By Beth Buck
The good news is evacuating your home with an infant is pretty much the same as going anywhere else with an infant, for better or for worse. There will be the possibility that the evacuation order will come five minutes after you've just put the 3-month-old down for her nap, or that once you get the baby into the car seat, she'll scream at you for the duration of your journey. To prepare for evacuation with an infant, all you need is a clear plan and some basic supplies. Even though any emergency is scarier when you also have to take care of little ones, evacuating with a baby doesn't have to be as scary as it sounds.
More good news: planning an evacuation with an infant is not significantly different from planning any other kind of evacuation. Tangent: If you do not already have a family evacuation plan that outlines where to meet (if family members are dispersed across town at work, school, etc), personal responsibilities for each person, and a specific destination (ex: Aunt Maggie's house in Ohio or the motel 6 of exit 234 in Conroe), put one together this week. This article
from our archives may be a good starting point.
When I give preparedness advice, I like to say that each family member should have specific responsibilities in addition to carrying their own 72-hour kit. Babies, however, can't even hold a spoon. Moreover, quick evacuations are hurried affairs and things often slip between the cracks in the mad dash to the car. When my family had our first family evacuation drill, my husband forgot we even had
a baby for a minute there. Thus, if a baby lives at your house, assign one person to be solely in charge of the baby. This person should make sure baby is in the car along with necessary baby supplies (diapers, wipes, etc.) Pro tip: if you have a couple of spare minutes before departure, take some time to feed the baby before buckling him in.
If your child goes to a day care center during the day, ask the center's director about their emergency plans. Where are the children evacuated to? How will you be able to pick up your child? Does the center have emergency supplies and how long are they projected to last?
Create a 72-hour kit for your baby. In it should be a seasonally appropriate change of clothes. Since baby clothes take up minimal space, I recommend you pack several. The kit should also include diapers, wipes, and any needed feeding supplies. All of this is stuff usually found in your everyday diaper bag, so you could conceivably just bring the diaper bag and be fine in the short term.
A word on diapers: I've written a little before
about using cloth diapers in your emergency kit. A lot of people go this route because they think they will be nice and reusable during their crisis, so they won't have to go to the store for more. But they make this decision without having a good understanding of the intricacies of cloth diapering. Many people don't realize that cloth diapers require a bit of a learning curve. Not all cloth diapers are created equal and can be quite leaky, as an example. And they require specialty laundry detergent or they'll get buildup on them and become less absorbent. Additionally, cloth diapers are much bulkier than your standard disposable diapers, which makes them less ideal for 72-hour kits. So before you commit to using cloth on your baby during your evacuation, ask yourself a couple of questions. Do these diapers fit my baby well? Do I have a plan in place for washing the diapers when we reach our destination? Will it be less convenient to use cloth diapers or more convenient?
Comedian Paul Reiser once joked that all baby paraphernalia is designed to contain the baby in some way or another. Strollers, baby baths, car seats, cribs—they're all baby holders. If I could recommend only one item to purchase for the purpose of evacuating with an infant, I would tell you to buy a baby wrap—one that's like 5 yards of fabric that you tie around yourself in a knot a boy scout would envy. It doesn't have to be a name-brand one; mine is just a plain strip of fabric that I bought at the fabric store. It is the best of all baby holders. All the weight of the baby sits on your hips instead of your shoulders and back, and the baby will Replace the close proximity to your body comforting, causing him to spend most of the time sleeping. It's a win-win. A wrap also takes up a lot less space than a stroller, thereby giving you more space in your car for emergency supplies. A tutorial on how to tie it can be found here.
Have you ever had to evacuate with a little one? Please tell us about it in the comments section. What did you Replace most helpful? What did you wish you had known?
Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.