The U.S. military prepares for many potential emergencies and can deploy rapidly around the world because of its high degree of readiness. Likewise, military families are accustomed to being ready to adjust to sudden orders or changes in expected plans. However, military families often face natural or manmade emergencies without their spouses since military personnel are frequently called to duty to prepare for or respond to the emergency, or they may already be deployed. This makes it critically important for military families to assemble a reliable network of support before an emergency, especially since they rarely have their extended family nearby. Here is how you can prepare your family for an emergency.
Follow the government’s emergency guidelines
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers in-depth information for emergency preparedness at Ready.gov and the Spanish version Listo.gov to help Americans get ready for emergencies. The guidelines offered through this resource are applicable to most manmade and natural disaster scenarios. Involve your children in these important steps, so they will be familiar with how to react to emergencies:
- Build an emergency supply kit. Be sure to review the additional lists for first-aid items and unique items specific to babies or adults in your household. Since you may not be home when an emergency occurs, assemble a kit for your car and workplace. Then be sure to review your kits every six months or so to ensure supplies are up-to-date.
- Make an emergency family plan. Military families are familiar with pre-deployment preparation, and some of the same paperwork is useful to include in your emergency plan. Your plan will require periodic review; be prepared to update it as your emergency contacts move away or you move to a new area. Remember, this mobility will also make it difficult for children to recall new names, addresses and phone numbers. Keep a copy of updated contact cards in their backpacks in addition to providing cards to childcare providers and schools.
- Be informed about potential emergencies and the appropriate responses. Military families may experience a variety of emergencies due to the diverse geographic locations of military installations. If you live overseas, be sure to learn local emergency procedures.
The Ready.gov site also includes valuable information specifically for military personnel at Military Family Preparedness.
Learn about emergency preparedness for your installation location
On the East Coast, hurricanes may be a threat; on the West Coast, earthquakes are a potential hazard; in the nation's mid-section, tornadoes threaten; in the North, there is always a chance for winter storms. Depending on where you are stationed, you may face volcanoes, tsunamis, flash floods, disease outbreak, terrorism or any number of manmade disasters. At each new duty station, military families should become familiar with the potential disasters that might occur in that area and learn how to prepare for those threats.
- Inquire about emergency procedures. When you check in to your new installation, be sure to ask your unit's emergency management representative about disaster preparedness for your specific location.
- Sign up for installation alerts. Most military bases have a mass notification system. Many provide a sign-up link on the installation website.
- Be aware of installation closures. During an emergency, access to and from the base may be limited or non-existent. Have pharmaceutical, shopping and gasoline alternatives in mind should this occur.
- Have a good map. While many people rely on a GPS system, it's always a good idea to include area maps in your emergency kit as a back-up. Plan an escape route ahead of time, and share that information with family members and friends. In an emergency, alternate routes may be necessary due to debris or traffic.
- Reference individual service branch guidelines. Military personnel may be required to check in with their unit after an emergency for accountability purposes. Specific information by branch is available at the following sites: Ready Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard.
- Research overseas emergency procedures.