• How to Prepare Your Children for Emergencies

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    Now that it’s August, families are beginning to prepare to send children back to school – 57 million children. An estimated 12 million children attend child care and pre-kindergarten programs.

    What happens if disaster strikes while the children are in school or child care?

    According to an annual report by Save the Children, 32 states require schools and child care facilities to meet four disaster preparedness standards.

    69 Million Kids Save the Children

    “In total, 18 states and D.C. can still do much more to protect children,” said Rich Bland, who heads advocacy and public policy for Save the Children’s U.S. programs.

    Three of the disaster preparedness standards require child care facilities to develop written emergency plans. Those plans cover how and when to evacuate to a safer location, how to communicate with parents and reunite parents and children, and how to help children with special needs. The fourth standard requires all K-12 schools to develop a written, multi-hazard disaster plan.

    The state I live in requires each school to hold monthly drills for one of twelve emergency scenarios, including fire, earthquake, chemical spill, flood and other severe weather and lock down for violence.

    In one school district, for example, teachers get told about a bomb threat with the intercom notice, “Teachers, remember the Saturday faculty meeting.”

    This year, the elementary school two of my daughters attend had to see how well its disaster communication plan worked. A man fired a gun and barricaded himself into his parents’ home less than a mile from the school. Though the school didn’t lock down, the principal communicated safety information throughout the morning. Of course, since I’d asked to receive notifications by e-mail, I didn’t learn about the event until after it ended.

    Schools in my state must give parents and staff information about their emergency plans. Be aware, they don’t have to tell much. One school’s emergency information is two sentences long:

    “In the case of an emergency you are asked to stay calm and follow the instructions of your teacher. In case of an actual emergency when student pick up is required, students will only be released to parents or legal guardians.”

    It gives no information about where to find children in case the school gets evacuated – which, to be fair, may not be immediately known – or the procedure parents must follow to pick up their children.

    Parents, you can prepare your children for emergencies for when you are away from them.

    First, as parents we can make sure our school or child care provider has emergency plans in place and we know what they are. This checklist from Save the Children lists questions we can ask administrators. We also need to ask if local emergency officials have copies of the plans.

    Second, we can make sure both our children and their schools have emergency contact information.

    Schools and child care providers need at least two ways to reach us and we need to know how to reach them. We need to give them an emergency contact person who lives outside our area.

    They need to be aware of any of our children’s special needs. We can ask permission to send emergency snacks and water.

    Info Card Save the Children

    Finally, Save the Children has a free, printable emergency contact card. It includes a child’s name, age, home address and phone number, medical information and emergency contacts. The card fits in a child’s backpack or wallet. We should teach our children how to contact us and where to meet if we get separated.

    While your children’s schools should have emergency plans in place, you must still do what we can to help prepare your children for disasters should they happen while we are separated from them.

     

    What emergency preparations do you have in place to help you prepare your children from disaster?

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: plan, emergencies, school, Prepare, children

  • Prepare for Winter...In the Summer

    Today marks the last day of July, which means winter is coming.

    Wait, what? But…don’t we still have August left? And what happened to September and October?

    Alright, you caught me. Those months are still on the calendar, and we can get really nice weather those months (fall weather is amazing, after all). But the truth is, winter is coming, and while it may still be a few months off, it is wise to start preparing for it now.

    Prepare for Winter...before everyone takes all the thingsAs is the case with most severe weather, we sometimes wait until the storm is looming ominously before us before we run to the store and grab some necessities. While this works sometimes, other times it can leave us without the essentials we need. This is one reason why it is best to be prepared well in advance. And, some things are just easier to prepare for while the weather is still nice. If you wait until it’s cold and snowy, some things may be harder to accomplish (not to mention that’s when everyone else starts getting ready, too, so prices may go up and contractor availability may be hard to find).

    Without further ado, here are some ways to prepare for winter…in the summer.

     

    Winterize Your Home

    Winterizing your homePrepare for Winter...Bundle Up Your Home is one of the best things you can do to prepare for winter in the summer. Make sure you have sufficient insulation in your home, and most especially in the attic. Hot air rises (at least that’s what my science teachers always said), so if your attic is poorly insulated, that hot air will escape through there.

    Caulking the drafty areas around windows and doors will also keep that warm, inside air from escaping (and thus saving you all kinds of money). Weather stripping is another good idea for the gaps in doors and windows, too.

    Other things you can do to prepare for winter is cleaning out your furnace, replace air filters, and have that chimney cleaned out.

     

    Prepare Your Car

    Prepare for WInter...Car PrepThe first really cold or snowy day of winter usually has me searching for my ice scraper. It’s usually hidden somewhere that I can’t remember since I haven’t had to use it all spring, summer, or fall. Before the cold temperatures come, gather together the essentials that you’ll need in one location, so when the frost does come you can easily find it again.

    Summertime is also a good time to stock up on needed supplies and tools for your car, and even a car emergency kit (more on that in a second). Consider replenishing and updating your first aid or emergency kit. Get a shovel for your trunk (the 4-in-1 Mini Folding Shovel even fits in your glove compartment).

     

    Build Your Emergency Kit

    Emergency kits are lifesavers. There are certain things you should have in your winter emergency kits, including items that provide warmth, alternate power, and of course, water and food. Build a 72-hour kit before the storm comes, because once it does, you may not be able to get out. Let me illustrate that with an almost-personal example.

