When seconds count, you need a plan. Make sure your loved ones are safe in an emergency with this simple but comprehensive plan. Take 5 steps closer to safety!
- Talk to your family about emergencies and disasters.1
Everyone in the family should know what to do in the event of an emergency. The best way to prepare is to talk about it as a family. There’s no need to scare anyone. In fact, presenting this information matter-of-factly and repeatedly, reminding young kids that this is a way they can help and make sure everyone is safe, can actually give kids a sense of empowerment.
Give each person an assignment. Practice what to do and remind everyone to stay calm. Cover how to turn off gas and electricity at the main switches. Remind them to always listen to Mom and Dad during any emergency. A few dress rehearsals will go a long way when minutes count.
- Know the 911 drill. And practice it!
Should an emergency occur, it’s important that every member of the family can dial 911 and know what to say when they do.1 Practice this with kids of all ages, even the youngest. Obviously don’t dial 911 during the practice drill. Spend time making sure that kids understand what a real emergency is, like a home invasion. For your youngest, play a game where you ask whether or not certain situations constitute an emergency.
For example, it might seem troubling when it’s time to leave for school and your child can’t find her shoes. Make sure she recognizes that this isn’t a 911 emergency. Now is a good time to confirm everyone has committed all identifying details to memory: Kids should know their address and be able relay whether or not anyone in the family has an illness or special needs. And mom and dad need to know everyone’s phone numbers, too. In this digital age, it can be easy to rely on programmed numbers and forget.
- Have a “grab-and-go kit.”
Many people have a box or folders that includes all their household documents, like a deed to the house and proof of medical and homeowner’s insurance. It’s also very important to have a kit that includes all medical records, names and numbers of your physicians and specific information on every member of your family.
You should also have the same records for the family pets, including the name and phone number of their vets. If anyone is injured or incapacitated during a disaster or emergency, it will be helpful for medical techs and doctors to have all this information. Ultimately, it can save time—and save a life. Keep the kit in a closet or cubby near a door and be sure to designate who should grab it in case of emergency.2
- Have supplies on hand.
A disaster doesn’t always mean evacuation. You could end up “sheltering at home” for a few days, and you could be without electricity or water. Make sure you have food that won’t need to be cooked to eat. Have hygiene supplies such as toilet paper, toothpaste, moistened towelettes, contact lense solution, and prescription and non-prescription medications. Also gather some books and games to keep everyone entertained and calm. Have enough to last you and all your family members 7-14 days.
Create a separate evacuation kit and store it in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container like backpacks, duffel bags or covered trash bins and keep it in an easily accessible location. Remember to refresh kit contents periodically, particularly the medications and food.
- Communication: A plan within the plan.
What if your family is not together when a disaster strikes? In the event of a tornado or earthquake for example, an emergency situation could develop in the middle of a work or school day, with family members scattered across the community. You’ll need to communicate quickly and efficiently.
Create contact cards. Make sure your whole family has a card with every family member’s name and numbers on it. Be sure to tuck a card into the book bag or backpack of younger children. Check in with your children’s school about what their emergency plan is, and go over it with your kids.
Program everyone’s phone with an out-of-state or out of town ‘ICE” contact—In Case of Emergency. Sometimes, during an emergency, it’s easier to make long distance calls.3 Everyone can check in with this ICE contact and he or she can relay information, such as where your family members are, and, most of all, that they are safe.4
Let your out-of-state friend know that he or she is your ICE contact. Remind your family to try email and texts as a means of contact. Texts, or SMS messages, may be able to work around network disruptions during an emergency when a phone call won’t get through.
By following these 5 steps, you’ll be better prepared for whatever life throws your way.
Make sure your plan includes these4:
- Know what disasters are likely to occur in your area.
- Plan two escape routes from your home, workplace or school and community.
- Have a meeting point near your home and one in the event that you are not together during an emergency.
- Plan for a place to take your pets, or plan what you’ll need to take them with you.
- Designate your out-of-state or out-of-town ICE contact and program his or her number into all family members’ phones.
- Program hospital and health department numbers into every family members’ phone
- Know your children’s’ schools emergency plans.
- Subscribe to an alert services app so you’ll get regular updates during an emergency.
- Plan and secure enough supplies to shelter-in-place if needed.
- Keep a grab-and-go bag for the family in a central location and update it regularly. It should include updated medical records and information for each family member.
- Always have at least 30 days worth of prescriptions and medications on hand.
- Have emergency cash on hand and know which ATMs take your card.