When an emergency strikes, you need to be prepared. And if you don’t take some time to get ready, and make sure everyone else knows what to do, you could lose precious time in a situation where seconds count. I’ve already discussed our in-home emergency kit and the emergency binder that we have put together, and today I want to talk about your routines.
There are so many situations that can arise suddenly, and you need to know what to do. Practice makes perfect! No matter what age your children are, it’s good to talk to them about different scenarios and what they should do and what they should expect you to do. Every family and every home is different, so you need to make sure to adapt to your surroundings.
Basics for forming an emergency routine:
- Explain the different types of emergencies and what they mean.
- Decide on a course of action for each situation, whether it means leaving the house, going to a certain place, etc.
- Make sure everyone in the house knows the plan and remembers it.
- Practice your emergency routines. Go over them often to reinforce your plan.
- As parents: discuss who will grab which child(ren). For example: If there is an emergency that we need to get the boys out, Justin will grab Tyler and I will grab Ryan. Justin is stronger than I am, so he would be able to get Tyler easier than I could.
Fire Alarm/House Fire
Tyler knows what the smoke detectors are in the house, and that they will beep if there is a fire. He’s heard them beep when the batteries are low, and immediately comes to find one of us. We have told him that if he hears that beeping louder and not stopping that he needs to stay there and we will get him. He’s too young to be able to get out of the house on his own, so we want him to stay in his room so we know where to find him.
If your children are old enough to be able to open the doors, then make sure they know to try to get out of the house. Have a designated place that you will all meet at, usually the neighbors driveway, or across the street. Somewhere close so they aren’t trying to go far on their own, and close enough that you can easily and quickly find them. But not too close how they are still in danger.
House Alarm/Intruder Alarm
This is one that will definitely be different depending on the layout of your home. In our old home, all of the bedrooms were down one hallway and we only had one child. If the house alarm went off I would have gone right into Tyler’s room and locked the door behind me while Justin figures out what’s going on. In our current home, the bedrooms are on the other side of the home, so it makes it a little harder because I have to pass the main living area to get to the boys rooms. But our plan still is basically for me to get to the boys and get them in one room together and lock the door.
This is another incident that we tell the boys to stay in their rooms and lock the doors. Again, they are a little young, which is why I would get to them as fast as possible. With older children, you can teach them a code word, and they aren’t to open the door unless they hear that word. They could lock their bedroom doors and hide in the closet. Whatever you feel is safest for them in the event of a home intrusion.
In the event of severe weather, you want to make sure your home emergency kit is ready. Determine which room in your home will be your safe room, and store your emergency kit there. This should be an interior room on the lowest floor of your home with no windows. For us, it’s the boys bathroom. There aren’t any windows, it’s on the first floor (we only have a one story home), and it has rooms around every side of it. I recently cleaned out underneath one of the sinks and have our kit and binder under there.
My husband and I both have our phones set to get severe weather alerts, and have been woken up a few mornings for a tornado warning alert. We immediately get up and turn on the news to see where the storm is. Since we only have a one story home, we usually don’t go get the boys up unless we feel like it’s really close. If we had a two story home, we would at least move them downstairs so they are close to us. One morning we were under tornado warnings and we believe there was rotation right over our house. Tyler woke up from the storm and came out so he and I went to sit in the bathroom. We opened Ryan’s door so we could get him quicker if needed, and Justin watched out the front window. He saw the wind shift from one direction to the other and our hanging plant lift up. That was enough for us, he grabbed Ryan as quick as he could and we were all huddled in the bathroom for a while. It was scary, but we knew our plan so it didn’t take us long to be as safe as possible.
As a family, you need to decide where your safe room is and make sure everyone knows. If the weather gets bad enough, that’s where you need to all go. Sometimes Tyler says the storms are scaring him if it’s raining outside when he goes to bed. We assure him that the house keeps us safe, and if the storms get really bad that mommy or daddy will get him.
Someone Outside your Home
I had never really considered having a plan for someone being outside the home until a few weeks ago. When we went to Colorado, we were able to put in a vacation watch with our local police. Well their form only asked for the day we left, not the time, and one of the constables came and checked the perimeter of the house while we were still here because it was the middle of the night and we weren’t leaving until later that morning. Tyler came running in our room telling us he saw a light, and sure enough we saw a flashlight pointing in the windows from the backyard. I realized pretty quickly what probably happened, and we checked out the front window and saw the patrol car.
We used this as an opportunity to explain to Tyler that, even though it scared him at first, it was a policeman who was here to help. He was just checking on our house for us and keeping us safe. But it did make me think about what to do if that wasn’t a law officer, and we had someone trespassing on our property. We told Tyler that he did exactly what he should have done by immediately coming to let us know. Our routine for this is similar to if someone was breaking into the house, because it could easily turn to that. As soon as we saw the flashlight, I scooped up Tyler and at least walked into our bathroom so away from the windows he was walking past. Then I took him down the hallway towards Ryan’s room (in case I needed to get him), while Justin went to check out what was going on. We reiterated to Tyler, in this case, to try to stay quiet so anyone outside doesn’t know where he is, and he listened very well.
The hardest thing to plan for is a medical emergency because there can be so many different levels of severity. Probably the most important is to make sure you have a first aid kit in your home, and if your children are old enough, teach them how to call someone. Of course, you can always teach them to call 911, but if they aren’t old enough to really understand what’s considered an emergency, this may not be the best course.
If you have an iPhone, you can teach your children how to use Siri to make a call. I’ve tried with Tyler, but Siri just doesn’t quite understand him yet. I went into my contacts, and added “daddy” as the company name for my husband. So if you hold the button for Siri on my phone and say “call daddy” it will call Justin. I wanted to make sure it is the name the boys use for him, because that’s what they would know. If Tyler was to call Justin and tell him something is wrong, then he could figure out if he needed to call someone for emergency services. If you are going to set this up, you also have to make sure that your phone settings have it so you can access Siri when your phone is locked. Yes, this may take a few minutes longer, but at 3 years old Tyler wouldn’t know how to call emergency or tell them what’s wrong or where we are. At least this way he can get in touch with an adult.
A medical emergency plan also needs to be customized to your family. If you have someone who has some type of illness or medical condition, then it would be good to also make sure that you have that information somewhere easy to get. Show your children where it is in case you are the one who is hurt or otherwise unable to get it. This is where the emergency binder can really come in handy if you have all of this documented.
Emergency routines may seem like something you don’t need to worry about, but it’s best to plan ahead of time so you already know what to do when the time comes. As a former Girl Scout, our motto was always to be prepared. I can’t plan for everything, but I try to make sure we are as prepared as possible for any of these emergency situations.