9 Ways to Prepare Your Marriage and Family for an Emergency

With the events going on around our country over the past month, I've been thinking a lot about preparedness and what we need to do to make sure that our family is ready for any situation we might find ourselves in in the future. There are so many things that we need to do to be better prepared. We've been working our way through this list slowly over the last couple of years, but I've felt an urgency to finish up preparing our family for any sort of disaster that we may encounter in the future, whether it's a natural disaster or a financial hardship.

P.S. Did you know that it's Emergency Preparedness Month?? Check out this post on My Mommy Style for a free emergency preparedness bundle.

I was listening to Jordan and Bubba from Fun Cheap or Free discuss emergency preparedness and food storage in their Q&A Tuesday video from last week and was really inspired. They shared a few tips that made the daunting task of finishing up the things that we have left a lot easier. Example: Rather than trying to put together 72-hour kits (which I've been working on for over a year now), I'm going to purchase a couple of kits that I found for a decent price. Then I will add a few unique-to-our-family items to a separate backpack and store everything in an easy to access location in case we need to grab things quickly and leave our home. Next I plan to work on one of these list items at a time, until we're as prepared as we can be for whatever life throws our way.

Life Insurance

This was a big one for us and something that we took care of for peace of mind. Nobody likes to think about their spouse dying, but having financial support in the event that they do, could hopefully make the situation a little less stressful and tragic. Joe and I both have term life insurance, and I feel better knowing that if something were to happen to either or both of us, our little family would be prepared to continue without financial hardship in addition to our heartache.

I love everything that Dave Ramsey has to say about life insurance (search his website for more information) and honestly never would have thought about getting life insurance, outside of what our employers provide, if it weren't for him. I've heard so many stories of young families losing a loved one lately, and see so many accounts set up to raise money for those left behind. It's such a sad thing to think about, but one of the biggest things that I think couples can do to prepare their family for an emergency is to have life insurance in place. We made sure to apply for life insurance as soon as we purchased a home and had children, but life insurance is something that I'd suggest even newlyweds pick up.

Tip: Even if you are a stay at home parent, you should have insurance in place. If your family were to lose you, they would need to hire someone or multiple people to do a few of the things that you do. Taking care of the children for one, is something that your spouse would not be able to do on a daily basis while continuing to work a full time job. I love this answer that Dave Ramsey gave one of his listeners when asked about this topic.

Related: Preparing for Your Family's Financial Future

Will/Trust

This is one of the things that is next on mine and Joe's to do list. Like life insurance, it isn't a happy thing to think about, but having it in place gives peace of mind. It will also ensure that the things that you wish for your family in the future are carried out in the event that you aren't there to make sure it's done yourself. Putting together a will or a trust has always seemed daunting to me, but my friend Amy from Freshly Married made it seem so simple in her post on the topic. Now I know it's something that we can tackle as a couple before the year is over. 

Related: 4 Reasons You Should Write a Will and How to Do It

Emergency Plan

Another thing on my to do list right now is to create an emergency plan for our family. Having a plan in place for different scenarios (fire, flood, earthquake, etc.) as well as being prepared for times when our children may get lost, etc. is important to me. There are so many situations that I want my little family to be prepared for, especially with all of the natural disasters we've seen hitting different parts of the country right now. I've also thought a lot about teaching our toddler what to do in the event that he gets lost; having him memorize our address and phone numbers. If I can put them to song, he'll remember them no matter what!

Tip: Check out this post for information on creating your own family emergency plan. 

Emergency Contacts

Now that we have children who we are leaving with babysitters and family more often, I've been thinking a lot more about our emergency contacts. We have an "in case of emergency" card on the side of each child's car seat and depending on whose car they are in, the card says to "please call my mom/dad/grandma" along with listing their doctor's information, birth date and any known allergies. This month's goal is to update those cards and also to create a laminated emergency info sheet for our fridge for quick access in case it is needed. Things that I plan to list on our fridge card are our address, mine and Joe's phone numbers, grandma's phone numbers, doctor information, our kids' birth dates and allergy information, mine and Joe's information and all of those emergency phone numbers you may need (ie poison control) at some point in your child's life. 

Not only does having all of your emergency information in a prominent location help babysitters and family members out when they have your kids, it can help you out as well. I haven't experienced a true emergency with one of my children yet, but I can imagine that if/when I do, I may not be able to think straight. Knowing that my own contact information as well as my children's names and information is listed on the fridge will help me relay the correct information to emergency personnel quickly. And if I am the one needing emergency assistance, I can have that information handy as well because my kids are too little to know my birth date or allergies or anything like that.

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Savings

The baby step that we are currently working on is Baby Step 3 (this is from Dave Ramsey's baby steps in case you were confused), build up a savings account with three to six months of living expenses. After we had Emmy, we had to rely on our emergency fund a lot because the bills associated with her birth and hospital stay afterward were more than double what we'd been planning on based on the medical bills associated with Bensen's birth and she arrived earlier than planned so we weren't fully prepared. Having a decent amount of savings in the bank, that we don't touch unless we absolutely need it, is comforting. If a financial disaster hits our family, we will know that we can survive and provide our family with the necessities until we can find a solution to whatever we are facing.

