World events underscore need for family readiness
March 30, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany - "We all think 'it's not going to happen to me,' but unfortunately that's not the world we live in right now," said Sherri Davenport, Wiesbaden Army Community Service's Mobilization and Deployment program manager.
Stressing the need for families, particularly military families, to always be prepared, Davenport said, "at any point situations can happen, and we might have to move."
As an example, the family readiness specialists pointed to the political turmoil in Egypt where Defense Department families were forced to evacuate.
Davenport led off several speakers at the ACS Family Readiness Fair March 9, sharing ideas for "building a better battle book."
Referring to it as a portable, easy-to-manage collection of vital documents and other items - sometimes known as a family's owner's manual or the "oh no manual," she ran down paperwork families should consider including. Copies of current and recent orders, financial paperwork, wills, birth and marriage certificates, insurance documents, copies of credit cards, contact information, shot records and prescriptions, passports and anything else needed to make claims after an emergency situation such as receipts and inventories were all among items Davenport recommended maintaining.
These should be stored in a safeguarded and conveniently located spot for easy transport in the event of an emergency. "You never know what you might need. ... It's a good idea to have it all in one spot."
Even to those procrastinators who may feel overwhelmed by taking care of the day-to-day challenges, Davenport advised, "Don't delay; start somewhere." Checklists are available at ACS in Hainerberg Housing, she added.
"Experience is a good teacher but a cruel one," said Davenport, adding that "helping each other allows for fewer of us to have to learn the hard way."
During the Family Readiness Fair community members had a chance to learn about various aspects of emergency preparedness from representatives from the American Red Cross, Safety Office, Exceptional Family Member Program, Ready Army, AWAG and other organizations.
The audience, including several Family Readiness Group leaders, shared their suggestions for items that should be included when preparing a Ready Army kit. Irreplaceable baby photos, having enough supplies of food and water in one's home to survive for at least three days, a shared family emergency plan for meeting during or after a disaster situation, battery-powered flashlights and radios (and extra batteries) first aid kits and a host of other must-have items were recommended.
Terry Wise, Survivor Outreach Services program manager who formerly worked with casualty assistance as a member of the U.S. Air Force, pointed out the importance of keeping DD Form 93 (Record of Emergency Data) up to date. "Make sure it is looked at and updated at least once a year," he said.
Saying that while most people dislike considering what might happen should a family suffer the loss of a service member, it is crucial that spouses be aware of their financial entitlements as beneficiaries. "These are things that should be discussed early in a marriage so that you know what you would receive in the case of a casualty," Wise said, describing instances where service members had remarried and failed or forgotten to update their beneficiary paperwork thus providing little for the surviving spouse in favor of a former wife or husband.
He also shared an example of an Air Force senior noncommissioned officer who died on duty with his father still designated as the "person authorized to direct disposition." Because the father was out of work and hard-pressed for cash, he ended up using the lion's share of the "death gratuity" for himself while the surviving family members suffered financially.
Hessen AWAG Representative Alyce Newton reminded community volunteers that the Europe-wide AWAG Conference will be held at Garmisch's Edelweiss Lodge and Resort May 15-19. The conference provides a host of volunteer enhancement opportunities including sessions on personal readiness, Newton said.
For more information on family readiness people can visit www.ready.army.mil or stop by ACS in Building 7790 in Hainerberg Housing (across from the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center). For information on the upcoming AWAG Conference visit www.awagonline.org.