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When preparing for potential emergency, you need to consider that your family may not be all together when the disaster hits. Do you have a plan for getting in contact with each other? If there is no cell service, what will you do? How will you communicate?
One thing you can easily do (for free) is to create a contact card for each member of your family. The adults can keep them in their wallet or purse. You can place the cards in each of your children’s school backpacks or bags if they’re in school. The school should have a plan in place for identifying children in case of emergency.
Because many disasters are localized, choose a relative or friend who lives out-of-state that each member of your family will contact to let them know they are safe. That way each of you can get a status on everyone else if you are separated with no way to communicate with one another. In case cell service is down, make sure you carry spare change or a prepaid phone card so you can use a pay phone.
You can also create a contact in your cell phone labeled “ICE,” which stands for In Case of Emergency. While not all emergency personnel will check for an ICE listing, some may do that if you are in an accident so they know whom to contact.
You will also want to subscribe to local alert services if one is available in your community. These systems can send text messages or e-mails to alert you of inclement weather, road closings, local emergencies and more. You can sign up if you visit your local Office of Emergency Management website.
You can also sign up for text messages from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To signup to receive monthly preparedness tips: text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA). To unsubscribe (at any time): text STOP to 43362 (4FEMA).
Making an Emergency Plan
Another simple and free step you can take to further prepare your family for a potential disaster is to make an emergency plan. The Ready.gov website has a free Family Emergency Plan (PDF) download that you can print and fill out.
Plan Your Escape Routes
Using a blank sheet of paper for each floor of your home, draw a floor plan that even children can understand. Mark 2 escape routes for each room on the floor plan and place one in each room so everyone can safely evacuate the home. This is especially important to do in children’s rooms because it may not be as intuitive for them to know where to exit if they’re frightened. If you have multiple floors, be sure to have an escape ladder stowed on the higher floors and ensure everyone knows how to safely use them.
You also need to establish a place to meet in the event of an emergency. Record the locations and practice them (remember fire drills in school?). The places should be specific, like if you’re close to home, meet by neighbor Susie’s house next to the fire hydrant. Or, if you’re not near your home, meet at the local library.
Teach Everyone to Safely Shut Off Utilities
In certain disasters, it is imperative to be able to quickly and safely shut off utilities. Each member of your family should be able to do so without hesitation. You need to be able to shut off your gas, electricity and water. Click here for tips.
During your family emergency planning, you should also should also address:
- Pet care and evacuation plans
- Assisting family members with special needs
- First aid procedures
- Protecting financial documents (click here for a PDF plan)
Once you’ve put together your family’s emergency plan, gather your family members to discuss the information in the plan. Be sure to practice your plan at least two times per year, and update it at that same frequency.