Disaster Resiliency Requires Accounting for Unique Family Needs

The June 2011 emergency preparedness goal for the Do1Thing website is about making families more disaster resilient by planning for the unique needs of each family.

Every household and farm family is different. Each is different because there may be an infant or child in the home or because there may be someone in the family who requires regular schedule of medication or has a disability. There may be a pet or two or three living in the home. What would happen in that home if a disaster struck and the family was required to evacuate to a shelter or shelter in isolation at home for several days? If there was no preplanning or preparation, much time and energy will likely be used attempting to address the needs of these family members in the days following the emergency. To provide guidance on planning for special family needs, Do1Thing.com has targeted “Unique Family Needs” as the preparedness goal for June 2011. Farm life is hectic under normal situations; in the rush to respond or cope following a disaster, there will be many competing needs to be addressed. Preparing and preplanning can complete some of the most important of these needs before the rush to respond arrives.

Emergency management experts advise that preparedness planning should be based on being independent of public services for a minimum of 72 hours following a disaster. In that post-disaster period many products and services we count on in our “just in time” world may not be available. For instance, pet food or diapers may not be readily available. The availability of some medicines could be limited locally, as well. One of the first steps to preparedness is to work to identify what special needs your family has. Things to consider as unique needs may include: the presence of infants or young children in the home, residents with prescription medications or health related supplies (such as syringes, glucometer supplies or CPAP Machine), family members who require assistive equipment such as canes or walkers and the presence of pets in the home.

Once family needs are identified, what can be done? For supplies like diapers or medications, these can be stockpiled to assure a 72-hour supply and stored with the family “Go Bag”. Pets, on the other hand, present a different set of obstacles. They are not allowed into public shelters; however, because of the PETS Act of 2006, emergency planning guidelines are in place for providing rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency. Check locally with emergency planning authorities to determine what planning may have taken place to include pets in sheltering plans. Also consider what might happen if you are not able to return home if the emergency trapped you out of the house. It is also considered smart to assemble a PET GO KIT containing food, supplies, toys, vaccination records and any medications used by your pets. This kit can be stored, ready to be loaded up and go. This reduces the time and effort required to pull together supplies when you may only have minutes to leave home.

Finally, and potentially most importantly, we need to remember the needs of family members who have a disability or lack mobility. These family members are more affected by disaster and loss of services than others. For example, the local accessibility services that might normally be available for transporting those who lack mobility may not be there to help. A disaster-caused break in transportation services may require that alternative evacuation plans for the effected family member be developed. The first step is to contact local paratransit services and discuss their plan for servicing the community during a disaster. Also contact the Red Cross in your community. As the local shelter provider, Red Cross wants to be aware of any special requirements of residents in their area. If a service animal is going to be involved, can they handle that situation? What medical or support supplies will be available at the shelter? Any that are not available, will need to be packed in your emergency “Go Bag”.

Responsibility for family safety and security can be difficult during a disaster. Add to that the responsibility for preparing or managing a farm business and the burden can become an overwhelming. To reduce the potential for bearing such a burden, preparedness planning which assesses and builds family resiliency by addressing the unique needs of your family needs to be completed.

The Do1Thing website is dedicated to providing a monthly opportunity for improving personal and family preparedness.

Did you find this article useful?