It is important to prepare yourself and your family for emergencies. Recently, we have seen the need for thorough preparedness stateside and in overseas locations. Preparing can increase peace of mind and provide security, especially when the Active Duty member is deployed. Having a family member with special needs requires some extra thought in preparations, but can easily be incorporated into what is already prepared.
When arriving at a new duty station, it is important to find out about the dangers and disasters that can occur in your area. This knowledge can help guide kit preparations and evacuation and meeting plans. Learn the warning systems used and what the sirens, warnings, and wordings mean, as well as how to respond to the warnings. Also, be aware of early warning signs that something may be happening: understand cloud formations, smoke from a volcano, flash flood situations, etc. This understanding can help you respond appropriately.
Make a plan!
Plan and prepare for potential risks. Assess your current situation, the dangers in your community, neighborhood, and home. Decide meeting places, out of town contacts, and where shelters are located that can meet your family’s specific needs. Shelters can accommodate pets and service animals and what documentation is needed and where power will be available to those that need life sustaining equipment. Deciding on what emergencies require evacuation of the area is also critical, and teaching family members how to make that decision is important.
Discuss communication needs, who will be called locally and out of state/country, how to be contacted, and who will be the point of contact to share family information. Teach family members phone numbers, plans, and response actions so they are prepared in case adults are not around to help when the emergency arises. Plan on assigning family members specific jobs that they can do to help. Even a child can be given an assignment to hold or carry something. Teach family members how to turn off water, where kits are located, where to meet, and who trusted individuals are that can help should an emergency arise. Families should prepare family members for disasters and should use discretion when talking about emergencies and response efforts.
Build a kit!
Building an emergency kit is an important step to ensuring safety. At the very least, it should contain very basic food, water, protective and medical supplies that can sustain your family for a minimum of 3 days. Responders and relief workers will be on, but cannot reach every one immediately, making our preparations important. Augmenting these kits to sustain and protect your family for longer periods of time can be done with little work. Adapting kits to meet personal needs is a must to include medications, sanitary needs, and security and comfort items.
Basic services including: electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for weeks. Preparing for the disruptions by including items that can help manage the outages is important. Do not forget to include things to keep children occupied and comforted during this time by including games, cards, coloring books, a favorite toy, blanket, stuffed animal or other pacifier can help pass the time and distract them when you have to take care of other things during an emergency.
Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages. Listed below is a basic disaster supply kit. Remember to adapt the kit to the needs of your family and current situation. It is not important to spend a lot of money to build a kit, but it is important to have things that are quick, easy and require little preparation before consuming.
- Water—1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food—At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert (and extra batteries for both)
- Flashlight and extra batteries, candles, firewood and matches
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes or wipes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger
What other thing would be important to include in your kit? We suggest extra clothing, personal hygiene need items, a tent or tarps, medications, copy of emergency paperwork (IEP, Passports, Copies of military orders or assignments and medical documentation), gasoline and money.
Make sure to change your food and water supplies every six months. Water can be stored in thick walled plastic containers and refilled every 6 months. Canned food should be rotated and used with in your normal food supply and replenished as needed. We suggest updating your kit when you check the batteries in the smoke detectors.
Family needs change from year to year. It is important to update information and adapt the kit each year. Children grow out of clothing, weather conditions change; by planning for these things, your kit can best suit your family’s needs.
Keep your kits portable and accessible. If the family needs to evacuate, having quick access to kits and documents can be lifesaving and cut down on the stress. Many stories from disaster survivors recount the little time they had to grab what they needed out of their home, but those who were prepared in advance found it easier to get to their kits and get out safely.
Report to command and follow established procedures. Not only will they want to know the condition and needs of your family, but may require your assistance in relief efforts. Learn and follow the established procedure for you branch of service and installation, as they may vary.
If stationed abroad, know the emergency numbers on and off installations. Your kit should include passports, birth abroad certificates for children born overseas, cash in the local currency, a card with local translations of basic terms, and an electrical current converter. Know who to call, where to go and how to access relief services. Learn key phrases in the host nation’s language and get to know neighbors that can alert you to an ongoing emergency. Rely on these individuals to point you in the right direction when living off installation and draw upon their knowledge and experiences of living in that location. Cooperate with the host nation responders and follow their instructions should evacuations occur or shelter instructions given.
If your family member has unique abilities or special needs prepare by making specific plans and including them in the planning. Consider how the disaster might affect your situation. Plan on not having access to a medical facility or to drugstores, so prepare ahead of time to meet those needs. Identify what kind of resources are used on a daily basis that maybe limited or unavailable. Ask yourself what can be done to substitute or make up for the lack of resources that your family members use.
Practice using those techniques or items prior to the emergency so your family is familiar with a change in routine or circumstances. Maintain independence for family members if they are used to having it. What sorts of things can help foster the independence? This may include easy or quick meals, smaller containers of water, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, storing kits by a door, etc. These decisions should be made by the family.
Find out what individual assistance may be available in the community. Register in advance with the office of emergency services, the local fire department, other government agencies or non-profit groups. Let command know of your specific special needs. Ask what assistance, services or help can be provided.
People who have access or functional needs may include: deaf or hard of hearing individuals, people with limited English proficiency, people with medical or mental health challenges, people without transportation or limited mobility, or people with special dietary needs.
“Working Together with Military Families of Individuals with DisAbilities!”