Does your family have an emergency preparedness plan? Let’s face it. Sooner or later your family will probably encounter a natural disaster or similar emergency event that requires you to act quickly to stay safe and sound. This is much easier when you are prepared and have a plan. So start the new year with a new plan to keep everyone safe.
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Here are three basic questions that you should ask yourself to formulate an emergency preparedness plan for your family.
Your Preparedness Plan
Where Will You Go?
The first question you need to ask yourself is where you will go when an emergency arises. Will you stay at home and shelter in place? Will you head out of town and evacuate? If you are heading out, where will you go and where will you stay?
These are important questions and you don’t want to make those decisions when you are in the middle of a disaster. I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly excel at making fast decisions in scary situations. Planning ahead is essential.
A big part of your emergency preparedness plan should be to think through possible scenarios and then get the information you need ahead of time. For example, figure out what routes you can take to get out of the area, determine where you want to go if possible, and then get the contact information for a hotel or the people you’ll be staying with.
How Will You Stay In Touch?
There is nothing scarier than not being able to get in touch with loved ones during a disaster or emergency event. You’ll also need to get news and emergency alerts or announcements. Think about how you will accomplish this, both while you’re on the road and when you’re staying in your home or emergency shelter, with a preparedness plan.
FEMA recommends that you make a list on paper that includes family, as well as important people and offices, such as medical facilities, doctors, veterinarians, service providers and schools. On this list, include names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. I recommend having more than one copy of this list. Keep one on your fridge, keep one where you have important papers, keep a list in your car(s), keep a list at work, and make sure your kids have a copy too. FEMA also offers a wallet-sized card that you can print to keep in purses, backpacks, etc.
A word on cell phones
Making sure everyone has a cell phone is a great start. Don’t forget that these devices need to be charged. Having chargers, including car chargers, with you is a must. An additional battery, or a backup power supply will come in very handy as well. We actually have several portable chargers that are great to have on hand for emergencies.
TIP: FEMA says that often texting is better than a phone call during a disaster. A text requires less bandwidth than a phone call so it is more likely to get through.
Be conservative with your device usage to make the battery power last as long as possible. It’s important to talk to your kids about this ahead of a disaster and remind them regularly. You know how kids are.
TIP: You can conserve your cell phone battery by turning down the screen brightness, closing apps that you don’t need and putting your phone in airplane mode.
And while we are talking about cell phones, make sure everyone has at least one emergency contact in their phone under the name of ICE or In Case of Emergency. This will make it easier for you to find your emergency contacts, but it will also help emergency personnel to find a contact person if anything should happen to you making you unable to make a call. Obviously, make sure this contact knows they are a contact, and make sure they are aware of any medical issues that emergency workers will need to know to treat you.
Don’t rely on just your smart phone for news and communication. A backup plan will come in handy when you can’t get a good connection or run out of power on your device. Personally, my husband and I have a set of walkie talkies that can be used to communicate with each other. I’d also recommend a small emergency radio.
It’s also a good idea to designate a meeting point or a person that everyone contacts when you can’t get a hold of each other. Choose a safe location that everyone is familiar with. If someone in your family is disabled or has special needs, consider this when choosing a location. Also, if you have pets be sure the place you choose allows pets.
Your preparedness plan should include 4 places that you can meet with your family:
- A place that is indoors. This could be a shelter or a home, but it should be a place where you will be safe if weather conditions are unsafe. My mother lived near Joplin, MO where they were hit hard by tornadoes in 2011. There is now a storm shelter at the high school in the town she lived in, as well as at the home of one of the neighbors (who kindly invited me to shelter there when I was taking care of things after my mother died in May).
- A place in your neighborhood. If your house is on fire and everyone needs to evacuate, think of a safe meeting place. This could be a park, a tree, or even a neighbor’s driveway.
- A place outside of the neighborhood. If a disaster strikes when you are not at home, you should have a safe meeting place in town like a library, church, or community center.
- A place outside of your town. If your city needs to be evacuated or you are out of town, think about safe meeting places. This can also be a library or church. Or even the home of an out of town friend. Just make sure everyone knows where it is and how to get there.
What Supplies Do You Need?
The more prepared you are, the safer and more comfortable you’ll be when the inevitable happens. Depending on what natural disaster you face, where you live, who is part of your family, and simple things like weather will determine the supplies you need.
Start with the basics you need for survival including food, water, shelter, and medication. Don’t forget about your pets. From there, start thinking about creature comforts like light, entertainment, etc. Having a headlamp and a good book can make waiting out a power outage a lot more pleasant. Add a cup of hot chocolate made with a camping stove, hot water, and instant cocoa mix makes it even more pleasant. Be prepared and you’ll greatly increase your chances of making it through the emergency or disaster just fine.
I’ll be writing more about supplies in later articles. Watch for my Baby Steps to Preparedness series.
What steps have you taken to be better prepared for disasters? What do you still need to work on?