I've mentioned before that Monday nights are Family Night at our house. That just means we can't make other plans, we turn off phones and computers, and we do something together after dinner - go for a walk, do a craft, play games, etc. I usually try to make something fun for dinner too, like make your own pizzas, and during dinner we have a little meeting to talk about everything going on that week and any other issues we need to discuss. I love that our kids count down to Monday night every week... who looks forward to Mondays?!
Well, this week's Family Night was all about issues we needed to discuss, and it was a little different than what we usually do. But I think we will have a family night like this every few months now.... we had a Safety Night.
First, we told the kids that we needed to talk about some safety things, but we also reassured them that the reason we talk about these things, practice what to do in an emergency, and make plans, is so that we can always be safe and won't have to be afraid of things that might happen. Both the girls had lots of fears and nightmares after firefighters came to visit their preschool, so I wanted to make sure we didn't add to anxiety, but instead empowered them by giving them the tools and knowledge to be safe. That went preeeetty well, except when we went outside in the dark to practice our escape/meeting place, and Sophia started screaming and FREAKING OUT. Turns out a girl in her class told Sophia that day, that she had "gone hunting at night in a cemetery and started hearing music, and then things started moving and there were ghosts everywhere." Nice. Most of the kids in Sophia's class have much older siblings, and this girl is no exception.
We covered the three most likely disasters to strike us - fire, tornado, and earthquake. We talked about what an emergency is, and both girls learned how to call 9-1-1 and what to say. We have a house phone that doesn't require electricity to work. I unplugged the phone, and then the girls practiced dialing 9-1-1 and I would say "911 what's your emergency?" and they would practice telling me their address and what was wrong, and I would tell them that I was sending help and to stay on the line with me. They thought that was great. (Of course we also talked about when NOT to call, and to never call as a joke). We also told them which neighbors to run to if there was an emergency and mom or dad wasn't there or one of us was hurt.
For fire safety, we first talked about not playing with matches, candles, or lighters. Then we checked the batteries in our smoke alarms. The alarm outside the girls' room is one that says "Fire! Fire!" after it beeps. We set off the alarms so they would hear how loud they are. Then we went through the house and mapped two ways out of every room. We picked a spot outside the house where we would meet. We told the girls to always go outside to our meeting spot, NOT to try to find us inside the house. We showed them how to touch a door to see if it's hot before opening it, and how to crawl low in case there is smoke, and how to cover their nose and mouth. And then we practiced - we went to every room in the house and let them show us how to get out and to our meeting place. We also practiced stop, drop, and roll. We again talked about going to the neighbors for help, and we also talked about firemen coming to help, and how they should always go to the firemen and not be scared of them. We sang this song, and they're still singing it today (it's kinda weird and annoying, but catchy and effective!) We told them if they absolutely were trapped and could not get out - to just yell so the firemen could find them.
The girls were already a little familiar with our tornado plan, because we have had sirens go off 1-2 times a year since they were babies. Unfortunately we don't have a basement, so our safe room is our small bathroom. It is in the most structurally sound (newest) and an interior part of our house and has no windows. It really is teeny, so it's funny when we all squeeze in there. We talked about what to do if they are somewhere other than home during a tornado, and how important it is to stay put even if it's boring. We talked about waiting until the storm is quiet to come out, and if mom and dad are hurt to go to the neighbors. We have a weather radio and flashlight in that bathroom.
My biggest fear here, actually, is an earthquake. We are near a large fault line that is due for a big quake, and NO ONE in Arkansas is prepared for earthquakes - and our houses are NOT built for earthquakes. A few years ago right after Katrina, someone who studied natural disasters was talking on NPR and the reporter asked him what his biggest nightmare was - and he said a big earthquake on the New Madrid fault line. We are just a poor state, not prepared for that. Anyway, we talked to the girls about what an earthquake is. When I lived in California, we had quakes fairly often, so when the big 1989 quake hit, I knew what it was and what to do. My kids have never felt an earthquake. So we talked about what it felt like and what it is. Because of our house (old brick foundation, load-bearing wall missing in the middle of the living room that a brilliant former owner took out, etc.) the safest thing for us to do is to leave the house and go to our meeting spot outside immediately. We didn't explain about gas lines breaking, but we did tell them that it was important never to light a candle even if it was dark after a quake.
We have an emergency cabinet. We showed the girls and looked at everything that was inside:
*A fire extinguisher (we have another one next to the stove)
*6 gallons of water, plus 12 more juice-box type boxes of water that came with an emergency kit
*A hand-crank and solar powered radio/flashlight/cell phone charger and 2 lightsticks
*4 foil emergency blankets
*A whistle to call for help
*Emergency food bars, plus some other MRE-type emergency food that came in a kit (enough for 2 adults for 3 days - I guess we need to add some more too)
*A first aid kit with QuikClot
*In a ziplock bag, I have a sheet of paper with our name and address on the top, and then for each of our family members, our date of birth, social security numbers, drug allergies, other medical conditions, and insurance ID number. And at the bottom of the sheet, I have names, addresses, and phone numbers of our immediately family members (I have the same sheet, minus the social security numbers, in our car).
*On the door of the cabinet, I have a laminated sheet with the telephone number for poison control, and some first aid and CPR instructions
On our big family bulletin board, we also have a "Babysitter Info" sheet, which contains
*The number for poison control, the name and number of the kids' pediatrician
*The kids' names, dates of birth, and their drug allergies
*Our names and cell phone numbers and work numbers
*The names, house locations, and phone numbers of two of our neighbors
*The name, address, and phone number of Davis's brother who lives nearby
*The location of our first aid kits (we have one that we use for every day in the big bathroom, in addition to the one in the emergency cabinet that we never use so it's always stocked), fire extinguishers, and the emergency cabinet
Davis of course wanted to prepare them for the zombie apocalypse, but I told him that had to wait for another day. Maybe next time.