|(photo ny.curbed.com) Can you really take on distant relatives who arrive as above ?|
One of the largest concerns for many people in the preparedness community is extended family. Most people have parents who may be elderly who may, or may not have some type of food or general reserves. Sometimes families are worried about their aging parents who may not live nearby or may not be accessible to them should an emergency of some kind occur. This can be a problem in ideal times, and it can be a mammoth problem during a disaster. Of course, it's a stressor to anyone who loves someone who does not reside with them. Many of us have young adult or college student children, who also might not be nearby during a terrorist attack, a tornado, a major earthquake, etc. Families also worry about their children in school. During some recent US disasters, parents were not allowed to pick up their children in school and leave with them. Another question might be, in the situation of a grown son or daughter or a parent or in-laws, whether you can or should stock enough supplies to feed them throughout a protracted emergency.
The first task to beginning to formulate a plan for better management of this unknown is to, over a couple of days, have the adults in your family list their concerns. (I am thinking a husband and wife, but whomever the primary responsible adults in your family are, would be fine.) Each of you should list your specific concerns about extended family members in a variety of possible situations. Keep these broad.
1. If mother had to evacuate in the long term, could she come here ? Is this viable ?
2. If Bobby and his wife had nowhere to go, can we accomodate them, and can we feed them ?
3. Aunt Liz and her cat probably couldn't come here because we are cat allergic. What could we offer to her in an emergency ?
Once our fears are on the table, the presumed two adults who head your household, should have a private discussion. The concerns should be discussed. What family members can you offer temporary safe harbor to, and which ones are simply shortcuts to the destruction of your family ? I have a friend who has a sister who makes consistent bad decisions and who is involved peripherally with drugs. She and her husband cannot offer safe harbor to her sister under any circumstances without endangering their own family and children. These hot button, concerning, and very unpleasant discussions must take place between your "chief" family members before such things occur. In our family, our children are almost all young adults now, and so we had a secondary family discussion which asked their concerns, in the event that we had forgotten an issue or a concern.
In our own family this was a simple discussion. Both my parents have passed, and so have my in-laws. Most of our aunts and great aunts have passed also. Some of our children are in the tail end of what I deem "the launch sequence", and are readying to buy homes. However, they know that in an emergency, we would all meet here on the farm, and that all of us would work together to stay safe and feed our group. Remember that as your children grow, there will be spouses and perhaps children, and that they will also need to be provided sanctuary in an emergency. We therefore have a simpler set of advance decision-making than many people.
You and your spouse must make some decisions about which family members would be joining you during an emergency, and for how long. How would you feed them ? How would you provide for any medical needs ? Who could become a part of your group, and who absolutely could not ? Your sister Sue might be welcome, but her alcoholic husband who self medicates for other psychiatric disorders might not be welcome or trustworthy at your place. How can you help your sister,. but not breach your home and endanger your own children ? These are tough decisions to be made, and they may be sorrowful.
In a serious emergency, there will be family who turns up with nowhere else to go. You will either need to put them up, perhaps on the living room floor, or turn them away that day. These decisions need to be made in advance. You and your family need to decide whom if anyone, you are prepared to help in your family. It may be that you are not financially able to help anyone from a standpoint of food, sanitation or simple space. If this is true, then you and your spouse need to have decided this in advance. If you do decide to offer safe harbor to a family member, be sure that you indicate to them the time span. I know someone who offered a temporary space to her sister and her sisters daughter and small children "until they got on their feet". Our friend anticipated 3-6 months. Her sister, and children, and now another baby are now still in her home, three years later.
These are tough decisions. No one wants our distant cousins children to go to foster care during an emergency. No one wants to leave a loved on high and dry during a real emergency. We also need to respect ourselves, as Christians, Muslims, Jews or just human beings. We don't want to carry around a perception that we abandoned a relative. However, we cannot stock food for every distant relative, nor sometimes every close one. We can't stock potassium iodate for everyone we know. Most of us have limited sanitation and living space for our own family. We can't open up our homes as a long term hotel. We must carefully define our capabilities as a family, and then communicate them within our family.
In our family, there are few remaining relatives beyond our kids, and they are geographically distant. Our children would join us in an emergency, and everyone would have assigned tasks. This would benefit us, as much as it would our children. Make sure that you and your spouse discuss what you can do, and work toward this. Best wishes with some difficult soul searching and decision making.