When we lived in Southern California, I signed our daughter up for a really sweet little Montessori preschool in the Conejo Valley (this, of course, after researching about 15 different schools and rating them according to cleanliness, safety, teacher/student ratio, types of activities, lunch options, disciplinary guidelines, and appearance - but I digress...). The teacher was loving and engaging, and we especially loved that the children spent as much time outside as possible. Of course, the organizational structure of the Montessori method appealed to me greatly as well.
Imagine my surprise when the list of required parent-supplied items came home, and I was asked to send in...an earthquake kit. Yup. You SoCal readers will not be at all shocked at this request, but I was pretty spooked. Where does one purchase an earthquake kit? What's in it? What happens to it if there actually IS an earthquake?? Buying the thing didn't put any of my fears to rest, and it was such an oddity to this Southern girl that it is one of the few things that I have hung onto well past it's expiration date, just because it's fascinating history to me. Check out the package:
Gosh, I felt so much better about dropping our daughter off every morning. But despite the dire message, it did illustrate a smart commitment on the part of the schools in the area. Earthquakes, of course, are real out there (as are fires and mudslides), and sticking our collective heads in the sand about that reality would not serve a class of 2-year-olds particularly well in a time of disaster. Although not likely, it could happen that my husband or I could be stuck and unable to get to her for a period of time. The children and their teachers should have the means to provide for basic needs in the interim.
September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, and I have been thinking about the earthquake kit as I realize that our family is not especially well-prepared in this area. In Tennessee, we have the ever-present threat of tornadoes. In recent years, flooding has taken a toll, and ice storms are often a fun surprise too. Unfortunately, a recent CNN article notes that 6 out of 10 families in America do not have an emergency plan in place. Our family, at least, has communicated that we should all meet at our mailbox if we get separated, and I have about six gallons of water, flashlights and batteries stored in the laundry room. But that's not nearly enough. If something truly major hit our area, or even if we had a fire or carbon monoxide leak, we would not be adequately prepared. I have wondered since our California days why we don't have "tornado kits" for schoolkids here.
Fortunately, the good folks at FEMA have a great website to help people plan absolutely everything out, and get the kids on board while you do it, too: www.ready.gov. I can't begin to cover all of the information they include (the topics range from hurricanes, to flu pandemics, to terrorist attacks), so I would just strongly urge you to take a few minutes this Labor Day weekend and read through their suggestions and tips. They've thought of everything: basic needs, caring for the elderly, pets, volunteering in your community - you name it. It's actually a little overwhelming, so if nothing else download the "Are You Ready?" checklists for both kids and adults. It's important to talk to kids about this process and have them help with gathering items and planning, and the ready.gov site has some good graphics and games (even app suggestions) to help kids understand the concept of preparedness in a less frightening way.
And speaking of apps, why not download the Weather Alert USA app ($3.99) and/or FEMA app (free) while you're at it? Is it slightly annoying to hear that weather alert signal while you're out shopping or in a meeting? Yes. Is it helpful to know if a tornado is coming and you need to get yourself to that "safe spot"? Absolutely.
We're not heading out of town for the holiday, so tonight at the dinner table I think I'll spring my weekend preparedness plans on my family - I know they'll be so thrilled. But we'll work together to get key items like extra batteries and non-perishable food in a secure location, and maybe I'll even open up that old earthquake kit just for giggles. What plan, if any, does your family have for disaster preparedness? Have you talked with your family about what needs to happen in an emergency? Share with me in the comments.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?