Thursday, May 31, 2012

Protecting our Alphabet Soup Kids

How prepared is your family for an emergency?
Image by digitalart

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by SEPAC, a local group dedicated to educating the community and providing solutions for special needs families.  The presentation was on keeping our kids safe in a variety of situations.

One of the presenters was Shari Badger, the High Risk Population Coordinator for the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management.  Her primary job is to find solutions for people with special needs in times of crisis.

How prepared is your family in case of a disaster?

Emergency shelters often aren't well-equipped for people with special needs, whatever those needs may be.  A child with autism will not react well to the disruption in routine that evacuation to a shelter creates, and a child with a sensory processing disorder may not be able to handle the stress and noise.  Ideally, your family should be able to be prepared to go for at least three days without power and water.

Families of alphabet soup kids will need to take additional steps to prepare for emergencies.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we aren't prone to tornadoes and hurricanes, but we still get major storms that can knock out power for days and even weeks.  We are also in prime earthquake territory, in the shadow of volcanoes, and many areas are prone to major flooding.  Think about what kind of emergencies are likely in your area and neighborhood when you are making your plans.

Some of the preparations you should be making:

  • Have a "go kit."  This kit should include at least three days worth of the medications your child needs as well as documents explaining his or her condition and needs.  
  • Create a small first-aid kit and keep it in a safe place; a fanny pack is perfect for this.  Try modelling these kits after the "10 Essentials" used by the Boy Scouts.
  • Print up the evacuation document provided by the National Fire Protection Association.  Fill it out and practice walking through an evacuation.  Practice over and over until your child feels comfortable with the scenario.
  • Make sure that your friends and neighbors are aware of your evacuation plans.  Also, you should make sure that your neighbors are also prepared for an emergency.  After all, you may be the first person they come to! 
  • Create a neighborhood emergency team.  Walk through the neighborhood together and make sure everyone knows where the gas lines, fire hydrants, and water shut-off valves are.  
  • Contact your child's school and find out what the emergency plan is. Keep your emergency contacts list up to date and create a "go kit" for your child to keep at school as well.  Restock it if your child's medications change or at least annually.
Creating a plan and rehearsing it with your child empowers him or her to become part of the solution in case of an emergency.  Keep your alphabet soup child from becoming a victim!  

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