Disasters: Is your family prepared?
Families may become separated during the chaos of a disaster, especially when evacuation is required. It is important to plan for your family’s safety.
Safety tips for families
Review these recommendations in case your family is ever impacted by a disaster.
- Know your child’s school and day care emergency evacuation and reunification plans. Some schools and day cares have emergency plans for a variety of scenarios, but recent studies indicate many do not. If your child’s school or day care does not have a reunification plan, encourage them to reach out to their school district or local emergency management agency to discuss developing one.
- Develop and regularly practice emergency plans at home with children and pets in case your family is separated. Designate an out-of-state relative or close friend to become “communications central” for the family. Because local phone lines may be down or inundated in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, someone out-of-state will be best positioned to receive calls. Displaced family members with access to a phone could call the out-of-state contact – typically without issue – to share and receive messages from other family members.
- Designate a location where your family could gather in the event of separation. This could be a playground, park or a local landmark that’s easy for children to get to if they need to on their own.
- Create a Child ID Kit for each child. This should include a recent color photograph of the child’s face, descriptive information, fingerprints, medical and dental records or bite impressions, and a DNA sample. This sample could be taken from any number of your child’s grooming items such as a hairbrush or toothbrush.
- Make copies of any legal paperwork if you are your child’s court designated primary caregiver in a custodial separation or divorce. Share them with any relatives or close friends in other states, or carry the paperwork with you in an emergency kit.
Sometimes, no matter how much you have planned, the worst happens: you become separated from your children. This is why we run the Unaccompanied Minors Registry. Through this online registry individuals can report a child who is accounted for, but separated from their caregivers. Anyone can report a separated child to the Unaccompanied Minors Registry, including emergency managers on the ground during a disaster. Reporting persons input basic information about the unaccompanied child to the registry and can even upload a photo of him/her. We then cross-reference any reports through this registry against phone calls from searching parents.