Stop, drop, and roll. School fire drills and lectures from firefighters led me to believe I would have to deal with 100 percent more house fires than the zero I’ve encountered in the 30+ years since elementary school. Regardless, I can’t say it was all a waste. There is a saying in motorcycle riding “Dress for the fall.” So when gearing up for a motorcycle ride there’s the obvious helmet. Then, an armored motorcycle jacket, long pants, (or motorcycle pants over shorts), long socks, and boots. If you fall (or are thrown) off your bike, then the chances of you walking away go up significantly.  

Similarly, a safety plan makes it so that while you might not leave a crisis entirely unscathed, you and your family can at least walk away in one piece.

Ask yourself: 

Where do we gather as a family if there is a fire or if a smoke detector goes off?

You can pick anywhere as long as it’s easy to get to and a sort of easy-to-remember landmark. You can practice by running a fire drill every once in a while to remember how to respond in an emergency. You should also let your children hear what the alarm sounds like so they know what to listen for in an emergency. 

Do we have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it? 

This may be a requirement for your home inspection as foster or adoptive parents. It’s not a bad idea to keep the yearly inspections after they are no longer required. 

Where do we go if there is a tornado siren?

For some, it is a bathroom. We hide in the only hallway in our house. The only real requirements are a place with no/few windows. If you have a basement or cellar, that’s better. Some cities will run regular drills on the sirens. Familiarize your children with the sound of the siren and remind them of your plan.

If you have more than one level,  do you have a way to escape from every floor? 

Do your kids know how to call 9-1-1? 

Do you know CPR? 

Do you have a designated emergency contact number posted in a visible place?

Do you have the number for poison control posted in a visible place? 

Every parent knows the panic of feeling unprepared in an emergency—whether it’s as simple as forgetting the snacks on a long drive or as severe as a house fire. 

Now, for families who have adopted children from hard places, this safety plan may need to expand to accommodate some less-than-typical situations. For example:

Children with sensory processing disorders may need extra help in times of crisis. Work with your doctor or mental health care provider to understand how to best prepare your child to cope in times of emergency. 

Check out Safety Guidelines for Foster Parents

Preparing for and Addressing Conflict in the Home

  • Utilize cameras in all the open spaces in the house
  • Separate kids and find out what happened
  • Comfort children
  • Address the conflict when everyone is calm. 
  • Use grounding exercises like wall push-ups, pulling oneself down on a chair, ABCs, and butterfly hugs (hug across your chest and gently tap each shoulder with the opposite hand, fluttering like a butterfly. This crosses the midline which is an important component to getting the brain working towards the goal of calm)

If none of this works, then one of us needs to take a child to the ER to await psychiatric evaluation. If a child has escalated towards increased violence towards us or themselves, they will need to be seen by a professional ASAP. If the situation starts during normal business hours we call the kid’s therapist first. 

Adoption can throw unexpected curve balls at us. Nothing we do will ever actually be able to prevent things from happening, but with a safety plan in place, at least you have a map for how to navigate when you’re too flustered to think.