When I set out to create coParenter, the focus was on helping parents make the most fundamental agreements quickly, inexpensively and in the best interest of their child, which typically means out of court. Three years later and coParenter now helps parents make a myriad of types of agreements from travel requests and haircut schedules to extracurricular activity agreements and savings plans for college.
But there’s one type of agreement that I believe every coParent (and parent) needs to make– and make immediately: a Co-parenting Family Emergency Plan.
America 2019, where school shootings, terror attacks, and tragedy can rear their ugly heads at any time, we as co-parents have a unique responsibility to get ahead of planning, before a crisis hits.
Why? Because getting a call about an active shooter at your child’s school is not the time to start negotiating whose responsibility it is to pick them up.
Being a responsible, child-centered co-parent, in 2019 America, includes having a clear, simple emergency plan with your co-parent. It could literally be the difference between life and death.
On September 11, 2001, I was living a half-mile away when the first airplane hit the north side of the World Trade Center. I watched in horror as the plane exploded, taking thousands of innocent people going about their Tuesday morning routine. I didn’t have kids at the time. But my thoughts immediately turned to PS 234, an elementary school with 600 children situated a few blocks away from what was soon to be known as “Ground Zero’. I vividly remember thinking about how impossibly scary it must’ve been for these parents and their children.
And as a child of divorce, I knew that this would be particularly hard for those parents who were separated, divorced or were never married to begin with. The anguish and turmoil of managing child-related logistics during a crisis is more than any human should bare. But for those parents in particular, in addition to imagining what your child may be experiencing, these parents were forced with trying to figure out how, where and when (and in some cases, IF) to collect their children.
Having been through a complicated divorce that resulted in a strained co-parenting relationship, I empathize even more with the co-parents who survived 911– and all of those who have endured the tragedies that have come after. And I think about the co-parents who don’t, can’t or refuse to get along- at least long enough to put their children’s needs first. When seconds count, would you rather have spent 10 minutes arguing over who gets Halloween– or calmly communicating a clear emergency plan?
Having personally experienced far too many actual (9/11) and potential (school shooting scares) crises, there’s nothing that brings the absurdity of most co-parenting disputes into focus, than catastrophe.
That’s why, no matter what your relationship is like, it’s critical that you and your co-parent have a plan. You can use coParenter to work with your co-parent to create and document an Emergency Plan. Through the app, you can access a live, on-demand coParenting professional who can help you make agreements, resolve disputes and draft this emergency plan, so you don’t have to do it on your own.
Whether you use coParenter or discuss it over coffee, here are some of the things you’ll want to consider:
- Household Information: An emergency can happen at any time, so be sure to discuss who can pick your children up from school or another location if you’re not able to. Also, make sure any members of your co-parenting team are signed up for emergency alerts from local governments. To find out more see this link provided by FEMA. Be sure that children without phones know how to follow instructions from a teacher, principal, or another caregiver.
- Out-of-town contact: FEMA recommends that you identify someone outside of your city who can “act as a central point of contact to help your household reconnect.” In a disaster, it’s often easier to make long-distance phone calls because local phone lines can be tied up.
- Emergency Meeting Places: Identify several places where your loved ones can go for protection or to reunite. Consider your pets too, where would they be welcome as well? FEMA recommends choosing the following types of locations:
- Indoor: where in your home is a safe place to take shelter?
- In your neighborhood: this is outside your home in case of fire, for example
- Outside of your neighborhood: this is a place where your family can take shelter such as a library, community center, church, or friend’s house.
- Outside of your town: If you’re forced to evacuate your area, you’ll need a place to reunite. This could be a family friend or relative’s home.
- Share! Make sure everyone has the information. It’s important to communicate your plan with your co-parent and your kids so everyone’s on the same page.
I consider myself an amazingly positive person with a bright outlook on life. I’m not defeatist, pessimistic or depressed. But this is America in 2019 and there will be another crisis. And when a crisis hits, I hope that all co-parents have their clear, concise and communicated emergency plan in place.
Yours in coParenting,