We technically have three "emergency savings" accounts. We have our account with $1000 for those emergencies that we aren't planning for and don't have money for (see Baby Step 1), a Health Savings Account that we contribute to so we can pay for the unexpected medical bills that are inevitable with a young family, and we have our big savings account, the one with the largest interest rate and the limited amount of withdrawals, that we are building for financial security.

Tip: We are using Every Dollar to track our budget right now. They have a feature that I just discovered this month that I really love! As we work toward different savings goals, particularly our 3 to 6 months of expenses, we can use a fund to track our progress. After we've been using Every Dollar for a while, I'll share more about it in a separate post.

Related: How We Paid For School Without Going Into Debt

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Food Storage

Having a rotating supply of food in your home can benefit your family in many situations including loss of income, or an event which leaves you stranded at home for long periods of time. We have stocked our freezers and our pantry with food that we use and rotate through our meal plan each month. If we were unable to get out to the store for any reason or if our budget was drastically cut, we could use our stockpile to feed our family.

When we were finishing our basement, we set aside a room that we plan to dedicate to food storage in addition to our large pantry and extra freezer. Our goal over the next couple of months is to get the shelving installed in that room so that I can start grabbing a few extra things every time I'm out grocery shopping and stock those shelves as well. We've all seen how quickly the grocery store shelves empty in the face of a disaster; having a food supply of your own means that you could bake bread (make sure you have a good recipe written down) and feed your family without having to make a last minute run to the store to get whatever is left.

Tip: If you want to put together your food storage but aren't quite sure where to start, search Pinterest for "food storage". You'll come up with LOADS of ideas for things that you can stock your freezer with, how to store and rotate through your canned goods and how to build your food storage without spending hundreds of dollars up front. Also follow Fun Cheap or Free where they will be giving lots of tips and information on creating your food storage as part of "Stocktober" this coming month.

File Backups

This is the one thing that I've been thinking about the most recently. First, my husband's uncle's basement was hit by a flash flood of muddy, ashy water due to a forest fire from earlier in the summer. Like most people's basements, his was the location of a lot of irreplaceable artifacts and memories. Then we saw everyone in Houston lose their homes, their possessions and all of those things that can't be replaced. Becky Higgins wrote a post earlier this month titled Memories + Natural Disasters, that I think everyone needs to read. Even before I read that post, I knew what I needed to do to save my precious pictures and documents from a flood, fire, or even just a computer crash.

In past years, I've scanned in those things that are most important to me, mostly pictures, and saved them all to a large hard drive. I keep telling myself that I need to organize that hard drive, duplicate it and get a safety deposit box at the bank for it. I'd keep a flash drive with the documents and media that hadn't been updated on the main hard drive yet saved in our fire safe as well. If we had to leave our home quickly, that hard drive of mine is the first thing that I'd want to grab because it has all of my journals, pictures and videos on it. If I lose it, I lose all of my documented memories. In the event of a disaster, I would have the comfort of knowing that all of my memories are backed up and safe somewhere else.

Tip: This is the hard drive that I own, but I'm considering upgrading to this one (affiliate links). The 1 TB hard drive holds my entire music library, all of my pictures, every video clip or video I've taken, all of my backup blog files, etc. It's been good to me, but with the number of pictures and videos that I currently take of my growing family, I feel like I may need more space soon.

Fire/Water Safe

I mentioned that I really want to get a safety deposit box at the bank to store an extra hard drive with all of our pictures, videos and important documents on. We also have a safe and secure place in our house to keep all of our really important documents as well as my first backup of all of those files that I don't want to lose. Boxes like this are a great place to store your social security cards, birth certificates, passports, marriage license, car titles, etc. 

Tip: This is similar to the fire safe that we own currently, but we'd really like to get one like this (affiliate links), maybe bigger.

Home Inventory

I took a Family Resource Management course as one of the prerequisites for my degree. One of the things that has stuck with me after all of these years is the home inventory that we started for an extra credit assignment. Having a home inventory helps process insurance claims faster and more accurately. This is helpful in the event of a break-in, flood or a fire. I've been meaning to update our inventory every since and haven't, so I'm adding it to our list of things to do. If we focus on one room at a time, it should only take us a little while to document the electronics and expensive pieces of furniture that we own, leaving us to update the list as we purchase new or get rid of old.

Tips: I downloaded the app linked to in this post so that we can quickly and easily inventory everything that we own. You might also want to create a "home video" that shows all of the details of your home for insurance purposes later on down the road.

Emergencies and disasters can hit your family in a variety of ways. Use these tips to make sure that you are prepared to face whatever life and nature bring your way.

When I think of everything that we have left to accomplish, I'm a little overwhelmed, but breaking it all down in this way makes it seem more doable. One task at a time, right? And there's no better time to start than now!! I want to challenge you to sit down together this week and make a list of all of the things that your family needs to do to be prepared then start getting things accomplished. You won't be able to do it all at once, but every task that you complete means that your family is that much more prepared than they were when you started. Don't let disaster of any kind get the best of you; be as prepared as possible so that hard times are less stressful and you can focus on what really matters, keeping your family safe and happy.

Pictures by Kayla Brooke Photography