Have a 9-11 Plan for your family and your au pair

by cv harquail on March 14, 2011

(First published on 9.11.09.  Republished with original comments.)

Thinking about ‘lessons’ from 9-11 can often be heartbreaking, especially in my community where so many of us lost family, friends and co-workers in the WTC attacks. It’s almost disrespectful to bring up the idea of a “9-11” plan, but maybe thinking ahead about how we might respond to a similar event is useful and consoling.


Here’s my story about 9-11 plans …

For the first time ever one of my friends was willing to leave her kids with me for an entire day so that she could go into NYC for a ‘Girls Day Out”. That morning, she came over not only with the kids but also with a manila file folder. In the manila file folder was her 9-11 plan.

Her 9-11 plan included emergency phone numbers for her and her partner, their parents, siblings, and close friends’ phone numbers and addresses, the location of the ‘stash of cash’ and emergency supplies in their house, and the address of an extended family member’s home in rural Pennsylvania. This was their emergency ‘meet up’ place where, if separated during a terrorist attack, they would regather after fleeing the NYC area.

My friend’s partner worked in downtown NYC, was there on 9-11, and was unable to reach her by phone or email that day. My friend waited 8 hours to find out that her partner was safe. She knows she was lucky. We know moms who were not as lucky. She didn’t and doesn’t ever want to experience that again, and we pray she never will.

Just in case there is ever a national disaster or tragedy on a serious scale, when she or her partner are away from their kids and unable to protect them, she has their plan all spelled out on two sheets of paper she can give to whoever is in charge while she’s gone.

Until my friend shared her 9-11 plan with me, I thought I was the only mom who had one of these, written down for our au pair, just in case. In an odd way I appreciated discovering that someone else was similarly concerned, and that she had a plan in advance. Just in case.

In the days right after 9-11, I had several phone conversations with the frightened mom of our then-Au Pair, reassuring her that we would take care of her daughter in the event of another attack. Our 9-11 plan includes plans for caring for our au pair. Before we matched with our next au pair, we talked with her about our 9-11 plan, so that she could reassure her parents.

As the years have passed, we have talked about this less, but we still have a plan.

Do you?

Photo by Andy Ciordia on Flickr


MTR September 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm

We have nothing in place. I need to give this some thought. Thanks CV.

Anonymous September 11, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I have a plan in place but my husband ( who was working in downtown NYC that day ) thinks I am a hysteric. Nevertheless, the plan is there. I have an Israeli friend who has everything in place as a matter of course. She told one of her aupairs about this plan and the aupair freaked out and asked for a rematch on the grounds that she thought her host family was crazy. Ironically, this aupair had a very sweet friend whose host family had the bad grace to tell her about their emergency plans. The aupair asked ” what about me ? ”
what should I do if anything happens ? ” The host father looked at her in surprize and said, well, he hadn’t thought about that because she wasn’t part of their family !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That aupair never asked for a rematch but was sad all year. As far as I know, the family never amended their plans to include her. Everyone in the neighborhood has heard sad little stories about the aupairs in that family but it seems like it is just a matter of inconsideration rather than rule breaking. Those of us who live in the NY metro area should think about this and we should remember that our aupairs are far away from their real home but for this year , they are part of our family and we should treat them the same way we would want someone to treat our children.

Anonymous September 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I just want to let everyone know that on September 11, 2001
our agency called all of the families who live in the New York City area and asked how we were and if our aupairs were ok . It was nice to know that they cared about us . I also got a personal call from my LCC asking the same question. How wonderful that we had no sad news !

CoCa September 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

I quite like the idea of an emergency plan, but this could possibly include ANY type of situation where you have to abandon your home and potentially become separated from your loved ones.

For example, depending on where you live, there could be natural disasters such as floods/tsunamis, hurricanes and so on.

I think that au pairs should absolutely be included in such a plan, but that maybe it needs to be approached carefully so as not to induce panic or a belief that the threat is imminent. This is one reason why I might call it an “emergency plan” rather than a 9/11 plan.

After all, no matter where you come from you should be able to relate to the fact that disasters do happen, but not everyone is used to the idea of a terrorist attack.

