A Plan to Reconnect When Separated

Most families have multiple activities that separate them during the day. Spouses are at work, shopping, or on the road; children are at schools, friends’ homes, sports activities. My family is like yours – going three different directions every day – so the concern of trying to reconnect us all in the event of a disaster became our first priority.

Cell phones can be an important component in staying connected with family and these days, teens typically have cell phones. However, there is the distinct possibility that during a disaster the cell phone towers will not be functioning or the service providers will be so overwhelmed that calls can’t get through so it is important for families to develop their survival plan with that contingency in mind.

Every family has their own situation and their own needs, so the reconnection plan for your family has to be individualized to your needs and developed by you, but I want to share with you where my family’s plan started.

My husband and I discussed what we considered to be essential in an emergency and determined that, based on our lifestyle and regular activities, the likelihood was that a disaster would occur when we were 1) all home together or just one person missing, i.e. grocery shopping, not yet home from work, a child at a friend’s home; or 2) all three children at school and both my husband and I would be much more remote.

Based on those two possibilities, we then held a family meeting and the plan was developed. Under scenario #1 whichever family member was away from the home, if that person was an adult, would have be responsible for getting themselves back to the house.

If it was a child away from the home, in most cases they would be within a block or two of the house so a parent would go to retrieve them and escort them safely home.

Scenario #2 is more dicey, and relies heavily on an older child understanding and following the plan and remaining calm. Our 14-year-old has a cell phone and would attempt to contact his parents to report in. He is then to walk from his school to the elementary school to gather his siblings and the three of them would then walk home.

We have made certain that the school has on record our permission for the young children to leave the school grounds with their older brother. Once home, the children are to enter the house through the coded garage door. In the event the electricity is out so the garage door will not open, there will be a hidden key (which all three children will know about) to allow them to enter through the front door.

Clearly this places a lot of responsibility on a 14-year-old child, but it is a plan that allows for the three children to be united and to wait together in the security of their home. The most likely natural disaster we face is extreme weather; we have no risk of flood in our location, earthquakes are unlikely but there is a small chance of fire.

In the event of a fire in our neighborhood, our teen’s fallback plan is to remain with the younger children at the elementary school. The job of the parents under scenario #2 is to manage to return home as quickly as possible.