The recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan is fueling renewed interest in emergency preparation. We have all seen the lists of supplies to have in your home, car and office. Gathering those items is a crucial first step and I highly recommend using a list from the American Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a guide.
But moms need to go one step further. Once the initial emergency has passed and we wait for "normal" life to resume, our kids will turn to us with needs that go beyond food, water, and shelter. When you're a parent, you also need to provide emotional comfort, and distraction.
This is when remembering items such as a favorite stuffed animal or card game, family pictures from happier times, or a snuggly blanket to wrap around a scared child factors just as importantly as first aid kits and gallons of water.
Turns out I am not the only mother pondering how to accomplish this without stuffing the emergency kit past its breaking point. My search for emergency preparedness information at Circle of Moms and elsewhere led me to a particularly thorough article, Emergency Preparation and Special Needs. While many of the tips in it are geared toward families with special needs children, they translate well for any family dynamic.
1. Plan for Charging Power
In the article, Hawaii-based blogger Mandarinpearl reflects on her mad dash to secure last-minute supplies when word that a sizable tsunami wave was headed toward the Islands as a result of the earthquake in Japan on March 11.
She was at a big box retailer in what became a failed attempt to purchase additional water. There was none left. However, her mission to get USB car chargers was a success.
USB car chargers? When a big wave is coming? Yep. That's right.
"Many children who are on the spectrum depend on normalcy and routine," she writes. Mandarinpearl wanted to make sure her kids could log some electronics time if the family was stuck in the car for a very extended period of time in an evacuation traffic jam.
That's real life Mom planning and it's applicable to all kiddos, not just those on the spectrum. The need for normalcy and routine isn't limited to kids with cognitive issues such as autism. All kids today are beyond accustomed to being entertained in the vehicle by viewing the latest movie rather than by watching the passing scenery, as we used to do. Being able to power up a DVD player could go a long way toward distracting a nervous child while adults figure out survival tactics.
2. Pack for Your Family's Unique Needs
Mandarinpearl's strategy is echoed at Ready America, a website launched in Feb. 2003 by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security in an effort to educate and empower Americans to prepare for natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
"Remember the unique needs of your family members when making your emergency supply kit and family emergency plan," is just one snippet of preparation advice found on this site.
Unique needs can be anything from extra cloth diapers and diaper rash ointment to contact lens solution and denture cream. These are things you won't remember to grab when hurried, but will certainly need later on.
Storing back-up supplies of prescriptions–particularly those for heart conditions, high blood pressure or diabetes–is also recommended. This can be coordinated in advance with your physician. Many insurance companies now allow 90-day supplies.
This gets a bit tricky when trying to stockpile certain medications used for behavioral modification in children. Drugs such as Concerta, Ritalin, Focalin and Addreall, which are commonly used to treat various cognitive disabilities, are highly controlled. New prescriptions must be written every 30 days for refills, according to federal regulations. But there is a workaround: Ask your child's doctor to write an emergency script to keep in your disaster kit. Talk to your insurance company regarding their emergency planning policies.
3. Prepare a "Ready Bag" for Each Family Member
In addition to shared supplies, every member of the family should also have what's called a "ready bag," and this includes baby.
Robyn M. says she keeps "extra clothes, burp cloth, toys, small drink and food, hand sanitizer, medications, teething gel and a small rug to lay a baby down on" in her diaper bag. Another mom, Nicole P., suggests a fold-up changing mat: "Really useful," she comments.
I would completely agree. While I never had to flee an emergency when my kids were young, I will say having a small mat that was clean and sanitary for quick-on-the-go diaper changes was handy. I knew I had a relatively germ-free spot to park the kiddo in for a bit. I can also see why this would be useful in an emergency situation.
(With a bit of humor, Nicole P. also adds she keeps a "small bottle of vodka for mum (joke)" in her baby bag, and I think she's on to something: Emergency planners do recommend you include some sort of "comfort food or drink." As long as you don't overindulge—especially during an emergency—perhaps a shot might take the edge off once you've gotten to safe territory. I'm thinking a pony bottle of Bailey's might just make its way into the Armstrong family emergency supplies.)
The "ready bag" idea applies to older children and adults as well. As Mandarinpearl shared on her blog, "have backpacks allotted for carrying items that each person would need for at least one day,...in case you have to evacuate on foot and can't carry tubs full of supplies."
4. Be Ready to Ride It Out At Home
While being ready to leave your home at a moment's notice is a major part of emergency preparation, so is being able to live inside or outside of your home without utilities such as running water or electricity for an extended period of time.
"My husband and I have always considered our camping gear to be in the same category (emergency preparation) because if it gets bad enough that earthquakes ruin our house, we are going to need something to sleep in as well as a camp stove or at least things to cook over a fire," writes Karli G. in a thread discussing food storage and other emergency preparation.
She isn't the only mom who views camping gear as an essential part of the family survival kit. in a thread about the Feb. 22 earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand, Laura S. posts that "We do a lot of camping in the summer and have our equipment close at hand."
5. Consider Your Location
Generic emergency prep lists rarely mention the importance of customizing your approach to meet the potential perils posed by your geographic area.
For instance, here in Alaska where I live, we stock each of our vehicles with extra gloves, hat, blankets and hand warmers. If you live in Florida, you might want to include additional sunscreen and aloe gel. And folks in the Pacific Northwest might want to toss rain jackets and boots into their emergency boxes. (Purchase boots for the kids a size larger than they currently need. It could be some time before you access your kit and young feet grow quickly.)
No matter what your current state of preparation, emergency officials strongly suggest families take action before disaster strikes.
Louise G., who lives in England, commented about her family's readiness in the Christchurch earthquake thread.
"Am I prepared for disaster? No, we (my family) are not. I don't think we even have a torch to hand," she writes. "Maybe today is the day to sort that out and put a disaster box somewhere."
For additional disaster preparation lists, visit Silicon Valley Moms Blog: Emergency Preparedness Kit - What's In Yours?, or The Epicenter.com.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.