Let’s examine the following two situations and what you should do to minimise damage:
Q: My young child is home during the day with the maid and an elderly relative. What can I can teach the child in case of an emergency at home?
Children who are capable of understanding the severity of an emergency and can speak clearly should be taught to alert an adult if they notice something has happened in the home:
If anyone in the home needs assistance then they should be able to inform the other adult at home.
If the other adult is unable to respond or support then teach them to dial your phone number from a landline phone.
Keep a list of emergency numbers that they can easily read and tell them to use certain key words, HELP, Come Home.
The language must be such that you instantly recognise the urgency.
If you receive the call from that particular number, ensure you
Have the child regularly recite your number and make them call you occasionally to test their knowledge and to show them that you respond.
If all else fails, the child could be taught to go to the door and scream for help loudly enough to be heard by the neighbours or a passerby.
If regular medication is needed by the elderly relative, then ensure a child of an appropriate age (who understands not to consume any medication) is able to either help retrieve it or then show the other adult present where it is kept. This is particularly vital if you have a new maid who may not be familiar with the interior of the house, etc.
Security and safety of children and adults is of vital importance; any untoward incident can take place while you are not around.
It is important for you to know what are the most likely emergency scenarios that could occur, based on the age of those at home, medical needs, security situation in your area, fire safety and primarily, the capability of your child.
Thereafter, make fun activities for the children to practice all through the year, such as scavenger hunts and always reward them when they’ve made the right decision.
Q: I live in a different city from my elderly parents who live alone and have domestic help that comes during the day. What are some of the key safety and security considerations to keep in mind?
The aim should be to make it easy for them to do anything in an emergency and for you to know they need assistance:
Give someone trustworthy who resides within the same area, if possible, or in the same city, the keys to the house, only to be used in emergency.
Have someone visit them weekly or at a convenient time with the following tasks:
Report back to you on their physical well being.
Ask them if they need assistance with any maintenance works at the home (electrical, plumbing, utilities, etc).
Replenish their medication that is consumed regularly.
Provide any financial needs support (take them to the bank, pay bills, etc).
There are several services that now provide home delivery for groceries, medication and other daily needs that you can subscribe to and prepay or transact online.
Keep a contact list with your number in prominent place written / printed in a large font, clearly mentioning your relationship (son, daughter, etc).
Have a landline phone active that can be easily accessed from the bedroom.
Instruct the domestic help to contact the person who you’ve tasked to check on them to contact as and when needed and to escalate to you.
Have some form of communication with them on a daily basis or a very regular basis, be it calls, video chats, text messaging. A video call chat regularly will also help you recognise any physical frailty.
If they have mobility issues ensure they have support in the form of physical equipment, such as wheelchairs, bars on the walls in the bathrooms to hold on to.
Always place daily use items at a level they can easily reach without the need for aid of others or equipment like stepping stools that aren’t sturdy.
Security panic alarms can be installed through vendors who cover the area who will ensure you are informed as well.
Security cameras are available that have remote monitoring which allow you to check 24/7/365 from anywhere, including mobile devices.
If there’s a need for regular medical checks or medication contract a nurse or doctor who can visit appropriately and is available for emergencies.
As with the previous case, it is important for you to know what are the most likely emergency scenarios that could occur based on the age of those at home, medical needs, security situation in your area. Make a plan to address these, but foremost have the means of checking on them yourself or by someone trustworthy.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 9th, 2015