Hudson Valley families should be prepared for every kind of emergency

What to plan and what to have ready if you need to evacuate

When a plan is in place, with the items we need at the ready, chances are we can weather most sudden storms, and other emergencies that come our way.

Create a family emergency plan and keep family medical records handy

According to the American Red Cross, one of the top considerations is to create a family emergency plan, especially if your child has an existing medical condition or a special need.

“When it comes to young children who cannot communicate and especially children with special needs, the plan should be written out,” says Jean Walsh, nurse in the trauma services unit at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie.

Does your family have Fire Safety Smarts?

Parents can ask their doctor or look online for already-prepared forms and fill them out with instructions and medical information. “Put it in a fire safe box or someplace where you always know where it is and keep it with your family physician if it includes medical history, allergies and any developmental delays,” says Walsh. 

“Keep an open discussion about emergency preparedness going at the dinner table because children are like sponges, always listening. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity,” says Walsh.

Role-play the plan

Once you are comfortable with a plan, share it with your child and attempt to role play. “Plan what to do in case you are separated during an emergency by choosing two places to meet and making sure everyone has emergency contact information in writing or programmed into their cell phones,” says Darryl Lafferty, executive director at the American Red Cross in Poughkeepsie. 

Ensure that your child understands how sometimes an evacuation is necessary, he says, and adds, “Decide where you would go and what route you would take to get there, including if you would go to a hotel, stay with friends or relatives in a safe location or go to an evacuation shelter.”

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You may want to prepare a special travel bag for your child that contains familiar comfort items such as a stuffed animal, travel game or book. Of course, be informed about the emergency but deliver the information to your child at an age-appropriate level. 

Know basic first aid

Have some lifesaving skills of your own. “Make sure that at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR and knows how to use an automated external defibrillator,” says Lafferty.

“A first aid kit is necessary and parents should know if a child starts bleeding how to apply pressure, take care of small wounds and when to call 911,” says Jean Walsh.

With the right skills and equipment, you might be able to remedy an emergency situation. “Have something to cover a wound like gauze, tape, bandages and some kind of ointment like Neosporin for burns,” says Walsh. Keep the first aid tote in a an easy to get to place in the house. A spare in the car is a good idea as well. 

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Items to keep handy

Darryl Lafferty recommends these basic items be kept in the “ready to go” bag:

  • A gallon of water per person
  • Nonperishable food
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Seven-day supply of medications
  • Multi-purpose tool, like Swiss Army Knife
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items

You should also have copies of personal documents like a medication list, proof of address and insurance policies. “Have a cell phone with chargers, family and emergency contact information, extra cash and an emergency blanket,” says Lafferty.

Be aware of emergencies that can happen in your area

This knowledge can be helpful in many situations. “Share what you have learned with your family, household, neighbors and encourage them to be informed,” says Lafferty.

This includes recognizing how to prepare ahead of time. “Discuss thunderstorm safety with all members of your household and pick a safe place in your home to gather that is away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail,” he says.  

Stay calm during the storm.  “Listen to local news and stay inside for at least thirty minutes after the last thunder clap,” says Lafferty. Don’t assume anything. Make sure your child knows not to take a bath or use the plumbing and that he stays away from electrical equipment and telephones, using battery-powered televisions and radios instead. 

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Keep calm as you care for your family

Deal with the emergency as a family. “We encourage parental involvement and never try to separate the child from the parent unless absolutely necessary,” says Walsh. Remember, your child looks to you for guidance on how to act, so you should remain calm.  “If you are upset and freaking out, the child will pick up on that and do the same thing.”  

Jamie Lober writes often about family topics.