Having a family emergency plan is a critical step in preparedness. You wouldn’t try to build a house without a blueprint, drive across country without a map, or make your aunt’s famous meatloaf without the recipe would you?
Disasters can be complex with little time to make critical decisions. Developing a family emergency plan in calm conditions can help you think through disaster scenarios and decide what you will do, what you will need, and where you will go.
Step 1 – Conduct a hazard assessment
A family emergency plan starts with conducting a personal hazard assessment. Look around. What types of hazards do you face in the Midwest, at your work, in your neighborhood, and even in your home? Is severe weather in the forecast? Do you live or work near railroad tracks or a highway, is there a river nearby that could flood, are there tree limbs that could fall on your home in a high wind, are your household chemicals stored properly? Try to identify all the possible emergencies that could affect your home and your family, even if they seem unlikely. It is better to have a plan you don’t need, than need a plan you don’t have.
Step 2 – Identify the actions to take for the scenarios you identified
Different emergencies call for different actions. The three basic choices are get out, get down or seal up. Get our if there is a fire or an evacuation has been issued. Get down if there is a tornado or high winds; identify a safe room that is on the lowest level possible in small interior rooms away from doors and windows such as a closet or bathroom. Seal up may occur in a hazardous material incident; close and lock all doors and windows, shut off the heating/cooling system, gather people and pets in an upper level room and seal windows, doors, and vents. A room with access to a telephone, water, and toilet would be ideal.
Step 3 – Identify 2 meeting places
You will need a meeting place near your home in case everyone is evacuating thru different doors and windows so you can gather to make sure everyone got out safely. You’ll need another meeting place outside your neighborhood in the event that you are not home and can’t return to your neighborhood. Cell phones may not work after a disaster so having a location to regroup is essential. It should be somewhere open 24 hours per day and well lit if possible so that your family will feel safe waiting for one another. An all night convenience store, grocery store or pharmacy may work well.
Step 4 – Identify an out of state contact
Sometimes in a disaster it is easier to make a long distance phone call than to call across town. This out of state family member or friend can coordinate information among separated family members. Make sure everyone knows the phone number and don’t forget to tell your contact what their job will be. In addition, each member of the family should know how to use text messaging. Sometime text messages will work even when a phone call can’t get through.
Step 5 – Make a check list
Depending on the emergency there may be several things you need to do such as turning off the utilities, securing pets, grabbing emergency kits, calling your out of state contact, etc. List all of the things you may need to do and assign appropriate family members to certain tasks to expedite execution of your plan. The checklist will help ensure that you don’t forget anything and track your progress.
Step 6 – Meet with your family
The best plan in the world will not assist you if no one knows what the plan is. A family meeting is a good time to discuss the hazards you have identified and go over the different actions, check list items, etc. in your plan. This is also time to share ideas and suggestions regarding your family emergency plan and learn about the emergency plans that are in place at your loved ones work and school.
Step 7 – Practice your plan
Once you have a plan in place and your family knows what to do, it is a good idea to practice. This will help you confirm assumptions made during the planning process, test your ability to execute the plan, and identify areas that need improvement. Periodic practicing will also ensure that your family remembers the plan and can complete it under difficult circumstances.
You can get a free family emergency plan template and preparedness guides by contacting our office.