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Tragedies like the bombing at the Boston Marathon are devastating on many levels. They affect not only those directly struck by the event, but also the entire population watching the situation unfold. With social media and 24/7 news reporting endlessly, it's impossible to miss what's going on—and it's pretty tough not to get a little concerned around your own family's safety. Here are six things you can do to prepare your family (and hopefully get a little peace of mind) should an emergency occur.
1. Have a Communication Plan
Since phones and email can be hard to access during a disaster, your communication plan should include a family member or friend who lives far out of town (and therefore not likely to be struck by the emergency). After the event, everyone in your family should contact that person with their status. This will help make sure nobody goes unaccounted for, and it will also cut frantic dialing down to only one number.
2. Give Schools and Caregivers All Contact Info
From teachers to coaches to day cares, everyone who is directly responsible for the care of your child should know how to access you. This includes your email address as well as home, work, mobile and pager numbers. Also provide caregivers with the name and information of your out-of-town emergency contact.
3. Know Where to Meet
In case your home becomes inaccessible, agree on a place to meet that's far from where you actually live. It should be somewhere you can actually stay at overnight—like a friend or family member's home. It'll unite your family and also ensure you have safe lodging. Shelters and hotels are also possibilities. If you have pets, be sure to take them into consideration: Some hotels and most shelters don't allow them.
Whether an emergency renders you confined to your home or forces you to quickly evacuate it, it's smart to have an emergency kit on hand. This could be a duffel bag or even a trash can—anything that's easy to carry. In it, make sure you have first aid supplies, prescription medications, nonperishable food, water bottles, a change of clothing and a sleeping bag for everyone in the family, a battery-powered television or radio with extra batteries, cash, and copies of important papers like birth certificates, passports and licenses.
5. Copy Essential Documents
If anything happens to your home, make sure your important documents aren't ruined as well. Copies of powers of attorney, insurance policies, your will, life insurance beneficiary designations, insurance policies, and marriage and birth certificates should all be kept somewhere far from your home. Consider a safe deposit box or a trusted friend or family member who lives far away.
6. Know Your School's Plan
After an emergency, schools are generally inundated with calls, so make sure you know what's going on beforehand. Find out whether they'll keep the kids at school until someone authorized picks them up (a parent or designated adult), or if the kids can be sent home on their own. If an authorized adult (say, a babysitter or an aunt) is necessary, make sure that person has been cleared by the school and won't have trouble finding and taking home your kids.