines," says Dr. Landrigan. "Stability and a firm sense of framework are extremely important in these circumstances."

Here's what else you can do to protect your family, according to the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

1.Find out your community's risks. Ask your local emergency management office or your American Red Cross chapter which disasters could strike your area. Are hazardous materials produced, stored, or transported near your town? Ask officials how to prepare for and respond to possible emergencies, as well as for any information that might reduce your risks.

2.Create an emergency communications plan. Choose a relative or friend for you and your family to contact in the event that a crisis occurs and it's difficult to reach one another by phone. That person should then contact anyone else who needs to know your whereabouts. (And she should live far away enough from you that she'll be less likely to be involved in the same event.) All family members should have several ways to get in touch with her -- including via cell phone, fax, and e-mail -- and let her know they're safe. It's smart to give your child's school this information, too.

3.Know your school's emergency plan. Will the school keep your children there until a parent or designated adult picks them up, or will they be sent home on the bus? What kind of authorization does the school need to release your child to an adult you've chosen? Does the school have updated contact information for you?

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