Emergency Prep from a Pro

Is your family ready for a crisis? What do your kids need to know and to whom should they turn in an emergency situation when they can’t reach you?

Whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster, Jeffrey Upperman, M.D., director of the Disaster Preparedness Project at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, is an expert with plenty of experience. He offers these four readiness tips for all of us:

1. Create Crisis Contacts. Contacts too close to home might be caught up in the disaster themselves, so have someone out of town in mind. Have your child chat on the phone with these folks monthly, so that they’re comfortable calling them if they cannot reach you in an emergency.

Meet your neighbors and get to know other parents at your child’s school. Enlist them as alternative contacts for your family. “Those people are going to be your local contacts,” explains Upperman. “If there’s an issue, it’s nice to have two or three numbers that you could call.”

Jot all these contacts down on a "business card" for your child to carry in a wallet or backpack.

2. Get Set at School. Talk to other parents and your kids’ teachers, and arrange for each of your children to have a “disaster buddy” whom they should stay close to in an emergency. Create a list of “helpers” – teachers, doctors, nurses, firefighters and police – to alert your children about whom they can approach and count on in an emergency. For young children, include photos or drawings of these kinds of “helpers.”

3. Have Supplies Ready at Home.
Review your disaster supply checklist – the items you need on hand in emergency situations that could last several days. Don’t have a list? Head online to the American Red Cross Web site, or the Department of Homeland Security Web site,

4. Role Play and Review. Act out what might happen if a disaster occurred while your child was at school or at home. Review your plan as a family every year, updating contact information, re-stocking supplies and making changes as needed.

--Christina Elston