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What Military Families Should Know About Disaster Preparedness

By Stephanie Fox, Military Spouse and Media Lead with the Red Cross National Headquarters

As the wife of a first responder and a military service member (National Guardsman), I’m accustomed to periods of time where I’m juggling the responsibilities of our household on my own. From preparing for 24-hour shifts to monthly drills and a month-long annual training over the summer, it can be a lot to handle.

Add in that we live in Louisiana, an extremely disaster-prone state, and that means planning for evacuations, loss of power for long periods of time, school closures and even possible property damage – all while knowing my husband will be called in to work in one capacity or another. It is a lot of responsibility and can frankly be overwhelming.  

Last summer, Hurricane Ida made a direct hit on my community south of Baton Rouge. 100+ mph winds took down our fences, damaged our roofs and left us without power for more than a week – and we were the lucky ones. In other communities south of here and along the coast, residents were faced with devastation and weeks without access to power.

Riding out the storm with my husband away at the firehouse was terrifying. It would have been even worse if I hadn’t prepared properly and well in advance of the storm’s arrival. 

I learned through my time with the Red Cross that preparedness doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, it simply needs to be accommodating for your families’ specific needs. 

Preparing for family members

For instance, I have two cats and a dog, so part of my preparedness was getting carriers down from the attic and leashes, food and toys packed up into a plastic bin that I could easily grab if I needed to evacuate.

I also have a stepson, who in this instance, was at his mother’s house for the storm, safe and sound, but I still took the time to pack children’s medication, his favorite stuffed animals and some coloring books to keep him occupied.

Preparing the essentials

As for the essentials, I had spent time early in the summer slowly stocking up on extra non-perishable food items – tuna, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, anything that would store and transport easily.

By grabbing a few extra things each trip, I was able to space out the cost, allowing me to stay within my allotted budget. As for water, I grabbed a case on my previous trip to the store, but I also filled up some reusable ones at home and stored them in the freezer. 

My husband already had his prescription medication with him, but I packed up some of my own, a first aid kit, replaced the batteries in our flashlights and charged up multiple battery banks so I would have a way to charge my devices long after the power had gone out.

Preparing for the unexpected

The one thing I didn’t account for, and should have, was communication being down. Beginning a few hours before we felt the impacts of the storm and for several days after, cell phones were useless. My husband and I were unable to check on each other’s welfare and it was incredibly stressful.

The next morning, once the danger had passed and my neighbors and I checked on one another, I took to the roads hoping they would be passable for me to drive towards my husband’s fire station, and luckily, they were.

I was able to connect with him, determine his schedule and where he would be for the next 24-48 hours and get a much-needed hug. 

With so many responsibilities falling on us and the many unknowns that come with our lifestyle, it can be daunting. Advance preparedness is key to keeping it all under control while our spouses do what they are best at – serving communities near and far in their time of need. 

*For more tips on how to prepare your family for a disaster, visit the Red Cross Homepage 

Read other articles about being prepared for nature’s worst!

 

militaryStephanie Fox has had the pleasure of serving communities in their time of need for nearly 6 years, through the American Red Cross. Currently, she is the National Media Lead with the Red Cross National Headquarters. Stephanie is the wife of a former Marine who currently serves in the Louisiana National Guard and through his full-time career as a firefighter.

She lives outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her loving husband and stepson and spends much of her free time taking spin classes, relaxing on the family boat and exploring the Louisiana food and culture.

Author

  • American Red Cross

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

1 Comment

  1. Chrissy Gibbs

    Thank you for sharing this first-hand experience of a natural disaster! With disasters happening more often all over the country, this is great information for military families to have. We just moved from Kansas (tornado alley), and my one trick was to throw some old sneakers into the basement. Don’t want to walk around on rubble with bare feet.

    Reply

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One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

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