Nowadays, it’s hard to know what we can do to keep our kids safe without sounding morbid or paranoid. Most of us have not had to prepare our children for things like potential nuclear attacks or mass school shootings before. If you’re like me, you want to take every precaution to feel protected without causing more fear for those you love.
We’re here to help. We’ve been planning for family emergencies for almost 20 years and have come up with a few simple safety precautions that every family should take to create more peace of mind:
- Have an emergency plan in place.
- Have a basic estate plan in place (legal documents).
- Have an emergency kit in car and at home.
Your Family’s Emergency Plan:
We all need to know what the plan is in the event of an emergency, whether caused by a natural disaster, threat of abduction or by threats of mass violence:
- Emergency contact list with phone numbers should be posted on the refrigerator and elsewhere.
- Have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and security systems in place.
- Evacuation plan for the home in the event that is unsafe for any reason. For example, if I’m in a second floor and the window is my only exit, how would I exit safely? Is it best to be down low to avoid breathing smoke or is the gas from the carpet even more toxic and I should break a window?
- Where to meet? Have a destination plan for fire, flood, earthquake or in the event of home intruders.
- What to do if there’s a stranger knocking on the front door? For example, don’t open the door, just find an adult and ask for assistance.
- What to do if there’s a “peeping Tom” at the window? For example, take their photo and call an adult for help.
- What to do if there’s an emergency at school or work? Where is it safest to be?
- Don’t ever leave children unattended in a vehicle, whether it is running or not.
- Make sure you know how to find or contact your children at all times. Have cell phones with you when appropriate.
- Get rid of any identifying tags (such as name tags on lunch boxes).
- Teach children to fight back when in danger. No need to have good manners or be “nice.”
- Have regular family discussions about what people or places can be trusted and what people or places don’t feel trustworthy. Teach children discernment so they keep themselves in the safest environments. For example, walking down the middle of a lit street at night may be safer than walking on the sidewalk next to bushes.
Your Family’s Estate Plan:
Our favorite “do-it-yourself” estate planning starter kit is only $14.97 on our website. It includes the 3 most important documents every family should have: a power of attorney for health care, finances and HIPAA privacy release. These documents provide permission to those you trust to step into your shoes if you are temporarily incapacitated for any reason. Don’t leave these important decisions up to the court to decide! It only takes a few minutes to print and sign these documents. Nothing could be more important in our view.
The moment your child turns the age of 18, then he/she needs these documents too. For example, can you imagine if your child had just turned age 18, gone to senior prom and ended up at the hospital for some reason – a reason that you are not allowed to know because your “adult” child had not given the doctor written permission to share the nature of the health crisis with you before arriving at the hospital? Imagine taking months to get a court order just to find out what’s wrong with your child! I know it sounds unbelievable, but that’s how our privacy laws actually work.
Your Family’s Emergency Kit:
After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.
Here are some things your kit should include:
- Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation; water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every 6 months
- Food– at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food; replace expired items as needed
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Prescription medications
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, your estate plan and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Warm blanket for each person
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you need to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.