What If I Have to Do It Alone?

What If I Have to Do It AloneI am the wife of a first responder, in my case a law enforcement officer. When something in the community, city, state or region goes wrong, my guy (ie; hero, care-taker, fixer-of-all-things-broken, knight-in-shining-armor) is most likely called out or already gone working on fixing whatever happened.

He’s also trained, ready and expected to be on-scene and away from home, sometimes for an extended period of time. Now, that’s GREAT for the people directly affected by whatever has gone wrong, it means he (and many others like him) are there to help those people, but what does that mean for my family? You guessed it. I get to be the one who carries that weight and takes care of my family. Alone.

In regular times, this isn’t a big deal. I do that every day. It’s in times of crisis that it’s something I have to be ready for, on my own, if my family is to be safe.

The reality is that our men, whom we depend on for lots of things, will probably not be home when a crisis strikes. Firemen, Medical crews, and Law Enforcement know that they can be called out any time of the day or night. For you fellows that are reading this, you’ll feel better knowing that your other half has it covered and under control when you are stuck at work 50 miles away and not able to get home to take care of her during an emergency. So now is a great time to help her get ready for whatever may come.

What can I do to get ready to“weather the storm alone”?

Here are some ideas to get you moving that direction:

First and foremost: Tell yourself, and start believing that you can do hard things. You might even want to post this on your mirror or kitchen cabinet. We don’t choose to have a cri- sis, usually it just happens and we have to deal with it. Believ- ing that we can do hard things, even if we don’t want to, goes a long way to preparing us to do those hard things.

Get on the same page as your spouse

Plan a time to sit down with your spouse and talk about your family’s emergency plans. If he knows that your evacua- tion plan, if you have to leave while he’s at work, will take you to your parents home, he won’t need to spend time worrying and trying to track you down when he can’t reach you at home.

Find a crisis buddy

A crisis buddy is someone that can help you deal with an emergency when your honey isn’t around. This can be a fam- ily member that lives close by, or another first responder wife (you can help each other). Or a neighbor or trusted friend. It’s someone who will check on you and help where needed. Reach out to your network and talk about ‘what ifs’. For example, um I don’t know…what if there was a hurricane barreling down on our area and we had to get out quick? Or what if our home was threatened by a wildfire and our only car is in the shop? Talking through the possibilities now will help you weather them when they come.

Know your home systems

“Mom, why is their 3 inches of water on the basement floor?” These are words we never want to hear but are still possible and they are something that needs to be handled. Do you know where the house water main shut-off is? What about the Electri- cal panel or Gas shut off? If you don’t know, have your husband show you where they are. You can even practice turning them off. I’ll bet that they are not easy to turn by hand, you’ll probably need tools. Do you have those tools handy and nearby, like a pair of vice grips or Channellock Pliers, or a dedicated tool like a Gas shut off tool?

Please Note: Don’t practice turning the Natural Gas valve off because only a Natural Gas technician can turn it back on. Don’t mess with Natural Gas.

Make a Family Emergency Plan

This is the plan that your family will carry out when you are separated when a crisis hits. It involves:

  • Choosing meeting places if your home is not safe to occupy
  • Finding a place on your property where family members can
    look for notes telling where people might be headed
  • Making a communication plan like what channel you’ll
    check on your Walkie-Talkie Two-Way Radios and what time to be listening to connect with each other. There are lots of great FRS radios, whichever you choose, make sure they are compatible with standard batteries and not just the battery pack that comes with them.
  • Having your contact list on paper, in an old-fashioned address book. Don’t rely on your contact list on your phone or computer. Besides family, be sure to include utility companies, Insurance companies, tree removal services, disaster recovery company number.
  • Picking an out-of-state contact. This is the person that you each call and check-in with and report your status. Then they can let other family members know how and where everyone is when they call.

Preparing ahead for an evacuation

At the very least, always keep your gas tank at least 1/2 full. (half is the new empty), have a go-bag for each member of your family, this bag has the necessities that you’ll need for living away from your own home for 3-7 days. We might be at a friend or family members home, at a hotel or even at a shelter. Each of our kits will be a bit different but we want to include medications, copies of vital docs, a change of clothing, toilet- ries, diapers, flash-lights, food, water, comfort items etc. Think about the things that Relief workers hand out and use that as a guide.

Once those bags are done, consider going to the next step and preparing for an evacuation for who knows how long. We see in every disaster, families that won’t be going home to the house that they left. I’m sure they planned on going back home but the fact is they won’t. We can actually be ready for something like that and you can find out more about that in an article I wrote on my blog at IGetReady.com It’s a step-by-step series all about how to get ready to evacuate your home….and still live a regular life….Regular life? What’s that?

I’m proud to be married to a first responder, so much so that I became one myself…I’m on the medical side of things but being ready and having these conversations now will go a long way to calming the people, even when we can’t calm the storms.