It’s dawn. The sun sprinkles golden, bronze glitter on the navy blue ocean out beyond our little time-share balcony, or lanai, as they call it here in Hawaii.
My husband, Rod, and I love the Islands. They transport and replenish us. We love the culture, food and people here.
While sipping my peppermint tea to lessen jet lag, I pondered how life challenges have put us on a path to serve and strengthen others, and feel peaceful. Herbal tea is just one benefit I learned because of our daughter Heidi. Our family discovered Mother Nature truly provides the perfect prescription for our health and well-being.
Two decades of living hand-in-hand with autism has sparked a passion in me to share preparedness tips, tools and techniques for parents of persons with special needs. Because of autism, our family was frequently in “emergency mode.” We had to be prepared for Heidi’s many unexpected responses to things around her; we had to protect her from her own lack of knowledge and impulsivity in response to her heightened senses and more. We learned tons from our experiences and thankfully survived “Hurricane Heidi.”
On the radio in our rental car, we heard updates about an actual hurricane headed to these Islands, and I knew we could be in peril. But I wasn’t afraid. I recalled our first emergency experience here with Hurricane Iniki in 1992 when we splurged for our 14th wedding anniversary and stayed on Oahu.
We were terrified that four daughters at home — ranging from ages four to 12 — could become orphans. Thankfully, we survived the week without harm. But countless tourists on Kauai were stranded for three weeks from widespread damages, including the airport.
Hurricane Iniki blew our vacation plans, yet lit a fire in us to become better prepared for any natural disaster or emergency. Over the years during teaching moments, I tried to help our girls think proactively and creatively and say, “If that bad thing happened here, these creative options are how we’ll help it turn out good. We can handle this!” Today, our married daughters are all capable adults.
So with a powerful storm headed our way, I’m choosing proactivity and sharing helpful observations and tips, because you never know when and where an emergency will strike. Remember my theme song? “Keep It Up!”
Team Up: Earlier, Rod and I enjoyed chatting with our shuttle driver and bellman named Loton. Statistics indicate people who are connected before a disaster fare better during it, and afterward, too. Let’s get to know everyone at work, church and in the neighborhood, because teaming up can save lives and salvage property.
Link Up: Hurricane Iniki was a wake-up call for us. We asked Rod’s brother and wife to raise our daughters should we pass on. We also asked them to be legal guardians for Heidi at 18. Decide on your “Plan B” in life.
Shield Up: Hawaiian laws protect turtles and sea lions. We, too, need to watch and protect fragile people with disabilities and special needs in a fire, earthquake or flooding. Please create safety plans in your realm for these individuals.
Fill Up: Water is the most vital survival resource. Think hydration, cooking, washing wounds and cleaning up. I recall filling our motel bathtub during Hurricane Iniki. At home, we have several large water containers.
Swap Up: There are options right before our eyes when we think creatively. Teach children about substitutions: a penny can become a screwdriver and dental floss has multiple uses.
Gather Up: Our time-share kitchen has a broom plus a carpet sweeper. Excellent. Now is the time to gather non-electric tools, like manual can openers.
Plug Up: Foam ear plugs from our plane ride helps some sleep. I’ll keep them in Heidi’s emergency backpack to muffle noise during a chaotic disaster.
Cut Up: Paper products like wet wipes quickly run out after any disaster. T-shirts to the rescue! So versatile, they can strain water, become a bandage wrap, a general cleaning rag, tie a splint, and more. If Heidi was with us during a massive disaster and had an “accident” in her pants (not unusual with intense fright) I could use soft T-shirt cloths to help clean her up.
Light Up: Our little washer/dryer combo at the time-share has another useful preparedness item in the dryer lint trap: fire kindling. If Rod needed to start a small fire outside and there were no dry leaves or twigs, lint is fire tinder.
Eat Up: When the power’s out, we must find alternative ways to eat. Luckily there is fishing, farms, fruit trees, and berry bushes here. Keep or start feeding your children naturally.
Open Up: Hawaiians have big hearts and their aloha spirit truly exemplifies the attitude we all need in a disaster, or honestly, every day. Let’s live aloha.
Pearson is a CERT-certified, Special Needs Preparedness Specialist who has provided advocacy, writing and life coaching in the disability community for three decades. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org