A family emergency is an unexpected event that affects the health and safety of a family member. These can include your parents, your spouse, or your children. These events are usually serious and require instant attention. Otherwise, the family member could have fatal complications that may lead to serious injury or loss of life. Since emergencies are unexpected, it is important to plan for them beforehand. There are several types of family emergencies, and all are dealt with differently.
A Family Emergency
Some common family emergencies include:
Accidents in the house include tripping on something and falling, cutting yourself while chopping wood or vegetables, burning yourself while cooking, or being electrocuted when dealing with electric devices. All these could be emergencies depending on the intensity and extent of injury. You would definitely need time off from work if your child swallows a toy while playing.
An example of a common family emergency that occurs outside the house is road accidents. According to WHO, car accidents are the biggest killers of children and young adults. Around 1.35 million people died in car accidents around the world in 2016 alone. You or a family member could be victims of a road accident. It does not have to be your fault. It could be a drunk driver, or a cyclist suddenly appearing from nowhere, a teenager texting as they cross the road, or someone running a red light. Causes of car accidents seem to be endless.
Despite safety efforts made by the government to develop safer infrastructure (such as creating cycling lanes, passing legislation on speeding, enforcing strict rules on fastening seat belts, etc.), accidents still happen.
If a member of the family becomes seriously ill, it becomes a family emergency. Anybody can have an immediate health issue that affects his or her body. You would definitely leave whatever you were doing to attend to a family member with the following issues: bleeding, breathing difficulties, epileptic seizure, heart attack or a stroke. If a child gets sick, you will have to stay home and be with them. It is more demanding when you have a child or a family member with special needs.
A family member with special needs may become agitated, or they may not be able to find a special device like an inhaler or other item that helps them cope with a certain health condition. This automatically becomes a family emergency. This is why most people with family members with special needs, either physical or cognitive, opt to stay home and take care of them.
Sometimes families lose their homes due to natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes or tsunamis. Many families in the United States have lost their homes through natural calamities. When a natural disaster hits your area, you halt everything you were doing and start thinking of solutions to safeguard yourself, your loved ones and maybe your property. If you are not always available, it is important to have a family emergency kit already prepared for situations like this.
As unpleasant as this topic may be, we have to talk about it. Death is one of the most emotionally difficult family emergencies. A family member or even you can pass on due to reasons we have stated above, or other causes. Industrialized countries have come up with systems that measure death; they call them cause-of-death statistics. They record the number of people who die each year and the reasons why they died. This information is then used to come up with preventive or reduction measures.
For example, if a government finds out that many people die from heart issues, obesity or diabetes, they develop a strong interest and focus on that line. They vigorously address and campaign on lifestyle changes and proper diets for their people. They involve their health care systems in research to find proper medication to curb most of these issues. If they realize that child mortality rates are on the rise, they set aside resources and put up measures to help reduce child mortality.
Importance of a Family Emergency Plan
It is necessary to have a family emergency plan ready. An emergency plan will help you protect your family in case of an emergency. The emergency plan is important in the following ways:
- It helps you gather the information regarding
- any natural disaster around your area and how best to prepare for the disaster.
- You are alert to the signs of any situation or calamity.
- It pushes you to obtain insurance for your family and home and any other additional coverage that may come up after a calamity strikes.
- It keeps you alert especially by listening to news on weather and other emergency alert systems in your area.
- With a family emergency plan, you and your family already have a post-hazard meeting place for the family either within or out of town. It could be at the next building, at the neighbors’ home, at a relative’s home out of state, or at school for the school-going children. It could also be at a mass care facility organized by relief groups in your local area.
- It ensures you discuss a communication plan with your family. This will let everyone know how to communicate with each other. If mobile phones are down, you could use house landlines or payphones if need be. You write down the emergency contacts of people who could be helpful — for example, a neighbor, a relative or friend out of your state, and a doctor. Write them down, especially for the children.
- An emergency plan will ensure you have an emergency kit that could take your family through 72 hours in case there is a lockdown.
Family Emergency Card
You are encouraged to have a family emergency card so that in case anything happens to you, your family can have all important details close at hand. The family emergency card is a jump drive that contains digital records and personal information. You might want to include the following in your emergency card:
- financial information
- medical information
- insurance information
- letters to loved ones
- your will
- power of attorney
- your wishes
The emergency kit should have the following:
- water (at least one gallon per person)
- food (mostly non-perishables)
- appropriate clothing
- a can opener
- a first aid kit
- feminine hygiene products
- cash in small bills
- a flashlight and extra batteries
- sleeping bags
- a map of the local area
- a battery-powered radio
You can also stock pet food and supplies if you have a pet. Have a checklist stocked in with the emergency kit to ensure before you leave that everything in the list is available.
What to Do in Case of a Family Emergency
What do you do when a family emergency occurs? Above all else, you need to stay calm. Considering the circumstances, that may sound like a tall order but it is the most important first step. If you panic, other members of the family will panic too. Staying calm increases your chances and those of your family of getting out of a nasty ordeal without additional injuries.
Make sure you have a discussion with all your family members and agree on how they will take care of each other. Collect all your important documents like birth certificates and passports, and ensure they are safe and available when needed. Ensure you are aware of your rights. If you have a child, ensure you have their important information recorded. Inform the school of your situation, and give reasons why your child will be out of school. You may need to choose someone to take care of your child for you temporarily.
In case you are in college and you have an emergency, you need to do the following:
- Notify your professor and academic advisors that you may not be attending class due to the mentioned family emergencies. Do not forget to tell them how long you may be away from college.
- Inform those you live with either in your dorm or apartment that you will not be around.
- Think about your financial situation. Assess whether you can afford to pay for flights or whether you will need financial assistance.
- Go for counseling at the school counseling center. Counseling gives you a chance to talk about some of the emotions you are going through. This will help you get through an emotionally difficult situation.
- Check in with your friends and let them support you and comfort you as you deal with this emotional situation.
During an emergency, make sure you and your family members support each other and keep in touch. Help to take care of one another. Staying calm during an emergency is not an easy thing for most people. However, panicking can make things worse. Always have a well thought out plan to guide you during a family emergency.