We’re pleased to welcome Tala Hooban from the Administration on Children and Families to Public Health Matters. Tala works in ACF’s Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response and understands the importance of keeping families safe and together during a disaster.
I was in high school when 9/11 happened and all I remember was the chaos that ensued after. I went to school in Northern Virginia, where many of the students’ parents worked in Washington D.C., including at the Pentagon. It was really sad to see how many students could not get ahold of their parents because phone lines were down; this is even before cell phones were a big deal. That was exactly the moment where a family emergency plan could have been helpful. If you can’t get a hold of your family during and after an emergency what do you do? Where do you meet if you are split up? How do you reach each other?
Planning for emergencies is important, especially since your family may not be together when disaster hits. Make sure to involve your children in the planning process, when you include children they’re more likely to remember the plan and act on it. Also be sure your children know what to do if they’re at school.
Now that I work for an agency focused on child and family safety I’m even more aware of the importance of being prepared to ensure safety and a smooth recovery process.
Here are some tips you can try with your family:
- Communication strategy – how would you contact each other after the event? Phone lines may be down, but don’t forget social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) to communicate your wellbeing or whereabouts. Also, memorize a couple of important family cell phone numbers. You can carry an important contact information card instead and be sure to include things like your child’s school contact information, child care center or Head Start Center’s contact information. Provide a card to your child with different information, such as parent contact information and emergency contact information.
- Evacuation plan – make sure to know multiple ways out of your house and practice evacuating two times pear year. Have at least two places where your family can meet in case you are split up or just not together at the time, one meeting place in your neighborhood and one away from your neighborhood.
- Get involved – in your neighborhood watch, parent teacher association, make sure you are aware of your child’s school, child care or Head Start Center’s emergency preparedness and evacuation plans. If you want your neighborhood or schools to be prepared make sure you partake in the changes.
- Emergency kit – a kit for the home in case you have to stay there for a longer period of time. For a complete shopping list of things you can include in this kit, please visit www.ready.gov. If you have a baby in the house, make sure you don’t forget to have extra diapers, wipes, bottles, baby food, etc. It may be helpful to have your child’s favorite toy, book, etc. to keep a calm and happy child whether you have to evacuate or stay home for a prolonged period of time.