Hurricane/Earthquake/Natural DisasterEveryone, regardless of sexual orientation should have some kind of emergency preparedness plan and kit in case of a natural or man-made disaster. Be prepared in case of fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, flooding or military attack. It’s a good idea to have enough supplies on hand to make it through three days without power.
To Do: Gather disaster supplies.
Gays and lesbians in relationships should also have copies of any legal documents that regarding their relationships. That means, in states where gay marriage is legal, keep a copy of your marriage certificate, in case you run across homophobia and anyone asks you to prove the status of your relationship. The same is true of states with domestic partnerships. If you’ve had any legal papers drawn up to establish your relationship, keep them handy. And remember, that because of unfair marriage laws and the Defense of Marriage Act, your relationship status may or may not be recognized outside of your home state.
What types of paperwork should you have on hand?
Children & School:What would happen if something happened to your child at school and you couldn’t get there? If you and your partner aren’t both the legal parents of your child, it’s important that her school know the status of her relationship to your child so that she can be released to her if necessary.
To Do: Talk to school administrators to let them know the nature of your family. Find out what paper work needs to be filled out so that both of you are allowed to pick the child up from school and that school staff has contact information for both of you in case of an emergency or if your child gets sick during the school day.
Children and GuardiansYou may be raising a child with a partner who doesn’t have legal rights. Or you and your partner may both have guardianship of your children. Either way, if something were to happen to you, or both of you, it’s a good idea to appoint a guardian to take care of your children in case of death of one or both of you.
To Do: Talk to a lawyer about appointing a guardian for your children in case something happens to you and/or your partner. If one of you is the birth parent and you plan on raising a child together as a family, consider a second-parent adoption if your state allows it. This will establish legal rights and protections for both you and your children.
Hospital or Medical VisitationWhat if a tree falls on your car in a storm and you’re rushed to a hospital? What if, like Charlene Strong, a freak accident happens and you’re trapped by flood waters? Will you and your partner have access to each other in a hospital or during an emergency? A law passed in 2011 ensures that hospital patients have the right to designate who they want to visit them in their hospital room. Patients can also appoint a health care proxy to make decisions for them if they are unable to do so.
To Do: Talk to your insurance company, doctor or state health department about getting paperwork to appoint a health care proxy. This person will be able to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to. Give a copy to your insurance agent, your doctor, your attorney, the person who is your proxy and any other close friends or family members who you want to have it. Keep a copy in your purse or wallet so it is always on you in case of emergency.
Providing for Your Loved OnesBeing prepared for a natural disaster also means you should be ready in case you don’t survive. Because of unequal marriage and relationships laws, gays and lesbians need to take extra steps to ensure that their property goes to the people they want it to when they die and not to a family member, just because they are related by blood.
To Do: Make a will to ensure that your belongings go to the people you want.
Get to Know Your Neighbors:The people who live near you may be essential to your survival during a time of national crisis. You may rely on one another for food, shelter and comfort.
To Do: Get to know your neighbors. If you feel safe doing so, come out to them so they understand that you consider yourselves a family. Make sure they understand who the people are that are important to you and how to get in touch with them.
In times of natural disaster, we often see past the differences that divide us and pull together as a community. If you’re involved in a crisis or natural disaster situation, take care of your self and your loved ones, but also be sure to check on elderly or disabled neighbors who may need assistance.