Family Separation Plans
I'll never forget being a senior in high school when the Twin Towers came crashing down on September 11, 2001. Not only were we all overwhelmed by the depth of the tragedy, my sister and I were 45 minutes from home, in a city that was being evacuated. I saw that day what many people experience not only when there are national tragedies of that magnitude, but any time there is an emergency—the chaos that ensues when families are separated from one another.
We were successfully united with our parents (after spending many hours in gridlocked traffic with some extra passengers in tow), but what would have helped in this situation is a family emergency plan. We can't always prevent emergencies, but as a parent or caretaker, we can help prepare our children so they know what to do if separated from us during a chaotic situation.
Whether its circumstances like a bomb scare, or attack or a less catastrophic situation like getting separated amidst a big crowd, here are few questions to consider:
- If separated in a large place, do you have a designated meeting spot? It is helpful to think of a location that could be present in multiple scenarios. For example, you might decide to always meet in front of a particular set of bathrooms, which would be applicable at a Mall, a festival, a grocery store, etc.
- Do kids know whom they can ask for help? You may choose to tell the children in your care if they're separated from you to ask a person with a nametag (i.e., an employee of wherever they are, a policeman, etc.) or perhaps a parent with children for assistance.
- Do your children know basic contact information? Children should know, depending on their age, their first and last names, your full name, your phone number and an address.
- Do older children know where to go? If your older children drive or usually participate in car pools, talk with them about what they should do in the case of an emergency (i.e., should they go home, pick up a younger sibling or wait for siblings at a particular location?).
In the digital age, communicating when separated has become easier, but these communications are not always a given. Emergency plans should include contingencies if cell phones, email, etc., are not available.
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