Easy Ways to Protect Your Family Before An Emergency Strikes             By Laura & Janet Greenwald

 

If you knew that spending 15 minutes right now could save the people you love in the event of an emergency, would you do it?   Of course you would! 

During recent disasters like hurricanes, fires and tornadoes, one need has come to the forefront more than any other -- the need to get a victim's identification, medical history and emergency contact information as quickly as possible.    

At Home

You spend all your time taking care of others, but what about you?  If someone had to locate your contacts in a medical emergency, could they do it?  Grab your address books (we know you have more than one!), your cell phone, PDA, Filofax and anything else you usually carry with you and letís get organized.

First, letís create a list of emergency information for each member of the family including: 

  • Their name, age, address, phone number

  • The name of their primary physician

  • Allergies and any prescription drugs the person is taking

  • Chronic medical conditions and, anything else you would want an emergency physician to know.

  • At least three emergency contacts for each person:

  • 1. For yourself, list your spouseís home, cell and work numbers, for your spouse, list your numbers.  For your children, both you and your spouseís numbers.

  • 2. Next for each person, the name and contact numbers of a nearby relative or good friend;

  • 3. Then on each list, include the name and numbers of an out of state relative or friend.  In case of regional emergency, you can often call long distance, even though you can't call locally.  A distant friend can be a touch point for the entire family until communication is restored.

Make several copies of each list and place them: 

  • In an easy to find place near your main home phone

  • Place each child's list in his permanent school record, in addition to his regular emergency card.  Place your and your spouseís list in your personnel files at work with your other emergency information.  If you donít feel comfortable having it in your file, consider placing it in a sealed envelope to be opened only in an emergency, or put the information on a password protected CD.

  • With the person you chose to be your emergency contact.

  • You can also put this list in your computer, or PDA so you have it with you in an emergency.  

Don't forget to ask the people you want to use as contacts, for their permission to use them.  Some people might not feel comfortable having to be relied upon in an emergency and itís better to know that now! 

Every six months put a reminder in your calendar to review and update all of your emergency plans.  

Once you get your own contacts in order, book some time with your parents, kids and the other people that you love, to make sure, in case of a medical emergency involving them, that a hospital knows how to contact you. 

Home/Cell Phone 

Clearly indicate your emergency contacts on your main telephone speed dial.  Donít use the person's name, use their relationship to you, ie. "parents", "sister", "husband", "work".  Then do the same thing on your cell phone.   After the London bombings a paramedic came up with the idea of putting "ICE" (in case of emergency) on your cell phone, with the number of your emergency contact.  You can do that on your cell or simply put in "husband" or "home" like you did above.  Make sure you do the same thing on your PDA, laptop or anything else you usually carry.

Protecting Children 

In the days after 9/11, 2,100 children were left in daycare because their parents had never indicated on their daycare emergency cards, who should be called, if the parents were unable to get to them to pick them up.   

Choose someone you would want them to be with, until you can get to them and make sure that information is on the childís emergency list and on his schoolís emergency contact card.  

Since children don't carry wallets or drivers licenses, make sure that you put Shoewallets on younger children (see information later in this article) and that older children have emergency information in their backpack, on their cell phone or anything else they carry with them. 

Emergency Plan 

Make sure each member of the family knows what to do in an emergency, especially if you can't get back home, or if your home is uninhabitable. 

Appoint a special place for everyone to meet away from home, and make sure everyone knows who your out of state point of contact is, in case you need to relay messages to each other.  Keep that plan with the emergency lists, in an easy-to-find place.  Some families have even put their emergency plans on wallet-sized cards, one for each member of the family. 

Safeguarding Copies of Vital Information 

As victims of Hurricane Katrina found, when you have to function after a major disaster, being without your driver's license, birth certificate, social security card or bank account numbers can be a huge problem.    

Make a copy of all of your and your children's vital records and put them in bank safe deposit box or other secure place, preferably in two different locations.  One of them should be in another city or state if possible.   

If youíre concerned about the security of hard copy documents, scan them onto a password protected CD, and store those instead of the hard copies. 

Away From Home 

Thousands of people a year end up as trauma patients in the emergency room after being hit by a car while crossing the street near their home or while jogging. So carrying contact information with you while youíre walking or jogging isnít just a good idea, itís as necessary as your running shoes!  Most accidents happen just a few blocks from home, just where people feel comfortable doing errands or going out for a run without their driver's license or other ID. 

A Shoewallet, a small lightweight wallet you attach to your shoes, holds an emergency contact card, and a license/credit card/key, guaranteeing your info is always right where you need it. More Information On Shoewallet

If you have a company ID badge, slip an emergency contact card into it for those quick runs out of the office for meetings or a snack.   

Another way to make sure hospitals and emergency personnel can find your next of kin in an emergency, is to register your contact information free of charge at the Next of Kin Registry.  NOKR is an internationally recognized resource designed to put you and your family together in case you are unconscious or unable to speak or give consent for treatment.  www.nokr.org 

Special Needs 

If you or your family members have chronic medical conditions, you need to make your medical history and records easy to find in an emergency.  For the seniors in your life, make a plan for you and your relatives to take turns checking in with them every other day, to make sure everything is all right.  It might also be a good idea to invest in an emergency monitoring system with a button they can press in case of a fall or other emergency. 

For Alzheimer's patients, those with dementia or the mentally disabled you might have to use a combination of these tips.  A Shoewallet would provide emergency ID in a place the patient won't be able to disturb.  The Alzheimer's Association has a wonderful program called "Safe Return, which provides a bracelet and special tips in protecting patients who wander.  And signing the person up on the Next of Kin Registry, gives an extra layer of protection in case they become lost or hurt. 


Creating an emergency plan is just ONE way to keep you and your family safe.  We have many more...

How about Grab it and Go Forms to capture medical history, insurance, financial and vital documents for every member of the family, that can be filled out by hand, or by computer, secured and ready whenever you need them?  Or customizable emergency action plans, home inventory, tips, checklists and  printable wallet cards.   Check out Ready In 10 Today!

  
 


 

 

       


Laura and Janet Greenwald, are the founders of The Next of Kin Education Project and Stuf Productions.  The mother & daughter team were not only instrumental in enacting three Next of Kin Laws in California and Illinois, but created the Seven Steps to Successful Notification System, which teaches quick, easy, next of kin notification skills for trauma patients to hospitals like Dallasí Methodist Medical Center. 

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