My parents never prepared my sisters and me for disasters—they were thinking, “We live in New York City, where nada like what typically happens in places like the Dominican Republic [our home country] occurs.” My mum would always say, “En Nueva York no sucede terremotos y huracanes.” My parents, immigrants to this country, weren’t concerned with “what ifs” when it came to emergency situations like floods or losing power, or at least they didn’t project that onto to us, because they had other things to concern themselves with: understanding and learning the English language, working, and putting food on the table for me and my sisters. I learned about emergency situations from school.
When I got pregnant with my first son, I had all these thoughts going through my mind: some positive ones (What will his personality be like? What will his first smile look like? What will his first word be?) as well as other not-so-positive ones (How will I protect him from everything from the flu to natural disasters?) It’s one thing to think about what we would do if basic services, such as water, gas, electricity, or telephones were cut off, but to couple those issues with a new baby in the house? EEK! It was enough to send me into freak-out mode. Rather than fear the unknown (essentially my mother’s strategy), I vowed to do my research and prepare my little buddies for worst-case scenarios with a complete emergency preparedness kit.
Hurricane Irene happened right before the birth of my first son. My husband and I never dreamed that we lived in a flood zone—we were in Brooklyn! But lo and behold, our building was evacuated due to its close proximity to the water—a once in a lifetime event, right? Not quite—it happened again when Superstorm Sandy devastated the region a little over a year later, after my son was born. Evacuating with a child for Superstorm Sandy made evacuation for Irene (when I was eight months pregnant) seem like NBD. Evacuating with a baby is difficult, but thankfully we were prepared. Knowing what to do and pack for him when our building asked us to evacuate immediately was the best protection for my family. I quickly assembled the supplies I packed near the closet by my door, and made sure we had extra supplies at home. Keeping an easy-to-carry backpack with all of our baby necessities and essentials was the best way for us to evacuate quickly.
If you haven’t already prepared your own emergency kit for your baby, here are my essentials and tips:
1. Keep emergency names and numbers handy. This seems obvious, but in an emergency situation, having names and numbers securely glued or taped somewhere is crucial. (I have them posted on my refrigerator and in my emergency backpack by my door, and my entire familia knows that!) I have every emergency number possible on it, including my pediatrician’s, the local hospital’s, police and fire departments’, neighbours’, and closest family members’ information. In an emergency, you may not have time to look up critical numbers, and you may not have access to your personal mobile phone.
2. Stock up on all of your baby’s needs. Formula (whether you breastfeed or not), bottles, nappys, wipes, medications, three sets of clothes, and additional blankets will help ease your mind when you need to evacuate immediately.
3. If you’re a nursing mother, have a good supply of clean water in plastic containers. It won’t make you produce more milk, but not getting enough fluids can contribute to maternal constipation, fatigue, and impaired concentration—what you don’t need ever, but especially not in an emergency situation. Keep at least a three-day supply of water and replace it every six months. In an emergency, try to drink an eight-ounce glass of water every time you breastfeed.
4. Keep a portable playpen easily accessible. I have one packed in the back of our boot, and it came in handy when Sandy hit and we had to stay with my in laws.
5. Ask your pediatrician or pharmacist about storing your baby’s prescription medications. My son was prone to nappy rashes that required a prescription ointment. I keep this ointment stocked in my emergency baby kit, knowing that it may be difficult to obtain prescription medications during a disaster because stores may be closed or supplies may be limited.
6. Tailor your kit to the type of disasters that are most likely to happen in your community. After my experiences with Irene, Sandy, and power outages, I now stock flashlights and extra batteries.
7. Assemble two first aid kits for your bebe. I keep one in my bag and another in the trunk of our car. My basics include: bandages in assorted sizes, cleansing soap, latex gloves, baby sunscreen, non-prescription drugs, scissors, antiseptic, a thermometer, hand sanitizer, and Vaseline.
8. Keep a copy of your insurance policy information in your bag. Prior to having my baby, I contacted my insurance agent to review our current policy to ensure that they will cover my home and belongings, including my new child’s belongings. Baby furniture is expensive, and I certainly didn’t want to be in a situation where I had to re-purchase all of those baby necessities and essentials. If you are a renter like I am, you’ll want renter’s insurance to protect your belongings if they get lost, stolen or damaged. It’s not something everyone realises – but your landlord’s insurance only covers your building, not your belongings. Contact your insurance agent or for more information head to American Family Insurance.
9. Have a good amount of cash stashed. I keep a set amount of cash in my kit in case of emergency. Remember that ATMs don’t work in certain emergency situations like a blackout, so this cash will come in handy when you need to purchase extra formula or other baby essentials.
10. Assemble a reminder note that lists the contents of your kit and expiration dates of your medications, formula, food, and perishables. It’s one thing to be responsible and pack all of your emergency disaster essentials (good job, mama!), and it is yet another thing to remember to replace water and foods or throw out expired formula. (We’re only human and can’t remember everything!) Having this refresher card will keep your kit up to date.
11. Purchase duplicates of anything that comforts your baby specifically for your kit. Whether it’s a stuffed animal, a teether, an extra binky, or a favourite blanket, having something that will make him feel cosy wherever you are will help you stress less knowing your baby is comfortable.
12. Pack an extra baby carrier in your emergency bag. You’ll have your hands free to perform other tasks or to hold on to important items, like your emergency bag or an older kiddo.
This post is sponsored by American Family Insurance. All opinions are my own.