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Lost From Each Other During a Disaster? Not With These Tips!

                                                                                         By Jeanette Vale

My family is everything to me.  Do you feel the same?  

If a major quake happened my mind would immediately be:  Where are my children?  

Once I know they are secure:  I would stress over how is my mom, dad, sister, brother, their children, etc.  Nothing else would matter.  

For 4 to 12 hours out of the day, we are scattered to work, school, activities or errands.  

This includes even the smallest members of our family; toddlers at  daycare.  

It is a  vulnerable  feeling when the ground shakes and you have no control over protecting your little ones.

In this blog:

  • The family is scattered among the community when disaster strikes
  • What are the initial then secondary reactions?  
  • Who’s got who?
  • The evacuation and meet up places to plan
  • The importance of looking at and drawing escape routes.
  • Conversations to have with school boards, day centers.  What is your protocol for disasters? Here we go!

Initial reactions in a Disaster

The initial blast of a disaster will send a person into fight or flight.  It is very difficult to think during this phase.   Again…

 We are in the grip of a highly efficient, but prehistoric set of physiological responses. 

These sensations are not exactly pleasant — they’re not meant for relaxation. They’re designed to move us to action.

Diane Musho Hamilton, Harvard Business Review,  Calming Your Brain During Conflict”.

There is no getting out of this initial reaction.  But we can shorten its effect.  

Wise Secondary Behaviors to Choose

“Okay, calm down.  Breathe. Everything will be okay. Think”  Have you ever said this to yourself?  

This is a wise secondary behavior.  It is a choice. 

As soon as you can, begin to deepen your breaths. You almost have to force yourself to Inhale and exhale slowly. Diane Musho Hamilton suggests Rhythmic breathing (see her article above).   This leads to controlling the frantic thoughts that are crashing around in your head. But you can do it.  

Assess what is still in your favor, this may help.

My legs, arms and hands work.

My car keys are right here.

The staircase is through that door.  

The path to the doorway is clear.

Tell white lies:

I remember where I parked my car.

I CAN get to my daughter.

Keep positive until it comes true (hopefully) and stay calm.

Who’s Got Who?

Before a disaster happens:  Hold a family council meeting to decide who drives where and who grabs which child.  Be familiar with alternate routes to the school/ daycare. 

If you are a single parent and it is all up to you, why?  

Before a disaster, make disaster friends in the homes immediately around you.  Heck, call yourselves the ‘Trouble Tribe’.  Have each other's backs.  Hold meetings, dunk donuts.  

We live in a new world.  We need to have emergency prep in place, and the more people who are trained to help you, and vice versa, the better! 

We need to find and keep our children safe and not have them disappear during disasters, never to be found again .  More on that in a follow-up article because I have a decent idea to find lost kids faster.

I will also do a blog about what such a meeting agenda could/ should cover.  

The Evacuation Plans 

Make plans for where to group-up, check in, body count. Make plans for each of the following:

  1. Just outside our house
  2. A neighborhood meet up place:
  3. In town meeting place:
  4. Out of town meeting place:
  5. Out of state meeting place:

 A neighborhood meet up place PICK TWO:

During peaceful times: 

If your Rec-Center / gym is your chosen neighborhood meet-up place and it is a peaceful time, it’s fine to meet there.  

If, however, there are roving pirates with swords running amok then also pick out a more secretive, in the bushes option.  

Point: for each meet up place, plan two options. 

Open air option  /  stay hidden option

Now you may say, “aren’t you being a bit dramatic?”  But in 2020 I was literally at the public swimming pool.  We got word that down the road, in my very quiet small town, there were semi-automatic weapons being wielded on both sides of a possible brawl.  Suddenly a normal 4th of July day became the Twilight Zone as police surrounded the swimming park to protect us.   I walked my nieces and nephews to grandma’s that afternoon but we were shaken.

Point:  Anything is possible.  Things have escalated since 2020, make plans with options.

Meet-up places on Vacation

If you are vacationing with unfamiliar landmarks and you get separated (in a disaster or not), you can choose to meet:

  • At the tallest structure you see. Front door lobby. 
  • If in the wilderness, maybe use ‘tallest tree’ or  the ‘main’ waterfall.  If you are closer to the parking lot, the natural choice of course is back at the car.  Critical thinking must happen during  a disaster.  How to enhance that in children is another blog coming soon.

Point: Before you separate, identify the home base and a secondary one.

Escape Routes, identify them and other alternates.

Know or draw pictures of alternate routes to escape.  Your brain will remember these routes as you draw them.   Include your children in these drawings.  The more they are in the loop, the less you have to worry about.

Conversations to have, questions to ask

Who is in charge of my child if the school goes into lockdown?  It will be the teacher, most likely.  Do I have that phone number in my cell?

Do I have the principal's phone number in my phone?

What is the policy for holding the children during an earthquake, etc.? 

Landline for the school:  put it in your phone and *keep a paper copy.

Who do I have on record to release my children to? Make sure those phone numbers are current.  If you are incapacitated during an emergency the school can call your trusted friends on record to come pick up your child.

Does the classroom have emergency kits for the children?  How long do those last?  By the way, Emergency Zone supplies offices with such kits.  This could work for a class or just buying water and food bars in bulk.

Can the teacher hold an extra dosage of my child's medications inside the emergency kits?  Just remember to reclaim that medication  at year end.

This sounds exciting

It is.  And it doesn’t mean you're a doomy weirdo.  Mother Nature is doing a lot more than she used to (and so is the nefarious minion). 

 Step on, prep on and write on.

We love serving you!  Your family’s safety is on our minds.  Come visit us sometime.  www.emergencyzone.com

 *In paper form.  My idea to help kids find their family again during a disaster is going to be covered in another article…and it might just be as brilliant as the invention of paper. 


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