There is a tendency for those interested in Emergency Preparedness to buy up their food storage and prepare a 72-hour kit and then rest easy knowing they've done all they need to do. Ah, if only this were true! The best time to rest on your laurels is never!
Getting your food storage and 72-hour kits in order is only the first step of preparedness.
The next step is the part that everyone talks about but no one actually does: evacuation and other emergency drills. To really be prepared, you need an action plan in place for when disasters happen, and that means practice. This is especially important if you have very young children living at home.
I can't emphasize enough the importance of practicing emergencies with your children. Emotions always run high during a disaster, no matter how old you are. When parents panic, children panic, and panicking has consequences. Ever been in a car with a screaming toddler? Now imagine that x5, while trying to outrun molten lava in your minivan. While it's unrealistic to claim that a trial run of your evacuation plan will turn a disaster into a nice, calm affair complete with unicorns and rainbows, it will at least take the edge off. Everyone will know what to do, there will be less uncertainty, and if you're lucky your toddler will only scream a tiny bit instead of a lot. The calmer everyone can be in an emergency, the more mental resources you will have to devote to dodging volcanic bombs
the situation at hand.
So what does an evacuation drill look like? How does one do it? It's not as difficult as you may fear, and in fact makes a great family activity. Before you begin, sit down with the kids and outline the following:
1) The reasons why you may have to leave the house in a hurry someday (if your children are quite young, you can speak in general terms)
2) The things that need to get done before leaving the house, ie getting 72-hour kits into the car, putting on shoes, making sure all blankies and well-loved stuffed animals are accounted for (leave these behind at your own peril)
, locking doors, etc.
3) Divide tasks among all family members. Make sure each person has a job and that everyone knows what he or she is responsible for.
The first time my family ran an evacuation drill, we managed to get out of the house and into the car within five minutes. That doesn't mean it ran perfectly, though. For most of that time, my two-year-old ran around in circles crying that she couldn't Replace her shoes. We remembered our cell phones but not the chargers. We forgot a very important medical appliance that we needed for the baby's cleft lip care. All that was okay, though, because we learned from it. We improved quite a lot on our second evacuation drill.
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Simulate emergencies so when a real one happens, your family will be ready.[/caption]
When simulating evacuation during a house fire, conventional wisdom says to get everyone up in the middle of the night for a fire drill. Do
tell the kids ahead of time that you plan to do this at some point, preferably before bed, unless you want them to scream at you while you're trying to get them out of the house. Do
get one of those nifty ladders
to escape out of your second-story windows. Do
actually climb down during your drill. You do not want your 3-year-old to be more afraid of going down the ladder than she is of the fire she is escaping. And if you have an infant in your family, you'll probably want some practice climbing down a rope ladder with a baby in your arms, too. I admit that last one is a skill I have not fully mastered, yet.
If your family does not already have an emergency evacuation plan, put one together today and run your drill sometime this week!
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.