It is winter time and the snow storms are plenty but we also have to contend with hurricanes, tornados, and other weather related events throughout the year. Having a child during a weather emergency can be difficult enough but having a child with special needs is even more challenging. Do you have an emergency plan in place should something happen?
When hurricane Irene hit in August 2011, I was terrified. Isabella was less than a year post Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). She was medically unstable child; her seizures were not controlled. She also has life threatening allergies to food. I thought I was prepared as the most we had ever lost power was a few hours. After 3 days without power, I realized just how ill prepared I was. I vowed to never be that unprepared again. Below are some of the things that I learned:
- What do you have planned for food? How will you cook it? When Hurricane Irene hit, I had one meal prepared (that night’s dinner) and 2 snacks. Isabella has life threatening allergies to food so all food is made from scratch. I am embarrassed to say that after dinner was eaten Isabella lived off of homemade cupcakes and chips. Yes, she ate that for 3 days. The grocery stores were closed because they had no power. Isabella couldn’t eat take out due to her allergies and I had no way to cook anything for her. It was terrifying. Now I make sure to have safe nonperishable foods for Isabella such as freeze dried pears, dry cereal, rice cakes, pretzels, raisins etc. We always have fresh fruits and raw veggies. Our grill always has gas so that we can cook on that as well. What is your plan?
- What do you have planned for medicine? Do you have enough medication filled and on hand? One of Isabella’s seizure medicines is compounded (made from scratch) and needs to be refrigerated. When Hurricane Irene hit, I had one bag of ice. I never thought that electricity would be out for a day never mind three days. Ice became scarce as stores would sell out as soon as they opened. My best friend went out of state to find ice for us. Now I make sure that I have plenty of ice on hand. I also have a small cooler to fill with ice just for her medication. I make sure to have enough medication on hand to last a few days. What is your plan?
- Do you have enough bottled water to not only drink but to wash up should something happen to the tap water? When Hurricane Irene happened, I had a gallon of water and half of a case. We went through that in a day. We were drinking it but I also used that to wash Isabella with. The hot water was gone due to no electricity. I took ice cold showers but there was no way Isabella was. Now I make sure that we have several cases of bottled water on hand. I also have baby wipes at all times. What is your plan for water and bathing?
- Do you have plenty of candles, flashlights and batteries? When Hurricane Irene hit, I had a big black cherry jar candle, a big linen jar candle and a dozen tea lights. We had two flashlights and no batteries. The jar candles lasted the entire time; however, to this day either smell makes me gag or I get a headache. Isabella hated the way they smelled but hated the dark more. Now we have a stockpile of unscented tea light candles, multiple flashlights and batteries on hand. Could you survive a day or three with your current supply?
- How will you stay warm? Heat is generally lost when the electricity goes out. When Hurricane Irene came, we had the air conditioner on until the power went out. Once the storm left, the air got cool so we didn’t have to deal with the heat or cold weather. As a precaution during a winter storm, I crank the heat. This ensures that our home will stay warmer longer should we lose electricity. When it is bitter cold out, the higher the heat inside, the longer it will take to cool. As a backup plan, where would you go if it got too cold in your home? Do you have family out of town? Is there an affordable motel or hotel you could stay at? Do you have access to a generator?
- In the event of a medical emergency, does your car have gas? Do you have a way to charge your phone? Can you get news on a radio? During Hurricane Irene, I kept my phone plugged in until the power went out. I had a car charger that I could use as well. I always make sure my car has plenty of gas because if electricity is lost, the pumps won’t work. I also got a battery operated radio so that I can get the latest updates without having to sit in my car. How will you have access to the outside world? How will you go somewhere in the event of an emergency?
These are just some of the things that I have learned from Hurricane Irene. We live in a world that is so centered on electricity that it is hard to fathom not having it for a day never mind three or more. Having any child during these situations can be challenging but having a child that is medically complex can be downright terrifying. The best thing to do is be as prepared as you possibly can. While I am embarrassed to admit how we survived those three days, I did the best I could with what I had. It was by no means ideal, however, we survived and I learned how be prepared for the next time.
What strategies do you have in place if a weather emergency occurred?
Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 7-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.