Emergency Planning for the Divorced Family

November 30, 2008

How do you put together an emergency plan when your kids spend half their time–or more–at the home of your former spouse?

Yeah, that’s a tough one. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common complication in family preps. Talking with your former spouse about day-to-day childrearing issues is often strained enough without bringing up the subject of food storage, emergency kits and contingency plans.

I have no children of my own, but am the stepmom to a wonderful kid whose father–fortunately–has legal custody but equally shared parenting time. The mother lives in the same neighborhood, which is convenient on many levels even if it is uncomfortable–to say the least–to run in to her at every turn. To put it delicately, the woman is unreasonable. This is the major reason she has been denied custody in multiple rounds in family court, and the reason my partner has had no success discussing an emergency plan.

I imagine our situation is probably among the least favorable in terms of cooperation, but at least my stepson’s visits at his mom’s keep him blocks–not counties or states–away from us. And he’s at an age when we can teach him valuable skills so that wherever he is, he won’t be helpless.

The stepparent’s role in legal custodial issues is a tenuous one, and for those of you reading this who are in a similar situation, you understand how difficult it can be to not have much input into issues that have enormous impact on the direction of our lives. But being the primary prepper in this household (I do wear the tin foil crown, indeed) I’ve finally convinced my partner to forge, with his attorney, the ground rules for emergency situations that involve sheltering-in-place, evacuation, basic emergency supplies and other fundamentals. We can’t force The Ex to learn how to shut off her utilities or how to pack a 72-hour emergency kit, but we can impart those skills to The Kid, and send him to her place with the essentials.

The last thing we’d want him to do is choose between disobeying his mother and disobeying us in a time of crisis, but we have determined a neighborhood park within two blocks of her home and told him that that is where we’d rally should the house be destroyed by fire or earthquake. (It happens to be where the local neighborhood emergency response team will rendezvous, and we have friends on that team). Should The Kid find himself at home alone, or should his mother be injured, he knows where to find skilled and familiar help.

If your own kids live farther away, get an idea of that communities emergency response plan. Talk to his or her school and find out what their official policy is on emergencies of varying nature, and do your best to work out a plan with YOUR Ex.

Be prepared for resistance, especially because preparedness is still viewed as paranoid and fringe by many and your ex may attempt to use this fact against you. Don’t worry about that–point out that in the last decade, enormous incidents like Ike, Katrina and 9/11 have made you concerned for your extended family’s safety and well-being. You’re only being responsible and cooperative.

I used the term “extended family“, because that’s exactly what The Ex remains. As much as The Kid’s mother is hostile, vicious and downright Evil Incarnate to us grownups, she is still his mother and we are fully aware that her well-being is important to his own. Our household rules prohibit us from saying anything negative about her in his presence, and our emergency protocol acknowledges that we can’t simply go grab him from her and run.

Not to say that that isn’t a viable, last-ditch effort for some. Just be aware that in all but the worst scenarios, when the dust settles the letter of the law won’t look kindly to disobeying legal custody rules. Best to have laid down the ground rules in advance, or at least have the ability to show that you’ve done your damnedest to do so.

By the way, how many cheesy SHTF type movies show estranged couples getting back together during shared traumatic experiences? Sort of like Parent Trap on steroids? What a load. Stress and crisis can bring people together, but more than likely it amplifies bad relationships. Good communication and mutual trust is crucial to group survival.

For that reason alone, if not for the sanity of your kids and self, see what you can do to make inroads with your ex now, before the SHTF.

Tips:

  • Pick a rendezvous point halfway between your home and that of your ex should your two households wish to meet up post-emergency.
  • Speak to your kids’ homeroom teachers, principals and district representative so you can learn how they will handle various emergencies. Volunteer to help out, if possible, in either the planning or as part of a crisis team during an actual event.
  • Arrange a meeting with your ex and attorneys (or do this in mediation) to draft emergency protocol in case of emergency. Even if you and your child’s other parent have a good relationship, having certain things on paper can make decisions easier when outside stresses and emotions may distort your sense of reason. (Which is why I’m a fan of prenups, by the way).
  • Take basic first aid classes with the Red Cross as soon as he or she is old enough to participate.
  • Teach your child to turn off the water and gas at your home, and encourage him to demonstrate (without actually turning it off) at his mom/dad’s, or to ask his other parent(s) to show him how it’s done at that home.
  • Be sure your ex’s contact information is in your wallet, cell phone, etc. at all times should you be injured. Also make sure your child has all necessary cell phone numbers and addresses memorized.
  • Make sure you have an out-of-area phone contact to call and give your status in an emergency, and establish one for you, your child and your ex to use as well. It’s usually easier to call out-of-state than locally after an emergency. Something to do with phone circuits.
  • Make sure your child, if old enough, knows his or her way home from school, and knows which neighbors to go to if nobody’s home.
  • If your child is on special medications, be sure his school has an emergency supply to last a min. 72 hours.
  • If your child’s school allows, have them store an emergency bag for your child.

