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Why Grandparents Should Have a Disaster Plan

Preparations Also May Prove Important in Family Emergencies


Families may require help from grandparents during floods and other natural disasters.

Families may require help from grandparents during floods and other disasters.

Photo © Patti McConville / Getty

Every family needs to have a disaster plan, although only about half of us do. Grandparents may be overlooking something equally important: putting our grandchildren in our disaster plans. Grandparents who live near grandchildren could find themselves caring for grandchildren in the event of a disaster or even a family emergency. Here are some steps to ensure that you are able to help out in times of need:

  • Keep a file containing the Social Security numbers and insurance information for your grandchildren. Keep insurance information up to date.
  • Be sure that you are on the list to pick up grandchildren from school and day care facilities.
  • Keep an emergency supply of kid-friendly foods that don't need refrigeration, such as dry cereal, nuts, granola-type bars, canned fruits and any other foods that your grandchildren will eat. Add powdered or evaporated milk for emergencies. Watch expiration dates and replace foods when necessary. Be sure you have a manual can-opener.
  • If your grandchildren are babies or toddlers, don't let your stock of baby supplies run low. Be sure to keep formula, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, diaper ointment and baby food on hand.
  • Keep a supply of children's acetominophen and any other commonly used medications. Prescription meds that your grandchildren may need are more problematical, as these are more closely controlled, but try to have those on hand as well.
  • Keep extra clothes for grandchildren on hand. These can be hand-me-downs, inexpensive clothing from discount stores or even freshly laundered garage sale bargains. Opt for knits and loose-fitting garments that will be more forgiving of growth spurts.
  • Purchase flashlights that are powered by hand cranks. You won't have to yell at the grandchildren to conserve battery power, since kids find flashlights irresistible in the best of times.
  • Be sure to have a well-supplied first aid kit, plenty of hand sanitizer and lots of water on hand. Most experts suggest three gallons of water per person.
  • Keep disaster supplies in one place, and resist using them for everyday shortages. It's especially important that grandparents not have to search the entire house to come up with appropriate supplies.
Communication with other family members will also be of prime importance:
  • Be sure that your home has at least one corded phone, because corded phones will work when the power goes out.
  • If you don't have a smartphone with Internet access, consider getting one. In case of emergency, that may be your only source of news.
  • You can charge your phone by using your car charger. If you don't have a car, you should invest in a solar/wind charger.
  • Learn how to text if you don't already know, because text messages will often get through when phone calls fail.
  • Designate a family member who lives out of your area as the command center operator. If disaster strikes in your area, family members can check in with that individual and get updates on all of the family without having to try to get calls through to each family member.
In addition to these special precautions, here are some other directives that are especially appropriate for grandparents:
  • Avoid letting your car get low on gas. If you get the call to pick up a grandchild in an emergency, you don't want to have to stop for gas first.
  • You can't care for your grandchildren if you don't take care of yourself, so don't run low on your own prescription meds, but keep them out of the reach of the grandchildren.
Here are some other suggestions from grandparents who have lived through disasters:
  • If you run out of water, you can get water from your hot water heater by using the garden hose connection near the bottom. You'll need to open a hot water tap in the house or else a vacuum will form and prevent the water from draining.
  • Stash some cash in your home so that you will able to buy supplies if credit-card systems go down.
  • Know how to turn off the gas and water to your house in case of emergencies.
  • Know your neighbors and have their phone numbers, including cell numbers, so that you can call and check on your house if disaster strikes while you are away from home.
  • Purchase a crank-operated radio. Some models can also be used to charge cell phones.
  • Purchase an inverter that you can hook up to your car to power essential items. Do avoid charging non-essential items as you may drain your car battery.
  • Consider purchasing a deep-cycle battery to use with your inverter so that you don't have to risk your car battery at all.
  • Purchase inexpensive headlights--flashlights that are worn on the head--to free up the hands for doing tasks such as preparing food and changing diapers.

Without minimizing the suffering of some, it's helpful to remember that most families survive most disasters with nothing more painful than memories of life off the grid. And those can be good memories, especially if grandparents have plenty of supplies for non-wired play, such as puzzles, coloring books, playing cards and board games. Pick up a few new items while you're putting together your emergency supplies, so that you have all the bases covered.

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