Guest Blog By Emma Bailey
Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. Every family should know what to do to stay safe during crisis or emergency. That’s the message of this year’s National Preparedness Month, beginning September 1st – while your emergency strategies will be unique to your family’s needs, it’s important to recognize a few basic steps and practice how you will communicate and maintain your plan. September is also National Baby Safety Month, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can take charge of your family’s safety and take action if disaster strikes.
Making a Family Disaster Plan
A working family disaster plan can be the key to keeping your head during a crisis. First, find out what disasters and safety threats are common in your area and discuss them with your family. Create simple plans your family can follow in the event of an emergency, including identifying the safest places in your home for each type of disaster and choosing a few places where your family can meet up if you need to leave or are outside of the home. Ideally, you should have one meeting place near your home and another somewhere else in your neighborhood. Plan out safe evacuation routes from anywhere in your home, and be sure to do family safety drills at least once a month to ensure that everyone knows how to get to safety.
If you should need to put your disaster plan into practice, it’s important to know how to guide your child to safety, especially if they’re very young. Children are very perceptive and tend to follow their parents’ lead, so do your best to remain calm and in control at all times. Gently talk your child through your disaster plan as you’re putting it into action, which helps to keep them calm and focused on what they’re doing rather than on what’s happening around them. Once the emergency has passed, be sure to focus on your child’s emotional needs – they may be very upset and struggle to understand what’s happening, and your priority is making them feel safe and helping them talk about what they’ve experienced and how they’re feeling.
Keeping Babies and Children Safe
While a family disaster plan is essential, the reality is that many safety risks occur outside of disaster situations. To make sure even your youngest children are safe and prepared for whatever may come, here are some additional tips to keep in mind.
First and foremost, you’ll need to be vigilant about keeping your home free of small objects, which can quickly become choking hazards in the presence of a baby. Find a safe place to store items like candies, coins, batteries, buttons, toys, medications and other potential hazards. To keep baby’s crib safe, use only a firm, tight-fitting mattress, with no pillows, quilts or other bedding that could become a suffocation risk.
And though it may seem impossible for anyone to sleep through the loud sound of a fire alarm, researchers have found that many children aren’t easily woken by the high-pitched noise of an alarm. To keep an eye on your little one day or night, consider installing a wireless IP camera (which can be checked remotely from a smartphone) or even a wearable wristband or “smart” sensor clip that can be attached to their diaper or worn as a sock. And of course, always install child safety locks on cabinets and drawers to prevent them from being opened.
You should also learn how to respond to common medical situations like choking, drowning, burns and more. Even better, take classes to become certified in infant and child CPR. Remember to keep your baby safe while sleeping, too. Put your baby to sleep flat on their back on a firm mattress, and never bed-share: bed-sharing is the leading cause of death among babies three months and younger.
Every day, about two children age 14 or younger fall victim to unintentional drowning. It’s a serious problem, but one that can be mitigated with proper water safety. Never let your child near a pool or body of water unattended, and be sure to give them your undivided attention. Don’t let younger children near water without a life preserver. Most importantly, learn to recognize the signs of drowning: unlike in television and movies, real drowning victims cannot call out for help and typically make a very little commotion.
Additionally, create a list of emergency contacts and post it in a very visible area within your home. Talk to your child about the list and explain who they should call when they need help. As your child gets older, you can also begin to give them more information and responsibility. You can even begin to involve them in creating your family’s emergency plans, which will keep them engaged and ensure that they take the process more seriously.
When it comes to keeping your children and your family safe, preparation is key. By creating, reviewing and practicing safety plans, you can ensure that your children are calmer and better equipped to deal with any emergency that may arise. Pair these plans with the tips above to ensure that your home is a safe and secure place for your whole family.
About the Blogger: Emma Bailey is a freelance writer and blogger based in Chicago, IL. A Midwest transplant from the state of California, she typically writes on the personal finance and safety issues that are closest to her heart. Her interests include kayaking, watching horror movies, and finding perfectly ripe avocados. You can find her on Twitter @emma_bailey90