September is Emergency Preparedness Month! Thank you to Mark Maloni and Nick Licata from the Western MA Health and Medical Coordinating Coalition (HMCC) at the FRCOG for sharing resources and helping us understand how families can prepare for emergencies.
Why prepare for emergencies?
Preparing ahead of time can make challenging situations much less stressful and can also give us peace of mind now. Emergency preparedness can help us to know what is happening in our local area, get in touch with family members, meet up in person, have supplies we need to stay healthy and comfortable, and more.
Emergencies happen everywhere.
Emergencies are situations that disrupt daily life. Sometimes they affect many people all at once. For example, during the last few years in our region we have had blizzards, rainstorms that caused flooding, and microbursts and other storms that caused wind damage. Sometimes emergencies are more limited to individual households, like frozen pipes, house fires, and COVID quarantining.
What does “preparedness” mean?
Preparedness means taking steps to be prepared for emergencies and other challenging situations.
Being prepared means you will have what you need to be safe, healthy, and comfortable during emergency situations. Some examples include:
- Making a plan with family members about how you will get in touch
- Having a plan for meeting up in person if you can’t be at home
- Knowing how to get information about what is happening
- Having supplies like food, water, and first aid supplies ready to use at home or on the road
- Gathering important documents and other items in case you need to leave home quickly
Emergency Preparedness for Busy Families
You don’t have to do it all at once. If you feel too overwhelmed or too busy to prepare, break it down into steps and aim to do something each week or each month. Anything you do can make a positive difference.
You can start by learning basic info that can make a big difference.
For example, what is the communication system for your child’s school? Did you know that text messages often go through even when cell towers are tied up during an emergency due to extra phone calls? (We just learned this!) Check out the resources below for more info.
Resources for Step-by-step Preparation
www.ready.gov has a step-by-step guide for emergency preparedness and resources for tailoring your plan for your family’s individual needs.
You can find information on www.ready.gov about:
How to receive alerts, which can give you information about what is happening during an emergency.
How to create a family or household communication plan, which can help you to get in touch and meet up in person. This includes creating a list of important phone numbers that each person can access if cell phones are not available or the battery runs out and agreeing on a spot to meet up.
How to tailor your plan for your family’s specific needs (See step 2), like medications, diapers, pets, and other individual considerations that will help create a successful plan for you.
How to create an emergency kit, including extra supplies that are helpful during the pandemic.
Try this family challenge!
- Make a list of phone numbers for your household members and any other people you would contact in case of an emergency.
- Try memorizing one new number each day this week until you have up to 7 numbers memorized.
- You can make it more fun by coming up with mnemonic devices that help you remember certain numbers or having a prize for the person who memorizes the most first!
- Young children can help by decorating the list or learning the full names of important people.
Concerned about being able to afford supplies?
There are many aspects of preparedness that are free or low cost.
- Focus on the aspects of the plan that do not cost money, like the communication plan and having important documents in a place where you can find them.
- Set aside small amounts of important items, like 3 or 4 diapers and a few first aid supplies if you can’t afford an extra package of something.
- Rotate supplies so they are not wasted. If you can afford to buy or can get a few extra low-cost, non-perishable items from a food pantry like canned soup or chili, you can use them before they expire and then get new ones when possible.