I've finally done it. I've made a disaster kit and created a communication plan for my family in case of an emergency. Until recently, every time I started to prepare for a disaster, I got so rattled just by the thought of one that I gave up. But as a pediatrician who has cared for children after tragedies and as a mom of two young sons, I should know better. So I faced my fears and forged ahead, and I'm here to help you do the same.
A staggering 69% of Americans haven't made a family emergency plan, according to the Ad Council. Since September is National Preparedness Month and marks the 17th anniversary of September 11 — and with the recent hurricanes and wildfires still fresh in our mind — it's time for all of us to take this task seriously. "Although disasters are rare, prepping for them is one of those crucial 'just in case' precautions, like having smoke detectors," explains Parents advisor Irwin Redlener, M.D., director of the Center for National Preparedness at Columbia University. Planning for a catastrophe also makes you ready for a less severe event like a fire or a local power outage.
So don't freak out. You can do this. As you start this journey, expect that a family preparedness plan is going to cost you some cash. I spent roughly $350 getting my home and family prepared. (Ouch, I know. Consider saving up for a few months.) I also devoted about 15 hours to this project; try taking a day off to make some real progress. You might make your kit with a friend -- I did, and we encouraged each other along the way.
Trust me: You'll always be glad you took the time to improve your family's safety. You'll feel more secure and better able to function in any unexpected event.
Look into how at-risk your own area may be, suggests Jeffrey Upperman, M.D., a pediatric surgeon who heads the trauma center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Contact your local fire department and school to inquire about specific threats to your neighborhood such as unstable trees, streets prone to flooding, or transportation challenges.
After gathering that info, it's essential to figure out how your neighbors can work together in the event of an emergency, says Dr. Upperman. For example, if you're a nurse or a teacher, you may have a comprehensive first-aid kit available, and if a carpenter lives on your street, he might have tools or equipment that would be useful in an emergency. Pool your expertise and resources! It will ultimately save lives. This is one part of my family emergency plan that I still need to improve; we recently moved and I don't know many of my neighbors yet, so I'm right there with you working on it.
Also consider signing up for your community's warning system, if they have one. Other important sources include the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, which alert residents in case of emergency.
1. If you have natural gas, learn how to turn off the gas where it enters your home. If there's any disruption or damage to the gas line due to an earthquake or severe damage to your home, this will reduce the risk of fire. It's easier than I ever imagined, and so necessary. Purchase a 12-inch adjustable wrench or pliers that allow you to turn the valve. Then leave the tool at the site of the gas valve on the outside of your house, and add another to your emergency kit.
2. Familiarize yourself with the main water shut-off valve in your home. Practice turning it off so that if your water safety cannot be assured or if there's a leak in your pipes, you'll be able to quickly turn off all the water flowing into your home.
Gather enough supplies to get your family through three days.
My son's preschool asked each family for water, a light stick, a blanket, and a letter for their child in case of an emergency. It was very hard for me to write that letter, but I eventually did it. If your child care or school doesn't ask for one, try talking with the teacher. Maybe you can lead the way.
When you were just learning to talk, you used to say "kokay" instead of "okay." I really liked it. That extra k at the beginning of the word was all yours. You came up with it and continued it until you were almost 2? years old. It was funny and adorable; you were the only little boy in the world I know who said it like that. In a whole school of children, I could have heard your "kokay" from across the room.
Today you say "okay." Say it now, F. You're okay.
Today is a funny day, but we are with you. Next to you, holding your hand, whispering into your ear and squeezing your fingertips. Nose to nose. You may not see me right now, but I'm with you. Just like the Llama Llama book says, even when I feel far from you, Mama is always near.
Mommy and Daddy will be with you soon. We'll smile, hug you, and squeeze you tight. You and O and Daddy and Mommy will have so many more journeys. You're going to have to hold on tight!
Be a brave boy until we see you. Help your friends. Listen to your teachers. Give big hugs. Be kind and sweet.
I know you'll be kokay.
We love you more than the moon, the sun, and all the water in the ocean. See you soon, Lovie.
Love, love, love,
Mommy and Daddy