I’d really, really, really like to hear feedback on this topic in the comments section. Please let us know your own tips and plans, because every situation is different!

Advertisements

Welcome!

November 2, 2008

Let’s get something clear: I am, by no means, an expert on survival and preparedness. You’ll probably learn stuff here, but most of what I’ll be sharing will be observations on established techniques, ideas and schwag from the perspective of a female. A female who, as a matter of fact, is too cheap to dish for a fake Prada bag, much less a real one, and who wouldn’t want one anyway. Let’s face it; I prefer Hoppe’s Number 9 to Chanel No. 5.

I was inspired to start this blog after reading post after post on forums exalting the virtues of firestarter kits. Kits that include the ubiquitous wad of cotton dabbed in Vaseline. For crying out loud, I kept thinking to myself. Just use some fluff from an OB Regular and a bit of Chapstick! Everyone carries that in their survival kit, don’t they?

Oh, wait…

Truth is–and here’s your very first tidbit of useful information–I’m convinced that OB tampons rate right up there with multitools for Things You Can’t Leave Home Without. With a Swedish FireSteel purchased from the wonderfully darling and brilliant Ron Fontaine of Survivaltopics.com, a rough metal blade, a bit of oil or wax-based beauty product and a nicely shredded (and absorbent!) OB, you can light a fire that would put Texas A&M to shame. Not to mention the nearly 12 inches of string you’ll have on hand for such things as hanging snares, repairing gear or maybe flossing that chunk of cattail tuber out of your teeth.

(Sigh). OK, so I know that any guys reading this might be a bit shy about carrying feminine products around in their gear. It’s not like you’re going to get sudden urges to get the Hello Kitty AR-15. But most of you already know how sanitary pads make great wound dressings right? Well, they do!

OK. So back to the purpose of this little blog. Which is…

  • To add a little bit of female perspective to the somewhat testosterone-sodden subject of survival.
  • To share what I’ve learned in my research and experience with survival and emergency preparedness.
  • To remind my gentle readers and myself that, as serious as the subjects are, life is what’s happening now…keep a sense of humor, keep your attitude positive, and make it fun.

(If some of you guys happen to find this site handy when introducing your better halves to the sport/hobby/obsession of bushcraft/survival/preparedness/tin foil hats, all the better.)


Shaking the Dust Off

November 1, 2008

Admit it. As much as we all know that any situation requiring the “for reals!” use of all the gear and preps we gather would be quite dire, and that none of us is actually looking forward to NEEDING our bug out bags, food stores or hard-earned skills, from time to time we all fantasize about SH-ingTF.

If you’re like me, you picture yourself prevailing against all odds with nary a bead of sweat. In our dreams, we’re all gods and goddesses of fitness and backwoods wisdom. We already know that if the excrement hits the oscillator, we’re better off than the vast majority of the population, right? We have mad firestarting skilz, we know how to secure clean, potable water, and we’ve trained our gag reflexes against the evils of MREs…but the truth is, if all our armchair survivalism remains just that…we’ll have to add Rascal Scooters to our Bug Out manifests. Not good, kids.

Today, I actually went outside, and learned just how much I’ve neglected the most important part of preparation: Fitness.

The beau and I shut down the computers, shut off our cell phones and headed to Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. We figured we’d take a quick scramble up the 2+ mile trail to the top of the 620-foot falls, take some photos and enjoy the fall colors. No problem, right?

Oh my.

Let’s just say that I saw really old ladies in houseslippers on that trail, doing better than we did. I saw a man in a SUIT on the trail, doing better than we did.

But we did it, and we felt fantastic for pushing to the top, where a couple happily obese women chatted about how easy this trail was. We sat there wheezing, shaking our heads at each other, probably because we couldn’t catch our breath enough to tell them to take a flying leap off the observation deck.

OK, so it wasn’t THAT bad, but I for one felt the strain. It’s been a couple years since my last obsession with weight training, and I think it’s time I became reacquainted with the local hiking and biking trails. Both weight and cardio training are important for overall fitness, and I’m a firm believer that when you’re in decent shape, you can handle psychological stress better, too.

Testing gear is a fantastic way of making preps an integral, healthy part of your life. While I wasn’t going to build a fire bed or set rabbit snares along this high-traffic sightseeing trail, I got the chance to shake the dust off my hiking boots and day pack, and to give some attention to trail clothing. I was given a reminder of why I’d always carried moleskin, and on my many stops to gasp for air, I got to examine the various edible plants along the way, including some very nice boletes.

We’re also planning a winter weekend trip to the Oregon Coast Range with another whack-job survivalist friend of ours, where we’ll spend 72 hours with nothing but our very basic “goody bags.” (As in, “Get Out Of Dodge, Yo!” Bags)

And tomorrow, I get to go shoot a bunch of evil pumpkins, and simultaneously initiate a bunch of gun virgins.

So if you’re still reading this, get off your butt and get outside. You’ll get more value out of your bags if you use them in the good times as well as the bad, and you’ll help fend off the preparation burnout that hits all of us at one time or another.