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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Preparedness as a Single Parent: How Preparing for Emergencies Brought Me Peace of Mind

Author: Joni Geels, Public Affairs Specialist, Division of Communications, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 7/9/2015 4:16:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness;

Being a single parent is stressful, and there are usually more demands on your time, money and attention than you can manage in a day. Preparing for emergencies can seem daunting and it can be hard to make preparedness a priority when there is just so much else to do. As a single parent, I found that if you go slow, make smart plans, and rely on your friends and family, preparing for emergencies is manageable and being ready for a disaster can help bring you peace of mind.

My daughter's father and I split up when she was just about to turn seven. He was in the Air Force, and I had a job on the base that (barely) paid the bills, so I decided to stay in town so our daughter could have access to both parents as she transitioned to two homes.

We also lived in Panama City in the Florida Panhandle at the time and were seeing a lot of hurricane activity in the first two years after our split. In Panama City, your home can be any two of three things: clean, safe, and affordable. I chose safe and affordable, but that still didn’t leave a lot of money left over for luxury items like dinners out, overnight trips to different beaches, and an emergency kit.

I know…an emergency kit is most definitely NOT a luxury item. But when you have to choose between food you can eat this week and supplies you might not need for a while, you go for the short-term gain.

I started by making a plan that relied on the friends who care for me and the resources I already had. Anytime an evacuation order was issued – and there were several – I would send my daughter with her active duty father and then hunker down in my old townhouse and hope for the best. We often had enough notice for storms that I could take some of this week’s grocery money and stock up on some items I knew I would need during the storm. Sometimes friends would take me in and let me catch a ride out of town with them and then spring for my share of the lodging while we had to stay away. Those friends were angels!

Desperate times call for desperate measures, but I knew this was not a way to prepare myself for emergencies. Slowly but surely, I built my kit. I started by finding out what items I needed for an emergency kit and figuring out what I already had. I put those things into my kit, looked over the list, and figured out what was left. Some things, like gathering together important papers and making copies of our prescriptions, were pretty close to free.

Then, I slowly bought some things to fill in the gaps. One payday I would buy the container to keep it in and then stash some paper goods I already had on hand in there. The next payday I bought four gallons of water. Then some canned goods and non-perishable snacks. Batteries came after that. I did all this during the off-season, and by the time the next hurricane season came around I had a fully stocked kit ready to go. I also started dumping my spare change into a bucket that I would periodically cash in at the bank to add to my kit. This allowed me to at least be able to offer to cover some evacuation expenses when I left town with friends.

My advice to any single parent out there who is struggling to just make ends meet is to go slow. My initial thought that I had to do everything at once was both overwhelming and dangerous. By adding just one item each payday to my kit, I was able to build it over time. And that bought a lot more peace of mind than I ever expected.

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Slow and Steady Can Work!

Kudos to you, Joni, for not keeping your head in the sand and finding a creative, measured way to invest in a kit for you and your daughter! So many times we take the easy road of denial or short-sighted focus. I think you are an inspiration to many!! Thanks for sharing your great story.
7/15/2015 8:40:26 AM

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