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by Tracy Lehman, Operation Homefront

As a full-time caregiver for her wounded-warrior husband and a mom of two, Angela Walter works every day to keep her family safe.

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, woman put extra thought into emergency preparedness. “What are you going to do if whoever you’re caring for freaks out” in an emergency, she wondered.

Having an emergency plan in place can help the whole family get to safety if they need to evacuate.

Angela, who volunteers with Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor caregiver support program as a group facilitator in Colorado, shared tips for fire safety and emergency planning.

Sound the alarm

Did you know smoke alarms expire? The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacement every 10 years. The date of manufacture should be on the back of the alarm.

Check that smoke detectors are installed on each level of your home – including the basement – and in each bedroom or outside each sleeping area.

Plans B and C

How would you get out of your home if the main exit is blocked? Make an escape plan, and practice it with your family.

“We live in a townhouse, and we would have to jump out our window in the back,” Angela said. The drop would be about 15 feet, so the family added a ladder in the back.

Angela Walter, a Hearts of Valor facilitator, is a caregiver for her husband, retired Army Spc. Daniel Walter. Their children, Hunter and Ariana, know their roles in emergency situations.

Call for help

Establish a communication board with emergency phone numbers. Post the board in a prominent place in the home, and make sure the numbers are easy to access in everyone’s phones. Don’t forget to update when numbers change.

Give family members – even older children – responsibilities such as helping get pets or younger children to safety. List each person’s tasks, and review those regularly.  (The CDC has a great page with info and tools for preparing children)

Just in case

Store backup copies of vital documents – insurance papers and drivers licenses, for example – on a flash drive that can be stored away from your house. Send the drive to a family member or stash it in a safety deposit box.

Do you have tips on emergency preparedness? Share in the comments.

Related topics:

Top 3 tips for helping your family adjust after a move

Did you know?

Operation Homefront has a Critical Financial Assistance program? Click here to learn more.

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Liz, her husband Doug, a wounded Army veteran, and their three children huddled together in the downstairs bathroom as Category 4 Hurricane Harvey passed through the small town of Rockport, Texas.

The ceiling started cracking overhead and one of her children and her husband were starting to panic.

Rockport had mandatory evacuation but her husband refused to leave.

“I prayed,” said Liz, who attended our Hearts of Valor caregiver retreat in San Antonio just one week after Hurricane Harvey hit.  “I had to remain calm, fight my fears, and assure my family that we would be OK. There were times when I wasn’t sure if we would make it, but I had to keep everyone else calm. One of the scariest points was when I heard a noise like a freight train and waited for a tornado to hit.”

They had just moved into the rental home the week before. The family had eagerly planned the move to Rockport and looked forward to being part of the small community. Liz said they thought being near the Gulf would be relaxing for Doug, who battles post-traumatic stress. The threat of a hurricane was the furthest thing from their minds.

Liz and Doug met in 2008 at a Fourth of July barbeque that Doug, a single dad at the time, was attending with his three kids. Doug had been injured during a deployment to the middle East but recovered enough that he chose to continue serving. “I fell in love with the kids first,” said Liz. The two married and the family followed Doug as he continued his Army career.

After 22 years of service, Doug retired on March 1, 2016. The family traveled for a bit after Doug’s retirement looking for a place to call home. On a trip to check out Corpus Christi, the family drove through Rockport. “We fell in love with Rockport,” said Liz.

Thankfully, Liz and her family survived the storm. They were anxious to get back to normal. As they were surveying the damage, a sheriff stopped by to check on them.

The sheriff told Liz and Doug the schools would be closed indefinitely and power could be out for weeks. The family quickly left for Oklahoma, where they had family, driving over downed power lines and receding water. Liz cried as she saw the extent of the damage to Rockport on their way out of town. There were flipped cars, dead animals and homes completely destroyed.

When Liz tried to cancel her spot at our Hearts of Valor retreat, her husband told her that she should still go.

Although she arrived in tears, Liz was thankful for the opportunity to attend the retreat. “I was stressed and completely overwhelmed by the events and everything that will need to be done in the weeks to come,” said Liz. “I am leaving the retreat very thankful, relaxed, ready to deal with things, and feeling like a giant weight has been lifted. Thank you all! I love you guys so much.”

 

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW:

The family is still in Oklahoma with relatives, awaiting repairs on their home and anxious to move back. Operation Homefront will be there for the family, and for many families impacted by the most recent storms.  To help, visit our current needs page.

Within one week of Harvey hitting Texas, Hearts of Valor hosted two retreats for 63 caregivers who traveled from all over the country to arrive in San Antonio, Texas. Our sincere thanks to USAA for sponsoring the retreats for caregivers from all over the U.S.

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