This post is by Dede O’Rourke. Ms. O’Rourke works at Commander, Navy Installations Command’s Warfighter and Family Services for Joint Base Anacostia/Bolling. She is a Work and Family Life Consultant.
“What if?” — It’s a question that always gets families thinking when I talk to them about preparing for a deployment. What if there is an earthquake or a storm while your spouse is deployed? Emergencies and disasters can strike anywhere, anytime, with little or no warning. They affect hundreds of thousands of people every year. What if it happens to you and your family, or to your family while you are deployed?
To make sure you are prepared, you and your family should develop a family emergency plan. It’s a good way to ensure everyone knows what to do when there is an emergency. Commander, Navy Installations Command has family emergency plans you can download to help you address concerns such as caring for very young and very old family members, caring for your pets, protecting your property and retaining critical financial and insurance records.
When a disaster or emergency happens, your family may not be together. As part of your plan, pick places to meet and make sure that you have contact information for everyone. Depending on the type of emergency, you may shelter in place, move to a shelter or safe haven, or evacuate. These arrangements should also be a part of your plan.
Do not forget to include contact information for your home, work, school and installation. In addition, identify an out-of town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. And do not forget to provide email addresses. If you cannot get through on the phone, email is another option to get in touch with your family and command. If for some reason your family is unable to reach you, ensure they have a place or a person to contact to find out whether the family is safe.
The Navy has a system to find out if Sailors and families are safe, where they are and how to reach them if they need help. It’s called Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS). Checking in with NFAAS should be part of a plan. Before a deployment, Sailors and families should log on to the site to ensure their contact information is up to date.
Preparing for an emergency also includes making a kit of emergency supplies. You need enough supplies for every family member for a minimum of three days. The main items to have in your kit include water, food, and first aid supplies. Depending on your family, you may also need special items for babies, prescription medications, or supplies for your pets. Keep your family emergency plan with your emergency supplies kit.
Deployments are a demanding time for a family. Don’t add the unnecessary stress of having the “what if” questions unanswered. Create a plan, and then talk about it before a deployment. You’ll be glad you did.