What to do in an Emergency
As a host family, it is your responsibility to make sure you and your au pair are sufficiently prepared for any emergencies that might arise. Unexpected events resulting in an emergency can happen to your au pair or one of your children when you are not around. How do you prepare an au pair to handle emergency situations in your household? How do you prepare yourself to handle a situation in which your au pair may need emergency attention?
Put yourself in an au pair’s shoes. Imagine living with a family in a foreign country. The household you’ve become a part of is wonderful, and the experience is everything you had hoped for, until there is an emergency. What should you do? How do you handle it?
Communication is Key
It is important to discuss the what ifs that could arise. What if there is sickness, accidental injury, or a car collision? Kids are kids. Sometimes kids and adults can get themselves into trouble. Make plans to have a discussion with your au pair about emergency situations before an emergency actually happens. As the saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” When your kids are involved, failure is not an option.
Plan this conversation ahead of time, so you hit all the important points in the discussion. You may even want to have a bullet list of items and make a copy for your au pair. If that sounds a little over the top, remember that in an emergency situation, you can never be too prepared.
The thing about emergencies is that generally people don’t think of them until they happen: Jeffrey got his head stuck in what? or his sister ate what? Small, large or merely inconvenient emergencies can happen when you least expect them. For this reason, your au pair needs to know the basics of how to handle household emergencies.
If the lights went out during a storm, would your au pair know what to do? Does your au pair know where to find the candles and flashlights, or where to take the kids if shelter is required? These are simple things, but when you are in a foreign country, an emergency situation can feel extremely overwhelming.
Some homes have quirks that the family takes for granted. For example, you must jiggle the flush lever to keep the toilet from running, or the faucet control needs to be turned just right or the tap will drip. Little things may not seem important until it turns into something else. Here’s an example of an escalating problem: A plugged toilet is merely an inconvenience, unless it overflows and floods the floor, but if not discovered right away, it also damages everything below it.
You and your au pair need to be prepared to handle medical emergencies. These may be the most important challenges you and your au pair will face. Know how to access basic medical information for each member of the household in the event there is a medical emergency. Information such as blood types, medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or allergies to bee stings should be compiled where it can be accessed in a hurry and relayed to medical response teams or emergency room staff.
If your child has any conditions that could result in a medical emergency, such as asthma or a serious allergy, it is critical for the au pair to be aware of this. Instructions on how to handle the emergency in your absence are important. Medical authorizations should also be readily available so you or the au pair can access them quickly.
Your child isn’t the only one who may encounter a medical emergency. There is always the possibility that your au pair could have a medical emergency. Most situations can be handled as with any other family member. But you should be prepared, with the necessary documents, to act on behalf of your au pair in case a more serious emergency occurs.
Your au pair may have access to your vehicles as an occasional driver. Be sure to discuss the procedures required by your insurance provider should the vehicle be involved in an accident. The au pair needs to know where the insurance card and registration information are kept. It is also important to collect as much information as possible from others involved in the accident. Taking pictures with a cell phone may be helpful in capturing some of that information. You may want to keep your insurance and registration cards in an envelope along with a list of questions to ask in the case of an accident.
Obviously, you can’t plan for every possible emergency; however, you can have general plans for the most common scenarios. It is best to be well prepared in the event an emergency does occur. Initiating this conversation will also give your au pair an opportunity to voice any concerns they may have.