Saturday, September 16, 2006

Building an Emergency Kit for the Home
Final Thoughts

Here are three intangible items to "stash" in your emergency prepardness kit:

A. Designated central contact and memorized contact information

Did you watch any of the news coverage about Hurricane Katrina and the effects of the storm? Weren't you touched by the sight of tearful mothers who finally got to hold children after being separted from each other for months? Rescue workers frantically tried to re-unite scattered families, but it took a long time before the process was complete.

Equally heart-wrenching were the stories of adult children who had moved away from the Gulf to start their own families and who were desparate to know if parents, siblings, and extended relatives had survived. In many cases, parents were unable to ascertain if their grown children and their grandchildren were still alive.

Sitting in our peaceful homes, its hard to imagine that we could ever be out of touch with our loved ones, particulary with our children. However, Katrina and other events have proved that this can happen to even the most caring and careful of families.

One method to prepare for this eventuality is to ask a relative to be a "central contact" for members of your immediate family to call. Perhaps, you might choose a relative who lives a bit away from you, so that he or she would not be likely to be caught up in a local disaster alaong with your family. Parents and children should memorize the name, phone number, and, for those who are old enough, the address of this relative, as well. Instruct all family members to check in with this person as soon as they can in the aftermath of an emergency.

The central contact can coordinate efforts to re-unite the members of your immediate family. He or she can reassure you, "Yes, Junior called. He's ok. He's at the Red Cross Station on Second Street."

Younger children can give this name and number to emergency workers, who will call the designated relative if they cannot find you.

Also, if you are incapacitated by the event and are unable to care for your children yourself, the contact can provide emergency workers with the names of other local relatives or friends who can care for your children.

In setting this up, we don't want to fill the heads of children or teens with the idea that we might not be there for them in an emergency. So, it's best to take a casual approach to learning this and other safety information. Teach them how to be prepared, but not fearful. Then, if it looks like something like Katrina is headed your way, calmly remind family members that this relative is on hand to help.

B. A clear head and a faithful heart.

God gave fear to us for a reason. In an emergency, healthy fear motivates us to take action on the behalf of our family's safety.

However, it's all too tempting to let our healthy fear escalate into panic and faithless terror -- or at least that's easy for me to do. When we panic, we find it hard to make wise decisions, and we are ineffective in dealing with situations. If we are parents and we totally fritz out, our children may place pressure on themselves to take on the parent role. Or, they may freak out themselves. Panic is contagious, spreading itself throughout out family and possibly even influencing friends and neighbors, as well.

If we can still our hearts and seek God's peace, then we will be able to help others calm down, as well. The whole process of calming our emotions will be easier if we have already hidden God's word in our heart and if we are in the habit of seeking God in all the little joys and the little trials of daily life. Faith is somewhat like a muscle, which gets stronger if you use it on a daily basis.

If you find yourself clinging to the top of your house, watching the flood waters rise, you won't have access to a Bible. How grateful you will be if you have a storehouse of strengthening verses that you can draw out of your heart! That doesn't mean that a person who isn't spiritually prepared shouldn't also cry out to our merciful God for help. But, how much better it is to be solid with God before an emergency arises!

Once an immediate crisis passes, we can still be tempted through our emotions. This is especially true if the after-effects of an emergency persist for a bit. Though a blizzard may have stopped or a hurricane may have passed, our lives may still be disrupted for days or weeks or months.

In such conditions, we will be fatigued from the strain on our emotions and our bodies. We will be out of our normal routine, and we may not have as fresh or as nourishing a diet as usual. Our sleep quality may be poor. We also may not have access to many comforts that we usually take for granted. While we will probably be able to take care of the basics, we may not be able to maintain the level of hygiene that our modern bodies are used to. We may not be able to exercise or even to get fresh air. Our children may not have a way to let off their youthful vigor, and that bottled up energy can make them restless and irritable. We could be mourning the loss of people, pets, farm animals, or property.

We may be stranded for a few days with our family inside our home, with little or no contact with the daily world. We may wind up in a crowded emergency shelter, with other people who are frightened, who are hungry and thirsty, who are out of their normal routine, who would give anything for a nice shower, and who want to go home just as badly as we do. Some of these people will take their uneasy feelings out on us or on the emergency workers who are trying to help.

