A Guide to Emergency Planning for Expat Families

As an expat parent living in Indonesia I need to be prepared for the unexpected and take sensible steps to protect my family. If an emergency arises, I need to have the right procedures in place because as a foreigner to this country, I don’t have the immediate access to, or the protection of, my home country’s support system. Here are some things you can do to help protect your family:

1. List your primary and emergency contact details

This includes the names, contact numbers, addresses and email addresses of both parents, next of kin, work colleagues, family members in your hometown, household staff members, and trusted friends living in Indonesia. Keep a copy of this list at home where it’s easily accessible, such as on the refrigerator, and go through this list with your household members including staff. Keep a copy in your safe, your children’s school bag, your personal handbag and car. Have a copy basically anywhere you think it can be easily located during an emergency situation.

Ensure this list has the emergency contact numbers of your country’s consulate, medical hospitals/doctors, police, and your lawyer.

2. Evacuation kit

My friend recently asked about preparing an earthquake evacuation kit and I thought she was paranoid until I felt the earthquake last month! It is recommended that you have a backpack with the following items packed inside in case you need to quickly evacuate, or you’re left stranded:

  • Water
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • A map of the local area
  • Phone charger and spare battery pack
  • Cash in local currency and US dollars
  • Credit cards
  • First aid kit with essential medication and pain killers
  • Emergency contact information (as above)

Also bring important paperwork such as your marriage certificate, birth certificates, your will, passports, your KITAS, bank account statements etc.

I also recommend that you pack a sleeping bag, blankets and some extra clothes for the family, and a teddy bear for your kids, along with some snacks such as UHT milk and muesli bars (things that are long life and can be kept for a long time.)

I recommend placing the backpack next to your safe so that you can quickly grab your important documents on the way out. Of course, depending on the size of your family, you may need to use more than one backpack.

3. Make copies of important documents

Keep copies of your important legal documents and keep these copies with relatives in your home country, your home office, work office, etc. Ensure all copies are kept in a safe place and locked away from potential theft. Scanned soft copies are also a good idea, provided that these too, are stored safely.

4. Carry sufficient identification

Indonesian law requires all foreigners to carry either their passport or KITAS at all times. Some foreigners choose to carry a copy of these documents instead of the real ones. I like to carry my original KITAS.

5. Death overseas

This one really scares me as a parent living abroad. What would happen if one or both parents died while living in Indonesia? What will happen to our children? Will they have access to money? Will our children be sent back to their home country or will they be stuck in Indonesia?

In the case of death (of one parent only), the remaining spouse (and/or children) are not automatically given the right to the deceased person’s assets in some countries, therefore it is highly recommended that you create a legally binding will in each country where you have assets.

To protect your children from the situation of both deceased parents, you must have a valid will in place. This will does not need to be created in Indonesia, as a will from your home country is valid here. Most expats will nominate a guardian from their home country to take care of their children (e.g. their grandparents). However, you first need to arrange accommodation for your children until your nominated guardian arrives to collect them. Therefore, your will should also have a Power of Attorney attached which elects a resident of Indonesia to act as the primary care taker of your children until their guardian arrives.

Make sure that you discuss these points with all parties involved and write down your instructions. Also state the location of your legal documents, children’s passports and the key or combination for your safe.

6. Register at your country’s embassy

It is advisable that all expats register their whereabouts with their country’s embassy. Once you have registered at the embassy, your consulate will be able to update you on warnings and safety information, and locate you in case of evacuations from the country.

7. Let’s talk about safety!

I have recently taught my children my mobile number by singing it in a tune. We also regularly talk about what they should do if they get lost in a public area. However, your family are not the only ones that you should be having these conversations with. It’s important to have the same discussions with your household help and go through your emergency plans with them as well. Start talking to your friends and neighbours about this also! Provide them with details of where your emergency contacts are and what help you may ask them for in the event of an emergency.

Of course, other types of emergency situation can also arise. It could be something like a trip to the hospital due to a child’s injury. This happened to me recently, when I had to assist a neighbour (someone I didn’t even know!) who was hosting a play date. A young boy needed to be rushed to the hospital with my driver while I was left with the remaining children on the play date. I didn’t know these children and I somehow had to locate their parents. It wasn’t easy!

Speak to your driver about which hospital he should always drive to in case of an emergency near your home, office or school. All of our household members have completed first aid training and we have practised the emergency evacuation drill in our condo by going down the emergency staircase together.

 

You can never be too prepared. Contact your embassy for further advice.

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Rinka Perez is “The Expat Housewife of Jakarta”, sharing her experiences of living in “The Big Durian” as an expat mother of three. She loves Jakarta, posting her daily discoveries of local things to do with her young family on Instagram #aMillionThingsToDoInJakarta. Follow her on Instagram @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta. Website: www.theexpathousewifeofjakarta.com FB - The Expat Housewife of Jakarta