You’ve heard it for years: a family should have a disaster plan. What happens if there’s a fire in the house? How will you get out? Where will you all meet once you’re out? That situation and many like it demand an almost instant reaction, and leave little time to think or plan. For that reason, it’s important to have a plan in place in advance. But, even if your family has figured out where to meet and what to grab on the way out in an emergency, there may be some things you haven’t considered.
Blount Memorial Hospital director of safety Carole Chambers says that when forming a family disaster plan, you have to consider the needs of everyone in your family. “You should ask yourself if your personal disaster plan includes the special needs of elders, children, infants and pets,” Chambers said. “Infants and babies, for instance, have very special needs that will need to be planned for in advance. Some items you’ll want to ensure you have on hand include formula, powdered milk, bottles, diapers, infant medications, towelettes and diaper rash ointment. Also, infants and small children are more sensitive to temperature extremes, so make sure you have appropriate clothing on hand during colder months,” she explained.
By the same token, Chambers says elders have specific needs, as well. “Senior family members and those with special needs and disabilities also should be considered when planning. You should keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for service animals and any other items he or she might need. Remember to keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require, and be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration,” she said. “Transportation should also be arranged ahead of time when this is possible,” she added.
Also, Chambers says, don’t forget your pets. “If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household,” she said. “Unfortunately, animals also are affected by disasters. If you evacuate your home, absolutely do not leave your pets at home. Pets most likely cannot survive on their own, and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return. If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside, so plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. Consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency. An emergency kit for your pets also is important. Remember to include food, water, medicine and medical records, a collar with an ID tag, and a leash, crate or carrier. It also may be helpful to have a photo of you with your pet in case you are separated,” she said. “Your veterinarian also may be a good source of information,” she added.
“Planning for emergencies can be a fun and educational process for youngsters,” Chambers said. “Consider having a family meeting to educate children on different types of emergencies and how and where your family will respond. The website www.ready.gov has special pages dedicated to explaining disasters to children. It might be valuable to use a mealtime to discuss what types of food would be important to have prepared. Also consider packing items to entertain in your disaster kit, such as small toys or a deck of cards for older children,” she explained. “With just a little advance planning, you’ll find some of the problems that come with unexpected disasters can be avoided,” she added.