How easy it would be in such situations to be grumpy, If we can manage to stay polite, calm, and cheerful in spite of our trials, we will be a positive influence on our families and, even, on people outside of our family. Our children will take their cues from us. Even fellow evacuees in an emergency shelter may be soothed if we keep a helpful attitude.

Understand, we're not talking about being fake, but about disciplining our emotions. You will not be able to keep up a courageous front by your own power. You will need God's help to sustain you. It may be hard to find time for peaceful conversation with God, but you can likely find some way to pour out your feelings to Him. Perhaps, you might even be able to calmly talk out your feelings with someone else, when appropriate. You might need to have a good cry with God or family members to clear things out and give you a fresh perspective.

Even with your children, it's ok to humbly admit, "Yes, I'm a little afraid, but I am giving my fear to God. This verse helps me to trust him," or to say, "I am sad that our house burned down, just like you are." This opens the door for children to express their own fears and sorrow and it also models for them how to deal with hard times in a faithful way.
The goal is to discipline, rather than to deny, our emotions. We recognize and work through our feelings. But, we do not let our feelings control us. We school ourselves so that our actions, our words, and our decisions are governed by faith.

Many of us will never face a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina or the World Trade Center bombings. For that we can be grateful. More often, we will merely be inconvienced by a power outage or by being snowed in. When I was a child, without adult responsiblity and unmindful of the dire things that can happen in this world, I had a blast in situations like this. I have fantastic memories of family time spent during and after a hurricane -- and this is despite the fact that a tree split in two and one half fell on our house! Later on, we moved from Florida to Georgia. From our Georgia days, I have wonderful memories of camping out in the den during several ice and snow storms, the kind that paralyze Southen cities because they are rare, messy, and we don't ahve the equipment on hand to deal with them. But, to me, every moment of a winter storm was fun! If you treat occasions like this as family adventures, your children will, too.

C. Steadfast Home Keeping

Even in an emergency, you are still keeper of your home. If all you can do is neaten and brighten your little corner of an emergency shelter, do it. If you have children, enlist their help, as well. At the very least, they can roll up sleeping bags and wash their faces and comb their hair. Keeping some sort of domestic routine and making as homey an atmosphere as possible will give you something positive to do, and it will benefit your family, as well. Who knows? Your example could even inspire fellow evacuees.

Of course, if you are injured or sick during an emergency, you need to concentrate first on getting well. And, even if you are well, do not get frustrated if your attempts to keep things homey go awry. This is no time to be a perfectionist! Just do the best you can.

I read a letter on Flylady's site that has truly convicted me. It was written by an American woman whose family lived in a middle eastern country when she was a child. Her father started working there when things were fairly peaceful, but the relationship between America and this country deteriorated. As tensions escalated and violence towards Americans increased, her parents made plans to get the family to safety. But, it was not easy for civilian Americans to get out of the country. Her father was forced to keep working as normal until he could figure out a way to get them all back home.

Meanwhle, this woman's mother was determined to steadfastly keep her home as a safe shelter for her family. No matter what was going on outside the doors of her house, she did not let the conflict deter her from loving her family. She always set a lovely table. She cooked and cleaned as usual, and she added the little touches to a house that make it a home. The family always talked and played cards after dinner. They kept this up until the father was able to find military transport out of the country.

Because her father remained calm and her mother kept an orderly home, the woman who wrote the letter and her siblings hardly knew what danger they were in. She realizes now what courage it took for her parents to keep their family life so stable. But, all she remembers from her child's point of view is the happy times they shared. She credits this largely to her mother's steadfast home keeping.

I would like to have met that woman's mother. Wouldn't you? What a woman she must have been!

Domestic matters seem like such a small thing in the world's eyes. But, some of the bravest, most resourceful women in history were those who steadfastly kept home in the hardest of circumstances.



Wendy WaterBirde said...

This was such a lovely post Elizabeth. So often folks neglect the more intangible aspects of being prepared, but they are perhaps the most important ones of all! I especially enjoyed here your ending story of the keeping at home in crisis. I will probably qoute it on one of my blogs if you don't mind : )

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, Wendy Birdie. You're quite welcome to quote the story about the keeper at home in the middke eastern country, though I read it somewhere else.