Planning For Emergencies
By Mary Castro Summers, Project Director, Family TIES of Massachusetts (FCSN)
Life is full of unexpected occurrences. Emergencies may occur at any time. Parents of children with special needs have long list of potential concerns and supportive steps that can be taken to address their worries. In times of emergency, the likelihood of performing well under stress can be improved if parents spend some time planning for emergencies, before they happen. Lessen the effects of these situations on your family – through emergency preparedness.
What kinds of emergency can you plan for? After last winter, think of natural disasters such as weather-related problems: a power outage or damage due to heavy snow, ice, or rain storms. Man-made disasters may include a house fire or gas leak in the neighborhood. Unexpected mishaps, seemingly smaller issues in scale, could include when the school bus arrives before Mom, or situations that risk health and safety, like running out of medical supplies during a bad storm.
Family TIES and the Mass. Department of Public Health (MDPH) help families to plan ahead so that in times of emergencies, children’s special health care needs will be addressed. There are three basic steps to follow:
(1) Make a Plan and address the types of emergencies that may affect your family and child. Take into account your child’s diagnoses, including medical, behavioral, and emotional needs. Review, update, and practice your Plan with your family periodically.
(2) Make a Kit to address basic needs for your entire family. This includes emergency information, prescriptions and medications, and first aid and medical supplies. Prepare weather-tight containers with 3 days of nonperishable food, drinking water, and emergency items such as flashlights, and a portable radio for times when you must “shelter in place.” For emergency evacuations, prepare another container with copies of important documents (medical information and doctors list, insurance contacts, banking information, a list of family and friends), a small supply of cash in case banks are closed, and an extra set of house and car keys.
(3) Share Your Plans with family members and those who can assist in times of emergency, including neighbors and caretakers. Communication and support are critical steps in your planning process. Become familiar with emergency responders and contacts in your community.
To raise awareness of your child’s special needs, complete the Disability Indicator Form. This voluntary program informs the Emergency Management Director (EMD) for your community that your family is more likely than most families to need special assistance due to special health care concerns. The program is free and effective. Download the Form and contact information for your EMD from the Family TIES website: www.massfamilyties.org/info/ep.php. Do it today, for your peace of mind.
For more information, please call Family TIES at 800-905-TIES (8437) and learn more about resources from the Mass. Emergency Management Agency and Mass. Department of Public Health Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management: www.mass.gov/ready.