As any parent knows, quality time with our families is fleeting and precious. The last thing we want to do in our rare moments together is talk about worst-case scenarios: those looming possibilities of violence or danger that we hope never occur—but know sometimes do. Whether it’s a mass shooting, a devastating hurricane, or an invasive cyber threat, we can’t escape the reality that these things do happen, and they’re hard to talk about.
But we also love our families, and that’s got to come first. As someone who’s spent her career in homeland security and her home life raising three kids, managing disaster response across the nation and in her own home, I honestly believe we have an obligation to keep our families prepared for what may come. I know it can seem overwhelming, but that’s not an excuse to keep our heads in the sand. I’ve got some tips for how you and your family can start to get prepared so that you can focus on what really matters—spending time with the people you love.
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Talk It Out
Depending on the age of your kids, they probably know more about “scary things” than you think. You don’t have to go into gory detail. But you should acknowledge that yes, bad things happen. Ask them about their fears. Then, assure them that your family, with the help of these steps, is going to be as ready as possible, so that you’ll be managing your risks and ensuring the damage is as minimal as possible. Finally, map out some practical plans. Designate meeting places and communication plans in the event that cell phone service is interrupted.
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This is a great, active step that is so empowering because it allows your children to be part of a solution. Think about your home, the needs of your family members, and the essential items you’d want if you were confined to your house. Medications, dry foods, non-electronic games, and activities are a good starting point, but customize it for yourself, and make it fun—no one regrets a little chocolate in a blizzard.
This one’s pretty straightforward. For a number of reasons, it can be incredibly helpful to have a couple hundred dollars in cash (small bills) stored in the home. Don’t tell your teenagers and don’t use it for pizza delivery—it’s for emergencies!
Back It Up
It’s hard to imagine a world without internet access, but that’s the point of this one. Every family has its essential documents—birth certificates, passports, bank papers. You should have copies of them and that’s a good start. But those copies should not be stored with the originals—think about it! My best tip is to send hard copies of your essential documents to family members or loved ones outside your state. The idea is to have redundancies in your system so that if there’s a fault at one single point, it doesn’t amount to a complete failure.
Live Your Life
Think of it this way. There are parents who let their kids roam the neighborhood and parents who don’t allow their kids to exit the driveway. And all of those parents will end up in the ER eventually with a sprained ankle, or bad cut, or what have you. Risk is out there, and it’s part of living a rewarding, engaged life. You have to find your own balance, but you can’t prevent every bad thing from happening. So prepare your home and build up your defenses—then get out there, be part of your community, and keep doing the things you love.