Disaster Preparedness: How to Create an Emergency Plan
Weather emergencies or natural disasters can strike with little to no warning, and if they do, you may not have time to figure out what you need to do or where you need to go. Hopefully you will never need it but having an emergency plan in place will make things go more smoothly and should provide you with peace of mind that you're as prepared as you can be.
Your emergency plan should specify:
- What each person in your family needs to do in an emergency
- Where you will go and how you will get there
- How you will find each other if you are separated
- Ways you will communicate with each other, as well as with other relatives or friends
Here are 7 things to keep in mind when creating your emergency plan:
- Meeting places: Designate two places for your family to reunite after an emergency. The first should be right outside your home. The second should be at a public place outside of your neighborhood in case the area has to be evacuated, such as a library, fire station or place of worship. Everyone should know the address and phone number of your meeting places.
- Travel routes: If it becomes necessary to leave, plan how you and your family will travel. Know and practice all possible exit routes from your home and neighborhood.
- Other plans: Ask about emergency plans for your workplace, children’s school or day care. Figure out how to incorporate these plans into your own family plan.
- Important info and items: Gather important documents now and store them in one place so these items are easily accessible if you need to evacuate quickly. Also keep a supply of necessary medication or lifesaving equipment in a bag that can be grabbed on your way out the door.
- Special needs: Consider any special needs of children, the elderly, people with disabilities and non-English speakers. Also plan for how you will meet the needs of family pets.
- Utilities: Make sure responsible family members know how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches or valves, if needed.
- Contact person: Due to damage and heavy phone traffic, it is often easier to communicate with someone that is out-of-state during an emergency. Designate a long-distance relative or friend that all family members should call if they become separated during an emergency. This person can serve as the point of contact if you can’t get through to each other directly.
It is also good to review, update and practice your emergency plan with all household members so you'll be ready to jump into action if your family is ever affected by any type of weather emergency, natural disaster or other event that puts your family's or your home's safety at risk.