    Prepare for Winter before the stormA number of years ago before we were married, my wife was trapped in her home with her family during a huge ice storm. They couldn’t leave for days because of the slick roads. The power was down and heat was at a premium. Fortunately, they already had what they needed. If they had waited…I can’t imagine how unpleasant that experience would have been. Instead, when she talks about it, she talks as if it were all some grand adventure. Which I’m sure it was, since they were prepared.

    For your vehicle, consider keeping sand (for traction), a shovel, extra blankets, hats, gloves, and other warm clothing, and some emergency food and water rations. Bright colored flags or signs will also help people see you should you get stuck or stranded in a blizzard.

    For your home, the same things should be kept, as well as rock salt for melting ice on walkways. You will most likely be able to have more supplies on hand, since your home is a bit bigger than your car’s trunk, so use it! Plan ahead, and when the storms come, you’ll be ready and you’ll also be able to think of it as a grand adventure rather than a stressful, how-will-we-manage type experience.

     

    While there are plenty of other things you can do to prepare for winter, it really depends upon you, your home and vehicle, and your individual needs. The important thing for you to remember is to prepare for winter. Sure, it’s still super hot outside, but that’s the point of preparing. If you put it off, you may have an unpleasant first storm. If not…well, the snowmen are waiting to be built!

     

    How do you prepare for winter in the summer?

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: winterize home, winter is coming, prepare for winter, summer, Winter

  • Preparing Pets for Emergencies

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    Preparing Pets - FloodIn May 2011, storms and spring runoff combined to produce some of the worst flooding in a century in Memphis, Tennessee. The local government ordered more than 1,300 homes evacuated.

    Some people had to evacuate so fast they left their pets behind. Others took pets but found housing them in hotels was costly – if allowed at all. The American Humane Association, which sponsors an animal rescue group that travels to emergencies, reported it took in 187 animals. It pulled 50 of them from the flooding, including a cat that bore four kittens after its rescue.

    When preparing your family for emergencies, don’t forget pets. Preparing pets is just as important.

     

    ID your pet

    Preparing Pets with TagsYour pets should have current ID tags in case you get separated from them. The Humane Society of the United States suggests putting an out-of-state contact on the back of the tag, since an evacuation might force you out of your home. Pets with microchips in them have been found halfway across the country, so if possible, get your pet microchipped and enroll it in a recovery database, said the Humane Society.

    “If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home,” said ready.gov.

    Once you’ve tagged your pet, make sure you keep its records handy in a waterproof container.

    Your pet’s records should include a veterinary history and name of your veterinarian, feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues, in case you have to board your pets apart from you.

    You need a current photo of you with your pet along with its description. That can help others find your pet and prove it’s yours if you get separated.

     

    Make a pet disaster kit

    “Keep in mind that what's best for you is typically what's best for your animals,” said ready.gov.

    Pets need disaster kits just like people do.

    The Humane Society of the United States has a great checklist for a pet disaster kit.

    It suggests packing food and water for five days (check out our freeze-dried pet food, great for long-term storage). Remember a can opener. Though your pet doesn’t need a gallon of water per day, the checklist recommends keeping an extra gallon of water on hand to clean your pet if it gets exposed to chemicals or flood water. You also need equipment to collect pet waste: a cat litter box with litter and a scoop and garbage bags.

    Preparing Pets with Meds, etc.You should have first aid supplies for your pets as well as for your family, including medicines and a pet first aid book.

    “There are many minor injuries you can deal with at home before going to a vet, especially in an emergency or when you can't get in to see a doctor quickly,” wrote Deann Shepherd, director of communications for the Humane Society of Utah in an email.

    A pet could end up staying in a carrier for hours or longer. The Humane Society of the United States recommends a carrier large enough to allow a pet to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down. Small pets should have a secure cage with blankets or towels for warmth and any species-specific needs. Also bring leashes or harnesses. If possible, a pet’s bed and toys from home are useful to reduce its stress.

    Other useful items include paper towels, trash bags, grooming items, and bleach.

     

    Find a safe place to stay

    Most shelters won’t take pets. See if you can arrange for friends or relatives outside your immediate area to shelter you and your pets, the Humane Society said. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them in separate places. A kennel or vet’s office might board your pets. Or, though this will be more costly, you can track down a pet-friendly hotel.

    The Humane Society has a list of online resources for pet-friendly hotels, reproduced below. Be aware that many hotels will have a pet surcharge.

     

    Find Pet Friendly Hotels:

    Bringfido.com
    Dogfriendly.com
    Doginmysuitcase.com
    Pet-friendly-hotels.net
    Pets-allowed-hotels.com
    Petswelcome.com
    Tripswithpets.com

     

    As a last resort, ask your local animal shelter if its staff can watch your pet, the Humane Society said. However, be aware that shelters often have limited resources.

     

    Plan for your pet in case you're not home

    Ask a neighbor or nearby family member to take your pets if you’re not at home when there’s a disaster. Give that person a key and show them where your pets are likely to hide and where you keep emergency supplies. Make sure that person knows your pets and vice-versa.

     

    What solutions have you come up with for preparing pets for disasters? Tell us in the comments!

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: preparing pets, pets, disaster

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