Last year, around this time our furnace needed to be turned off. We had a natural gas leak because of improper installation and a lack of air circulation. It was a mixture ripe to cause carbon monoxide poisoning. We were fortunate that we have a fireplace to heat our home with. And, thanks to some good friends, we had gone two months earlier to gather wood for the fireplace. We were blessed to be prepared for this emergency. But the experience got me thinking about better ways we could be prepared for emergencies.
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When I think of emergency preparedness, I think of earthquakes, forest fires, mud slides, blizzards and other natural disasters for which we need to be prepared. But, there’s a whole other class of emergencies that need to be planned for and prepared for so that my family will be safe. That night was an example of one of these emergencies.
The event created a lot of questions. In the case of a fire, where would my family evacuate too? Does my family know how to evacuate from this home? Do we have what we need, in one place, so we could just grab it and go, and be okay? What about our important documents? Would we be able to take them with us? Would they be safe?
The emergency doesn’t have to be a fire. It could be a gas leak, a water main break, or any other reason to evacuate our home. The questions all boil down to one main question, “If we had to leave with just a moment’s notice, would we be able to do so and have what we needed to be okay?
For as many years as I can remember, my church has advocated having 72 hour kits* somewhere quickly accessible in the home. Each kit contains enough clothes, food, water, toiletries, and comforting items for one person to be away from his or her home for three days.
Another thing to consider keeping ready to evacuate are all those important, identity establishing, documents a family needs. It is vital to be sure all the family’s important documents are in one place, and are easily accessible. Some of the documents that fit into this category include birth and marriage certificates and Social Security Cards, passports, immunization records, mortgage information, other loan information (like student loans and auto loans), checking account numbers, automobile titles, pediatrician’s name and number, family doctor’s name and number, prescriptions for eyeglasses, lists of medications with dosages and the prescribing doctor name and phone number, and insurance policies – health, homeowners, auto, and life. Also, don’t overlook sentimental photos and documents. Often, emergency preparedness experts advocate keeping these important documents in a fireproof safe – and that’s great. If you can afford a portable fireproof safe*, that would be the best option. Be sure to keep the safe accessible, so it can be easily taken along in the case of an evacuation.
If not, copies of these documents should be placed in a simple three-ring binder. I call this my “important papers” binder. That way, these identity establishing papers are all in one place, where they can be quickly grabbed, in case of an evacuation. This will allow the family to be able to have the information needed to establish identities, contact insurance companies, and otherwise begin dealing with the aftermath of the emergency much more quickly. I wouldn’t label it, or tell anyone what it looked like – this information is very sensitive. But, I would have it readily accessible, so it could be grabbed on the way out.
We have also been admonished to keep things like flash lights, first aid kits, hard candy, blankets, jumper cables, etc., in our cars in case an emergency happens on the road. These are fantastic preparations to make, in order to keep families safe and possibly save lives.
I learned how important this piece of advice was while we were driving back from a trip to California. One night, while traveling through the desert between California and Nevada, we were the first people to come upon a car accident. It was car versus 18-wheeler, and the people in the car weren’t doing so well. They were both conscious, but they needed serious help. We were coming back from camping and had all sorts of things in the back of our vehicle. After calling 911, and me realizing that as the co-driver I needed to pay more attention to where we were on the map, we helped them with what we had. The response time was what felt like forever, but probably closer to 45 minutes. It was a cold night, in the early spring, with a cold desert wind. We aren’t doctors, but my husband was an EMT when he was younger. He said the biggest threat, that we could help with, was making sure they didn’t go into shock. What they needed most were blankets. Normally, I don’t carry blankets in my car. But on this night, I was very glad to have some to share. I have since added blankets, first aid kit, and flashlight to my trunk. They don’t take much space, and may end up very useful.
These are just a few more things to think about when trying to keep the family safe. What about your family? Do you have anything you do to help prepare your family for an emergency?