National Guard Life: How to Prepare for Emergency Activations

National Guard Life: How to Prepare for Emergency Activations

I am no stranger to midnight activations for state emergencies. While being married to my National Guard Soldier, we have had our fair share of surprise activations and others we expected. But what happens when those activations catch you off guard? There are various areas in which you will find yourself not prepared and more often these are vital to our own families.


Our spouses are called to duty, during a natural disaster – leaving you to manage your own family during the same natural disaster your spouse is out there assisting.. During Hurricane Sandy, we were left with no electricity for over two weeks while my husband was called to assist in our home state. This was a very stressful and trying time for my family, as I had to be prepared to face any issue and handle it as the head of the household. Luckily, I am now better prepared in case we face any future emergency activations.


Before getting to what we can do to be prepared, let’s familiarize ourselves with the types of activations a Guardsman will encounter.


Understanding the National Guard Activations


The National Guard is the only United States military force that operates across both the State and Federal government.


The three activation statues for National Guard service members are:


  • State Active Duty (SAD), used for state activations such as natural disasters, state assistance as per the Governor or Homeland Defense missions
  • Full-Time National Guard Duty (Title 32), also known as Active Guard Reserve (AGR)
  • Active Duty (Title 10), commonly used for overseas deployments

How to Prepare for Emergency Activations


We will be touching on four areas you should be prepared in; Community Support, Finances, Disaster Planning, and Military Family Readiness.


Community Support: As the spouse of a National Guard service member, we have both the advantage and disadvantage of living among a civilian community. It is easy to blend right into the civilian world, and while during deployments this can be a disadvantage, during state activations, ensure you are tapping into your community. It is almost imperative that you do not sit around and wait for others to reach out. Whether your spouse is activated or not, you are part of a community. Don’t dismiss your civilian community simply because they may not understand your lifestyle. The civilian community will be your lifeline throughout emergency activations.Reach out and create a neighborhood plan. Sticking together and helping each other out will be helpful when you are going it alone. Need more resources? Ready.Gov has great tips and plans on working together with your neighborhood.


Finances: I recently asked USAA Certified Financial Planner™, JJ Montanaro how to realistically stash cash for sudden activations. In the midst of a serious natural disaster, National Guard service members are activated and are yanked out of their civilian jobs. What happens if they don’t have paid time off, or vacation time to take? Since they are also state orders, pay can take some time to be processed. This leaves families low on cash and if they don’t have a savings account to tap into, they are out of resources. JJ mentions that “There are some great (and easy) ways to build an emergency fund. But first, if you are already in a financial bind, remember that the National Guard Soldiers and Airmen Emergency Relief Fund is in place to assist with these emergency situations. As far as stashing cash goes, when things are back to “normal” I would set up a savings account (if you don’t have one) and use automatic transfers into the account each pay period to get things started. In addition to that, USAA has a program called Savings Booster that you can use to transfer ATM rebates and a portion of your paycheck above a certain amount— you can then transfer the money into a “house fund,” but you could obviously use a similar technique to build your emergency fund.” I recently wrote about ways to save money, which can also be of help.Finances can surely be one of the most common areas that National Guard service members and families have to deal with, and the most stressful on top of disaster striking your community. Always feel free to reach out to USAA’s Disaster Recovery if you have any questions or help needed.


Disaster Planning: The only sure way to be prepared for a disaster is to have a plan. Most importantly, you need to ensure that everyone in the household is aware of the plan. Go over it together, even with your service member.What should be included in your plan? First off, you should be monitoring weather conditions; this is the most basic step. The American Red Cross recommends:

  •  Filling your cars with gas – so you can immediately evacuate if necessary.
  • Prepare the outside of your house – bring in anything that can blow away or become a projectile, close and board up windows, turn off any external propane tanks.
  • Prepare the inside of your house – Ensure your emergency supplies are stocked, turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest setting and leave closed, review your individual disaster plan.
  • You can read up on more emergency disaster planning for military families here.

Military Family Readiness: Going beyond emergencies and just throughout general military life, all National Guard families should have a Readiness Folder. A readiness folder will ensure you have all the resources and help in one place. Ensure your folder is updated with recent information that pertains to your unit as well as FRG (Family Readiness Group). You may also add an “Emergency Activation” section in which you can keep your plan easily available for all to see.


Have something to add to this article? Share your advice in the comments below.



Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.


About the blogger: Angela Caban is an Army National Guard spouse, freelance writer, published author and branding expert. Her husband was one of the many soldiers impacted by the unprecedented activation of the National Guard in 2008. In 2010, she founded the Homefront United Network, a military spouse and family support blog created to assist spouses who do not live near an installation, but also focusing on bridging the gap between National Guard, Reserve and Active Duty spouses. She is also co-founder of SpouseTalks. As a branding and digital influencer, she has created content for A&E, Lifetime Network and PBS. She has an extensive background in Human Resources and Communications, with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Human Resources. Angela resides in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with her husband of 11 years and two children.


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