I like to think I’m prepared. I have food storage, water, 72-hour kits and countless cans of kidney beans waiting in the wings to save my family in an emergency.
But watching hurricanes and wildfires ravage cities and lives this month has been a wake-up call. Would I have enough gas to sit in hours of evacuation traffic? How would I get out in a flood? If I had to leave right now, what would I take?
As I’ve watched the images coming in from these sites, my heart especially goes out to the parents trying to save their little ones from rising waters, trying to make them comfortable and safe in a shelter, worrying if their babies have enough food.
So this week I’ve been reassessing my own emergency preparedness. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered some pretty serious holes. I don’t have much cash on hand. I haven’t updated my emergency kits for my toddler son’s changing diaper size and eating habits, and I haven’t restocked my kits after I’ve pilfered them throughout the year for sunscreen, medicine and granola bars.
And perhaps most important, I don’t have a written plan. I’ve heard from countless sources that you need to write down your emergency plan because in a crisis, you won’t think straight. You won’t remember if you decided if you were supposed to shelter in place or meet your husband at your in-laws' four hours away. Your brain shuts down, so you need to have a written plan you can follow without thinking.
When an emergency strikes, the time for thinking and taking and planning has already passed. The Red Cross has great online resources at redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies with lists of supplies for 72-hour kits and questions to get you talking with your family about your emergency plans.
A few recommendations that stood out to me were these:
1. Choose a place to meet family members near your home, as well as one outside of your neighborhood in case you have to evacuate. My husband and I have a rendezvous spot in our yard, then one an hour north in case of evacuation, one several hours south in case of a regional evacuation and then one we refer to as our “zombie apocalypse” plan. Write these down and put them in your emergency kit or, better yet, in your wallet.
2. Choose an out-of-area contact person. You want someone all family members can call to touch base with in case you can’t contact each other.
3. Plan your evacuation route and practice evacuating twice a year. Grab your emergency kit and drive your route. Plot alternate routes in case roads are impassable. Make sure you have your route printed out.
To be honest, I hate planning for emergencies. Thinking through worst-case scenarios freaks me out, and often when I’m updating our kits I devolve into a state of mild panic thinking about a world where I’m using a flint to cook dinner and rationing squares of toilet paper. In those times, when I’m looking at a rock-solid hunk of something called a “survival calorie bar,” I really just want to stuff everything back in the bag and pretend that bad things are never going to happen. Not to me at least. Not to us.
But the truth is, they do. And the whole point of preparation is so when the crisis comes, you’ve already made the plan, packed the bag and filled the water jugs. I can’t stop the disasters from happening, but I can protect my family by preparing now. So even though I want to zip it up and never talk about the emergencies I hope we never have, I make myself do it, and then I can at least rest assured that if the day ever comes when we need that disgusting survival bar, it’s ready. And so are we.