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Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst

December 01, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Disasters can happen quickly, without warning, to any of us. These events can be frightening for adults. For children, they are traumatic. Your family might have to leave your home and daily routine. It is important to give children guidance that will help them reduce fears and anxiety. How parents and/or care providers react to an emergency gives children models on how to act. Reassurance in words and actions is necessary to maintain calm in an unsettling situation.

Families should prepare for an emergency. Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for any disaster. Discuss the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen, such as severe weather situations and fire. Explain what to do in each situation. Discuss other possible or potential situations that might require emergency action. Every family member should understand his or her part in the family response and recovery efforts. Contact your local emergency management or civil defense office, or your local Red Cross for materials that describe how your family can create an individual Family Disaster Plan.

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Teach your child how to recognize danger signals. Make sure your child knows what smoke detectors, fire alarms and local community warning systems sound like. Teach your child how and when to call for help. Post local emergency phone numbers by all telephones or in handy, easy-to-see locations. Even young children can be taught how to call for emergency assistance.

Teach children contact information. Help your child memorize important family information - family name, address and phone number. They also should know where to meet in case of an emergency. An out-of-state or out-of-town contact person is important. Often, during local emergencies, an out-of-area contact number is easier to reach than local numbers. Children too young to memorize this information should have a small index card that lists emergency information to give to an adult, care provider or baby sitter.

Practice with your children. Emergency drills will help family members know what to do in the event of a real emergency.

Prepare first-aid and emergency kits. These should be kept within easy reach but out of reach of young, curious children. One kit should be in the home, another in the garage and separate kits in each vehicle. First-aid kits should accompany families on each outing. A well-stocked kit should be in containers that are roomy, durable, easy to carry and simple to open. Plastic tackle boxes or containers for storing art supplies are ideal. Check the kit on a regular basis.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that your kit include: a first-aid manual, 2- and 3-inch sterile roll bandages, safety pins, sterile adhesive bandages, cleansing agent/soap, laxative, latex gloves, scissors, tweezers, sunscreen, 2- and 4-inch sterile gauze pads, triangular bandages, thermometer, nonprescription drugs, moistened towelettes, anti-diarrhea medication, aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever, petroleum jelly or other lubricant and syrup of ipecac (to induce vomiting, if advised by the Poison Control Center).

Emergency kits are also a critical part of the family disaster plan. These should contain personal papers, records and personal information in a waterproof, portable container. Each family will have their own specific important documents. Copies of many of the suggested items will be sufficient rather than the originals, which should be stored in a fireproof location. Paper copies or scanned versions on a CD will keep space to a minimum. A copy might be sent to a trusted friend or relative for safekeeping.

Emergency kits should include:

· Identification cards for each family member such as drivers licenses, passports and Social Security cards.

· Medicines and medical information (prescriptions).

· Banking information.

· Credit card account numbers and companies.

· Legal and financial documents - wills, policies, contracts and deeds.

· Contact information for relatives, friends and business.

· Family records - birth, marriage and death certificates.

Be prepared!

· Post emergency telephone numbers (fire, police, and ambulance) next to your telephone.

· Develop an emergency communication plan for connecting with your family, if separated. Pick two places to meet: one near your home in case of a home-based emergency, and one outside of your neighborhood if you cannot return to your home. Be certain everyone knows the address and the phone number of your meeting locations.

· Quiz your children every six months so they remember actions, meeting places, phone numbers and safety rules.

· Conduct a home hazard hunt. During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. Anything that can move, fall, break or cause a fire is a home hazard.

· Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Smoke detectors reduce the chance of dying in a home fire by nearly 50 percent. Check batteries twice a year.

· Keep a portable, battery-operated radio or television on hand with extra batteries.

· Check fire extinguisher annually to ensure that it is properly charged.

· Conduct in-home fire drills at least twice a year.

· Keep first-aid supplies on hand and in several locations in the home, car and garage.

· Annually review freshness dates for supplies.

For more information, visit www.ready.gov and click on "Ready America." You will then find the following checklists and downloads:

· Get A Kit Checklist

· Ready Brochure

· Family Communications Plan

· Ready Pets Brochure

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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