By Marc Fisher, Region 5 Regional Emergency Management Specialist
Being a parent is a tough but rewarding job; for single parents the job is a bit tougher, but just as rewarding. Being a single dad means that my two boys are wholly depended upon me and the decisions I make, for better or worse. Often the default parent for care is mom, but as more and more fathers (self included) become involved in their children’s lives these norms are being challenged.
Fathers can be equally tasked and are capable of caring for children throughout the parenthood spectrum. Because of this, one issue that is always concerning for me is preparedness and if we (my children and I) are reasonably prepared for disaster. Being an emergency manager one might think that I am extremely prepared like the survivalists seen on television shows. Unfortunately, the reality is like many others today, my challenge is preparing alone. I cannot afford a bunker to take refuge in if needed and I don’t have a generator to power my home if I lose power; in reality I’m like every other parent out there and I must make do with the items within my means.
Many of my friends ask me what a single dad and emergency manager do to prepare his family? My answer is to create a culture of preparedness in my family by utilizing teaching points as often as possible, practicing and making preparedness fun and routine. It’s pretty easy and anyone can do it. It just takes remembering the final goal, moving along the spectrum from completely unprepared (winging it) to having an idea of what you will do in different situations. It doesn’t cost much to have a plan, but its priceless when planning ahead works when needed.
Preparing on the Cheap
Getting prepared doesn’t require a trip to a bank or raiding your kid’s college fund. Preparedness is as simple as having a plan, writing it down, discussing it as a family and placing it somewhere safe (and accessible). Everyone starts somewhere and the most basic ways to prepare are within the reach of most Americans. The most important item for survival is also the most accessible, that item…water. Many basic preparedness supplies can be found everyday in our homes. They range from water in a container (think gallon milk jug) to duct tape and Ziploc bags. These items are standard in most households and for the cost of a soda you and your family can start getting prepared.
Exposing the Wizard
Certain events in nature can be worrisome for anyone when it’s a mystery. I take the time to try to explain to my kids what things are and why they seem scary. During a storm, thunder and lightning can be pretty frightening but I try to expose the wizard of lighting by teaching my boys the “Flash to Bang” method of counting until you hear thunder. With this method the kids learn that thunder travels a mile in five seconds. Now every time they see lightning instead of being afraid, they count and it’s become a game (whether they understand distance or not). I try to do this as often as possible because kids fear what they don’t understand and this gives them and myself less to worry about.
If It’s Raining, We’re Training
During the spring when storms are at their worst, I found training is best. When storms hit, we grab the dog and head to the safe area in our house. Each of my kids has a mini “go kit” comprised of recycled bags that I get from the grocery store, dollar store first aid kits, flashlights, duct tape, books and a favorite toy. We also pack non-perishable snacks and water. Each of us has a headlamp that we wear and take turns checking our supplies in our basement (known to the kids as the fort). In doing this, I am teaching them about routines, checking our supplies and making it kind of a back yard experience, without the backyard. We also take care of our dog “The Mighty Niki” by having chew toys and grooming items to help keep her calm. Although each time and storm is different, generally speaking my kids gain more confidence and want to build up their kits, which unfortunately happens when we go shopping.
An Inch Becomes a Mile
As I said earlier preparedness starts with a plan and it costs nothing to make a plan. That plan can be as simple as who to call, where to go, and what to do if. The most basic supply needed is water, which is the simplest item to obtain. A visit to your local dollar store can bring you a wealth of items for one-time use events. Is my family worth more than a dollar?? Of course, but what we know is that most people don’t have anything and are expecting the government to come in and save them. Unfortunately, this may not happen and in the end all we have is ourselves. To build my kit, each time I visit a store, instead of buying things that I want, I buy what I need. Need means granola bars or extra dog food instead of gummy bears or candy. Inch by inch I’m slowly building my kit one item at a time. So the next time you go to the store and you grab the Haagen Dazs, ask yourself “can this save me in an emergency?” Maybe, you will reach for an energy bar instead. Please keep in mind that you may not have everything today, but you’ll have more than yesterday and that can make all of the difference.
A Four Letter Word
I do these things not to be a hero, not to be famous, not because it’s what the military taught me, but because of my kids. We all have someone we do these things for whether it be a grandmother, pet, partner or child. In the end, the reason for preparedness can boil down to a four letter word…LOVE.