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Somebody once told me once that I have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I moved to New York from Texas in August of 2001 to begin college at NYU two weeks before 9/11. I found a job and moved to Houston one month before Hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast in 2008. Believe it or not, I even went to see the Siegfried and Roy magic show in Vegas one week before Roy Horn was mauled by the tiger! I wasn’t prepared for any of the situations I found myself in but now that I am a mom I wonder if my family is prepared to survive an emergency.

All moms give their children little tips to get out of danger, from eating grass if you are kidnapped so you can throw up on the attacker, to throwing your wallet down the street to distract a robber so you can escape, we have all heard something. We never want our children to have to use this information but bad things do happen. Almost every other day we turn on our TV and there has been some sort of disaster; school shootings or more recently a stabbing like the one at OSU; people gunned down at church, the movies, the mall, night clubs and at work; or even consider the massive loss of life due to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes or tsunamis. While there are unfortunate situations that leave no survivors, there are also many ways to prepare for emergencies. We can also learn lessons from survivors of desperate situations.

Here are 5 questions to go over with your family to make sure everyone knows what to do if things took a turn for the worst:

  1. What should you do if you are in a public place and someone enters wielding a gun?

I spoke with Officer Grey, a policewoman in the 3rd district in Washington D.C., possibly one of the toughest areas in the U.S., she gave this advice: Try to get to safety, make sure you are out of danger before calling for help, and above else do not try and play the hero. Situations with active shooters are terrifying to imagine but one thing you can do to feel safer when you are out and about is to be mindful of alternative exits. No matter where I go with my family, my husband and I always scout out other ways to exit just in case. It may sound depressing to think in that manner that but it never hurts to be prepared.

  1. What if you can’t get away?

OSU tweeted out “run, hide, fight” on November 28th when there was believed to be an active shooter on campus. This narrative comes directly from the Department of Homeland Security. Run away and hide if you can, if you can’t, you must fight. The goal is to incapacitate the shooter. As an absolute last resort, you are to act aggressively towards the attacker and throw items to knock them down, knock them out, or at least get them to drop their weapon.

  1. What if you can’t get away or fight?

Some people have survived unimaginable tragedies by playing dead. Isobel Bowdery in the Paris concert hall, Tracy Heu in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, a six-year old girl the lone survivor of the Sandy Hook 1st grade class, and the 5-year-old girl that survived the Charleston Church shooting all attribute their survival to playing dead. I have very young children so I can’t, rather, I won’t teach them to play dead. But we do play a game called quiet water still water. If I say “quiet water, still water, 1, 2, 3” They are supposed to lay down and get very quiet and very still by the time I count to three. I know that I could use that game to get them to be quiet and still if I ever needed. You don’t have to scare your children to death teaching them how to stay safe, you can make it a game.

  1. What is our plan in the event of a natural disaster?

Depending on where you live and the possibility for certain natural events, does everyone know where to go or what to do if you were unable to communicate or get home? You should have a special back-up meeting place. It’s also important to pay attention to the news and heed the warnings of professionals. So many people lose their lives because they chose to “ride out the storm” or didn’t think it would get that bad. Nothing is worth losing a life. It’s also always a good idea to keep a full tank, plenty of batteries, candles, clean water, and long lasting packaged food (and many people think a generator is a must have as well).

  1. What do we do if there is a fire? Obviously, you should get out if you can and call for help. I contacted my local fire department for a better answer and they advised to get underneath the smoke so that you can breathe, find a way to get out, and call for help. Like Elmo from Sesame Street says “get low and GO!” Make sure your family has a meeting place nearby and keep your important documents/items in a special place for a quick and easy grab.

We never want to imagine something terrible happening to anyone, especially to our children, if fact my eyes fill with tears every time I talk with my husband about how to best keep our children safe. But we must fight the tears and talk about it, we have to plan, and we have to train our children to be survivors. Decades ago, when I was a small child, my mother used to make my siblings and me practice “crash position” in the car. If she yelled out “crash position” we were to cover our heads and tuck them into our knees. We thought it was so funny but for her it was a safeguard, teaching us to protect our heads if we were ever in any kind of wreck. Five years ago, I took a sharp turn too fast on an old country road, my dusty Land Rover flipped 7 times before coming to a crumpled stop in a rocky tree lined ditch. I remembered to cover my head through the rumble and tumble and my right hand took a huge slice that may have gone right through my skull. In other words, teach your children these things now, because one day it just may save their lives.

Finally, remember to follow the motto of Homeland Security: If you see something, say something! But please don’t spend the rest of your life living in fear of what might happen. Always hope for the best, remain prayerful, and stay prepared. Good will always triumph evil.

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Kim Derrick

Kimberlie Derrick, the creator ofhttp://justahotmess.com/ is freelance writer living on the east coast. She is happily married with two young sons and praying for more! She received degrees in Psychology, Anthropology, and African American Studies from the University of Houston and spent time studying abroad in West Africa. She is currently working on her first series of children's books about a quirky kid named Quincy.

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