Recently, my husband hit a deer while driving his motorcycle to work. He is alive and he is now back to normal, but it was rough for a while. Considering that such collisions are often fatal, he is very lucky.
When I got the call from the Ontario Provincial Police that morning, I was a bit of a mess. It was the communications centre that called me so they had limited information on how severe my husband’s injuries were. After falling apart on the phone, I realized I had to pull myself together and make some calls and quickly head to the hospital.
I called my family and my husband’s family immediately. I also had to call the school bus so that my children wouldn’t be picked up, the school to advise of their absence, my husband’s employer and my staff member to deal with the unexpected absences that day (and beyond). I didn’t have all of those numbers at the ready and flipping through a phone book or navigating an internal phone directory is not an easy thing to do when you’re in an emergency situation.
Lesson learned: organize all your emergency contacts
- Who would you need to call if a family member was in an accident? Who would need to be called if you were in an accident?
- Figure out who that is and organize all those numbers so you can access them easily.
- You may also want to save those numbers in your cell phone as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) numbers. Consider that someone other than you might be using your phone to figure out who to contact. Several ICE numbers might be helpful, e.g.” ICE my work”, “ICE home”, “ICE my parents”, “ICE my kid’s school”, et cetera. Having such numbers at the ready will make an emergency situation much easier to deal with, believe me.
Not knowing my husband’s condition as I drove to the hospital, I wondered if I would need a copy of his Power of Attorney for Personal Care, in case I needed to make medical decisions if he was unconscious or needed surgery. We were in the process of amending our estate planning documents, so I wasn’t sure if I had our documents in the safe with client documents or if I had removed them and kept them in my own personal files while I was working on the changes.
So really, I didn’t know where the document was if I needed it. It was somewhere in the office but was not at the ready. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed, but not knowing exactly where it was certainly was not a good feeling.
Lesson learned: keep copies of all important documents at the ready
I have now confirmed the physical location of my estate planning documents in my office, and my staff knows where they are so they can be accessed in an emergency.
I tell clients to do this, but I’ve never done it myself. I’m going to copy our Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and keep them in the glove box of our car. If my husband rides a motorcycle again, I will leave a copy in the tank bag. In an accident, that is the document that is most likely needed.
I have also prepared emergency cards for our wallets, but I know my husband had taken his out at one point when he was cleaning out his wallet. I’m going to make sure that copies of that emergency card are in both our wallets and one is in the vehicles as well, as the emergency card outlines who to contact in an emergency and also tells first responders who to call if our children are not with us. These emergency contacts are the people who have authority to care for our children in an emergency.
I have learned other things from this situation, but I will leave you with those two for now. I hope that my experiences will push you to get things organized so that you are better prepared should an emergency occur.
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Michele R.J. Allinotte is the owner of Journey Law in Cornwall, Ontario and she helps her clients make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their businesses. Her practice focuses on the areas of business law, estate planning and real estate. Visit www.YourCornwallLawyer.com to get her FREE Peace of Mind Personal Inventory to make sure that your family has all the information they need.