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Public Health Essentials

A place to highlight the work of the Snohomish Health District as well as share health-related information and tips. Have an idea or question? Drop us a line at SHDInfo@snohd.org.

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Apr 18

H is for Have a Plan

Posted on April 18, 2022 at 11:27 AM by Kari Bray

This is Part 8 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABCs of Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.  

Top Three Take-Aways:  

  1. Consider the types of emergencies that can happen in your household – medical, accidents, fires – and make sure children know what to do. 
  2. Take time to learn about the hazards you live with in Snohomish County, and make plans for if you need to shelter in place or if you need to evacuate. 
  3. Don’t just plan for emergencies. It's helpful to know the steps you will take when you become overwhelmed as a parent or caregiver, too.

What you can plan for 

We know you can’t plan for everything, especially when you add children to the mix – they are lovable wild cards. 

However, you can build some key plans for your family to better prepare for what life throws at you. Being clear with children around these plans can help prevent dangerous consequences in the event of a household or larger emergency. 

Not everyone is a planner by nature, but there are some plans every family should make. Try to review and practice them together. 

Here is what we’ll talk about in this blog: 

  1. Have a plan for a household emergency 
  2. Have a plan for a larger emergency 
  3. Have a plan for when you are overwhelmed  

A household emergency 

If there were a fire at home, would your children know what to do? What happens if you lose consciousness due to a medical emergency or accident?  

Think about the types of emergencies that can happen at home, then have a conversation with your children about what to do. Questions to consider include: 

  • What is your child capable of based on age and abilities? An older child or teen may be able to do a lot in an emergency. They can be a leader for younger siblings, or they may be able to step in with medical aid such as CPR. For younger children, focus on the basics, like how to make an emergency call, as well as how to contact a neighbor, friend or family member you trust. Talk with them about what is and is not an emergency, and when they should call 911. 
  • checking smoke detectorAre there specific medical factors to consider? You or someone else in your household may have medical complications that increase the likelihood of needing to call for help. Consider having accessible emergency cards that include medical conditions, medications, allergies, or other key info for household members. List emergency contacts like grandparents, aunts or uncles, neighbors, or friends you would trust to help your child if you needed to be transported to the hospital. Also, help older children learn to handle basic medical interventions if needed. For example, if someone in your household has severe allergic reactions, make sure they know where the epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) is and how to use it. 
  • Where are the smoke and CO2 detectors, and what should you do when they go off? Make sure your children know what the smoke and carbon monoxide (CO2) detectors sound like, and where they are in your home. Plan exit routes, multiple if possible. Talk with children about what to grab on the way out (like phone, shoes and coat, if time allows), where they should go after leaving the residence, whom they should call, and when to call 911.
  • Who are your emergency contacts? Confirm with friends, family or neighbors you trust to be emergency contacts. Children should know exactly who they can turn to if you are not able to help them. Take the time to talk with your child and be sure that they, too, feel they can trust those emergency contacts. Save key numbers into your child or teen’s phone or make sure they have another way to carry that information, such as an emergency contact card in the backpacks of younger children. 

A larger emergency  

There are various hazards in Snohomish County, as well as potential impacts from national or global emergencies. You may face an emergency such as an earthquake, a significant wind or snow storm, or major flooding. We’ve also seen over the last couple of years how an international emergency – in this case a pandemic – impacts our local communities.  

Take the time to consider what your family would need if you had to shelter in place for a while, or if you needed to evacuate. Questions to ask as you shape your plan include: 

  • Do you have enough nonperishable food and clean water to last your family for at least two weeks? Damages from a major earthquake could disrupt transportation, supply chains and emergency services for an extended period. It can be a big lift to get enough supplies for two full weeks for everyone in your home. Try to do a little bit each month to expand your emergency supplies. 
  • emergency food in boxDo you have a supply of medicine, medical devices, and back-up power sources to meet health needs of household members? Nearly half of Americans take at least one daily medication. Make sure you have at least a 7-10 day supply of necessary medications, and an up-to-date list of all medical conditions, medications and known allergies for household members. If someone in the home relies on electricity for a medical device, talk with your insurance provider and check the device manufacturer information for the appropriate emergency power sources if the electricity goes out for an extended period.
  • If your family is not at home during the emergency, do you know the emergency plans for the main locations they may be? Have you talked about where you will meet or how you will get in contact? Ask your child’s school or child care provider about their emergency plans, learn about your workplace’s emergency plans, and have supplies in your car in case you are on the road when there is a disaster. If there are family members’ or friends’ houses you frequent – maybe regular visits to Grandma and Grandpa – make sure to talk with them about emergency plans, too.  
  • Do you know what hazards you face? It’s hard to plan for the unknown. Depending on where you live, there are some emergencies that may be a higher risk to consider. For example, some areas are prone to landslides or flooding. The Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management has an online hazard mapping tool to help you get an idea of some of the emergencies to keep in mind for your household. 

Plan for when you are overwhelmed 

Disasters aren’t the only thing to plan around. Too few parents and other caregivers talk about the emotional emergencies, when you become overwhelmed and feel you are reaching a breaking point. 

Planning for when you become overwhelmed is particularly important for new parents, but can be useful with older children, too.  

Babies and children are going to cry, have tantrums, break things, refuse to let you rest – and sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t get them to calm down. This can wind you up, too. 

Don’t let these high-stress situations become dangerous. An overwhelmed, exhausted caregiver may not be gentle enough with a baby or small child. They may lose their temper and cause harm. It’s easy to say you would never do anything to hurt your child, but it’s best to have a plan for when you get overwhelmed so you are able to keep that promise. Your partner or others who care for the child should have a plan, too. 

A plan can help you stay calm if you’ve tried everything and your child is still having a meltdown. It may change as your child grows, but the basics hold true. Write out your steps and put them somewhere you’ll remember. An example of an emotional emergency plan is: 

  1. Breathe. Take five deep breaths to help reduce feelings of frustration, anger or tension. 
  2. Place your child in a safe place such as a crib or pack-and-play, then walk 10 feet away until you have calmed down. As long as your baby is in a safe environment and in your sight, it is OK to let them cry while you catch your breath. 
  3. Phone a friend. Call someone who will listen and be caring, maybe someone who can come over to help. Don’t be afraid to admit to them that you are having a hard time – you are doing your best, and the people who love you know it.  
  4. Go for a walk with your child. Load your baby into a wearable carrier or stroller and just walk around for a bit. If the weather is cold or stormy, you can walk up and down the hallway in your home. Movement can help soothe the baby and you, too.   
  5. Take a break and reset. Check in with yourself. How are you doing? Do you feel less overwhelmed? Revisit any of the steps in your plan that are helping, and repeat as needed. 

Be clear about expectations with other caregivers, too – physically taking out frustrations on a child is never OK, and can cause permanent harm or even be fatal. Make sure anyone who will be responsible for your child has a way to reach you, and that they know they can call you whenever needed. 

You can’t always make a baby stop crying or calm a child’s tantrum. When you’ve tried everything, and you don’t know what else to do, give yourself a pat on the back for trying your best. Remind yourself that every breakdown or temper tantrum will pass, even if it feels endless in the moment. 

Resources: 

Take some time now to check off the “H” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. Does your family have a plan? 

Consider the plans you should have for a household emergency, a larger emergency, or when you are overwhelmed.  

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