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Masters of disaster: Helping your family plan ahead for emergencies

Masters of disaster: Helping your family plan ahead for emergencies
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I wish I could pretend we don’t live on a fault line and that disasters will never happen here, but all the 9/11 remembrances of late have reminded me how important it is to be prepared for the worst. I tend to avoid this because thinking too hard about the “worst case” scenarios–especially for a mom–can cause a lot of anxiety. I think the best advice is to simply take action on the preparedness recommendations and then get back to the mama work of the day.

Last night, our family had a preparedness meeting. Using information from the Red Cross and Be Ready Utah, here are some of the things that we did:


My real “plan” is that a disaster will only strike on a Sunday afternoon (the only time my family is home at the same time.) In case this plan doesn’t work out, we selected other meeting places and ways to find each other in an emergency. Here is how Be Ready Utah suggests to do it:

1.If there is immediate danger in your house (like a fire) decide on an outside meeting place.

2.If there is a disaster and you can’t return home, decide on a meeting place in your neighborhood.

3.If there is a disaster and you can’t return to your neighborhood, decide on a meeting place in your area.

4.In the event of a disaster, oftentimes local calls cannot go through. Designate an out of town friend or family member as your family’s out of town contact. Let that person know and make sure everyone has that phone number.


Before last night, I had never talked to my children about what to do in an earthquake. Frankly, it scares me and I worried it would scare them too. But instead, they seemed happy for a plan and some strategies.

1. In the event of an earthquake–DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON. The Red Cross “Masters of Disaster” online series has worksheets that illustrate pictures of children doing this at home and at school. We studied the pictures and talked about where we could find similar safe places in our home.

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2. Make noise. If you are buried in a disaster, make noise on a pipe or clap your hands together to help rescuers to find you. My 14 year old said she heard a story of a 9/11 survivor being found this way.

3. House hunt. Go around your house and identify heavy or hanging objects that could be dangerous in an earthquake. “Masters of Disaster” also has worksheets to help you do this.

4. Under the bed kit. In a ziplock bag, place a pair of shoes, gloves, and flashlight for each family member.

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We put together family 72 hour kits a few years ago. Each family member has their own backpack of supplies. They are not deluxe, just retired school backpacks with basics for survival inside. Once in the fall and once in the spring, we go through them and check for the following:

1. Do the change of clothes still fit? This is a challenge with a growing family. Last night, we found everyone needed new clothes for their backpacks. (Except for me and my husband.) My older girls passed down a few shirts to each other and scoured their closet for other items to place inside. I’ll get the other things they need at a thrift store later this week. No need for new clothes in the pack.

2. Are the batteries still working? Most of the batteries that came with the flashlights and small radios in the packs were corroded. I replaced them, but want to get wind up flashlights so we don’t have to worry about batteries.

3. Is there anything missing? One child needed to add deodorant. Another replaced her emergency reading book with something she likes better. One put pillow case inside to stuff with clothes and use as a pillow.

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4. Food. We used to replace the food in our packs every 6 months. But last year, I bought MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) packs from Emergency Essentials. It is SO great not to replace food. I’m not serving MRE’s for Sunday dinner or anything, but I promise to you they taste good. There is spaghetti and meatballs, Mexican rice, even little cakes.

5. Eye glasses. In our family, three of us are super dependent on eye-glasses–and we don’t have extra pairs in our kits. I saw a deal in the Sunday paper for Elevation Eyeworks in Centerville. During September, they are offering $30 single vision lenses to support Emergency Preparedness month.

My hair dresser has this beautiful little plaque on her mirror that reads, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about.” I really hope that our preparedness is for nothing–and that the tomorrow we worry about is as peaceful as the day I’m typing this. But there is also a certain peace in preparedness–and we are surrounded by resources to help us be just that.


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