That said, having lived in the UK for many years, I have become accustomed to thinking about the terrorist threat on a smaller scale, too.

While the UK has thankfully been spared the horrendous experience of something as big as 9/11, the situation with regards to Northern Ireland and the IRA means that there have been many smaller terrorist attacks such as bombings in shopping centers and on public streets. This, I believe, has taught people over their to be generally wary of things like packages or bags being left unattended on public transport or other crowded places.

Darthastewart September 11, 2009 at 6:43 pm

I think there are many cases where your family might need an emergency plan- what if you have a kid with a broken arm? (It’s happened to us twice). There are so many things that can conceivably go wrong that I think this is a great idea.

Calif Mom September 13, 2009 at 9:08 pm

http://www.redcross.org has great resources for building a plan and thinking about what you need at home (prescriptions, anyone?)

Franzi September 18, 2009 at 2:46 pm

i was an AP during 9/11 in d.c.
i can tell you that i have never been this frightened in my life before. i was far away from home, for the very first time, in a country using a foreign language that only worked so-so when emotions got me, i did not know my host families relatives, i did not know about school emergency procedures…frankly, i had no clue.

both my families did not have a plan in place but my second family was much better about letting me know where i can find family phone numbers, addresses, how to get to their place etc.

i suggest having a plan for “regular emergencies” such as broken bones, car accident, something happens during travel. and then a plan for the big event. i think it would be very scary to confront a new AP with a “9-11” plan only. at least change the name! make sure you demonstrate that you are not gloomy waiting for the next big one but rather like to be prepared in the very unlikely event.

this plan will actually also give you a chance to talk about behavior during a natural disaster (earthquake, tornado) – you know, things that happen fast without warning, where you cannot be home immediately.

also, make sure your emergency contacts know your AP, her cell number, and other ways to reach her. for example, my second host parents asked me if it was ok if their parents had my home contact details (mom, sister). my mom had their contact data as well.

TX Mom September 18, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Franzi, you made me realize that the emergency instructions aren’t going to help an AP when the instructions are in the manual and the manual is at home! (Not to mention the RTFM issue.) We are SO dependent on mobile phones and luckily all emergencies away from home have been handled by a call to HM on the mobile phone.
Do families have good ideas about portable 911 plans for their AP’s? I have car accident instructions in the glove box but that’s it.

CV September 18, 2009 at 6:20 pm

TX Mom-
As it has already been made clear that I’m a wierdo when it comes to things written down– we have a copy in the glove box of each car, and we also keep a copy of our full family phone list in the glove box too (this b/c I can’t remember my own sister’s cell phone number!). We also have the I.C.E. numbers programmed as a contact on the cell phone.
I like to think that this stuff will never be used.

tracy cota September 18, 2009 at 7:07 pm

I am an LCC with Cultural Care. I am also a host mom. In California, I urge all the families here to come up with an earthquake plan. It’s important for an au pair to know the safest place in the home, where the family should meet if they are in separate locations at the time of an earthquake, and I also recommend that host families program an out-of-state phone number into their au pair’s cel phone or put it on their emergency list. We have had five notable earthquakes this year alone. In fact, our au pair was with our kids when one of them happened. It is very likely that an au pair in California will feel a little of the shake, rattle and roll during her year here, and it can be scary, so letting them know how to handle the situation in advance is a good idea. The redcross.org has some great info about earthquake preparedness, and so does the National Geological Survey.

Kiwi HM September 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm

We have just had a massive earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand. Completely unexpected, and devastating. I am so glad it happened at 4.30am on Saturday morning and not in the middle of the week on a school/work day – I have now put a plan into place should this ever happen again, as I work an hours drive from my kids. The thought of being so far away from them and this happening frightens me. Please have a plan in place – you never know when you might need it!

Bruce Johnson December 1, 2010 at 6:19 am

Good info and right to the point. I am not sure if this is actually the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers? Thanks in advance :)

Joyce March 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm

For those of you with plans, do you mind sharing what sort of things you should have in your plan? I assume you need a designated place to meet, phone numbers. An emergency kit in the car and stashed at the house? What should be in the kit?

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