Disasters can happen in the blink of an eye – storms, floods and fires often strike without warning. Your home and family could be in danger and you could find yourself without basic services like gas, electricity or water. This is exactly when a family disaster plan is vitally important. A disaster plan won’t prevent disasters from happening, but it may help your family to be prepared in case of emergency. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your own disaster plan.
Get everyone involved
Everyone in your household should be part of disaster planning – from age 1 to 101. Even the youngest children should have an understanding of the basic plan for emergencies. The goal isn’t to frighten but to prepare family members. Start the process by setting up a family meeting to discuss what plan needs to be in place and the importance of the plan. Keep it simple and make it fun – order pizza and have art supplies out to allow kids to make their own visual plans. And make sure to ask your kids to share their own ideas to keep the family safe.
Discuss potential disasters
It’s difficult to prepare without knowing what to prepare for. Research potential disasters from the Red Cross of the Quad Cities or other emergency services like police and fire departments. Some specific types of natural disasters that could occur in the Quad Cities region include:
- Snow or ice storms
Determine a meeting place
When an emergency or disaster happens, determine at least two meeting places for your family. All family members should be familiar with these locations and know the addresses by heart. The first location should be right outside the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire. Perhaps your family will meet at the corner street sign or at a tree. For the second location, consider a place out of your neighborhood in case you cannot get home. Ideas include a home of a family member, a city park or a restaurant. It’s important to talk about these meeting spots often and even quiz kids on the spots. That way, when an emergency happens, it’s second nature to get there. In many cases, families are separated when a disaster strikes – parents may be working and kids may be in school. So everyone should be equally aware of the plan.
Designate an emergency contact
In case of emergency, there needs to be an emergency contact that all family members can call as soon as possible. This allows you to check in and ensure everyone is safe. All family members should know the name, phone number and address. (Save it in phones or notebooks if you worry about forgetting.)
Practice makes perfect
In addition to meeting places and emergency contacts, the plan itself should include the following:
- Multiple evacuation routes for all types of disasters (fire, tornado, etc.).
- The type of emergency signals in your area and what they mean.
- Where emergency provisions (like food and water) are located.
- Where fire extinguishers, flashlights or candles are located.
- Emergency numbers and contacts.
It’s ideal to actually put this plan into writing, keeping it in a prominent place in your home – near the telephone or on the fridge, for example. Get the kids involved by drawing comics or pictures of where to meet or how to evacuate the home. But the intent is really to discuss the plan often enough of that it is second nature for all family members. There won’t likely be time to refer to the plan when a disaster strikes, so it’s important to make it a regular topic of conversation. And once the plan is in place, it’s time to practice. Conduct family emergency drills at least a few times each year to ensure everyone is comfortable with the plan.
- Practice various evacuation routes within the home.
- Practice getting to the meeting places.
- Check to ensure you have adequate food and water supplies.
- Test smoke alarms and replace batteries.
- Test fire extinguishers.
Think beyond home
Don’t forget about places besides home when it comes to disaster planning. Research the disaster plans at your workplace, school, daycare or other places where your family may spend a lot of time.
The bottom line
A family disaster plan won’t prevent a disaster from happening, but may make your family more prepared if it does. Discussing potential threats and how to handle them is a great way to keep your family safe.
For more information about how Werner helps families and businesses following a disaster, contact us.