We have all thought about packing up for a grab and run scenario. We get the duffel bag, the important papers, a case of bottled water and throw it all in the car. Then we load up the kids.
Oh yeah, the kids.
If you have ever taken your children on a car trip for an hour or longer, you know that special considerations need to be made. If they are bored after five minutes, what will happen in an extended bug out situation? Thinking about their needs and wants ahead of time will help an already stressful situation to not escalate into an impossible one.
The good news is that even though children need more stuff, they also come ready-made with additional hands to help carry it. However, you do need to be aware of realistic expectations. As a general rule of thumb, children should not carry much more than 10% of their own body-weight in a backpack. For a 30-pound toddler then, you want something that is about 3 pounds, whereas a 100-pound 12-year-old could handle about 10 pounds. You will want to put your kids and the finished pack on a scale separately to make sure you do not overload them, which could cause injury and fatigue.
This is another great opportunity to get your children involved in the process of preparedness. Let them pick out their own backpacks and have some input on what goes in it. Depending on their age, they may be able to pack the whole thing themselves and just have you review it together. It may make a great activity for them while you are putting the finishing touches on your own Evac Pack. Here are some ideas to consider:
● Sippy cup with a pouch of water (if you just fill a cup with water it will go bad and be “plasticy” tasting).
● Favorite candy bar or snack
● Coloring book and crayons
● Warm socks with their favorite story/cartoon character
● For older children, a small notebook and pen for a journal
● One or two family photos
● A compass and map
● Emergency contacts (not only yours, but other relatives as well in case you are evacuating due to weather or local event and your child is separated from you)
● List of important health information (blood type, allergies, conditions, etc.)
● Hooded sweatshirt
● Flashlight with extra batteries
● Signal whistle (especially helpful if you ever get separated!)
● Moist wipes or small bottle of hand-sanitizer
● A favorite (or new) book or toy
In addition to their own packs, you will want to keep your kids in mind as you pack yours. Think about the following items:
● Ear plugs (in case it is hard for little ones to sleep with strange noises)
● Any medication your children regularly need
● Snacks, candy, and foods they will like – also a great stress reliever
● An extra change of clothing for each child
● Their essential documents, such as birth certificates and social security cards
● A book of road trip-style games, or other ideas to keep everyone busy
● Enough food and water for everyone (remember that children eat less, and plan accordingly)
● Diapers or pull-ups – these are a good idea even if your child is recently trained, as stress can cause developmental regression
● Children’s medications in the first-aid kit for fever, pain, stomach upset, etc.
Putting the Plan Into Action
Be sure to put some masking tape on the outside of the pack with the date it was last checked over. Maybe even tie this to a yearly family ritual (such as when you drag out the holiday decorations, you also check your emergency packs, or on your child’s birthday, they can switch out one item in their pack for a more updated toy or book). Always review emergency plans for various scenarios – and let kids know that in the event of a fire even their special backpack needs to stay behind!
If you are ever faced with an emergency that requires evacuation, stay calm, and maintain consistency as much as possible. Do you have a bed-time story you always read? Make sure you have it with you so it can still help them go to sleep. Is 8 pm the typical bedtime? Try to make a way for that to happen at least for the kids, even if you are driving through the night. Find a way to make a game out of the experience. Children will look to you for a response to stress and example is 90% of parenting. Plan ahead and take their needs into consideration and even the worst of times will be a little bit better.