By definition, emergencies happen when we don't expect them and often when families are not together. Suddenly, you need to think about your kids at school or elderly parents across town. If phones don't work or some neighborhoods aren't accessible, what will you do?
The best way to help ensure your family’s safety is to have an emergency plan. Having a plan and discussing it with loved ones will save time and make real situations less stressful.
To get started, let's look at one of three scenarios. In our first scenario, you and your family are separated. In an emergency, you'll need a simple way to contact and meet one another if going home isn't possible. Decide, in advance, on a safe place to meet like a community center, library or school.
The phone can help too. Long distance calls may work better than local ones, so select a couple of out-of-town contacts who can help your family communicate and find each other. Let them know about your plan and how they can help.
Of course, children are a big concern. If they're in school or day care, they will need to be picked-up. Know their emergency policies and if you can’t pick up the kids, designate someone who can. And talk to your kids about your Plan. Teach them basic personal information so they can identify themselves and who to call, like 9-1-1 to get help.
In our second scenario, you're together at home. In this case, listen to the radio or television for information from local authorities and follow their instructions. They may advise to turn utilities off or on so it’s important to know the location of your home’s water valve, electrical panel, gas valve and floor drain. Make sure everyone also knows the location of your family emergency kit and fire extinguisher.
In our third scenario, you have to evacuate. Everyone should know your home’s safe exits and best places to go. And remember your pets, who may not be allowed in shelters or hotels. Identify kennels or friends' homes where they can go in an emergency.
Elderly family members or those with special needs should also be a part of your plan. List the medications, supplies and info care-givers will need in an evacuation. If they live alone, ask a neighbor to help them evacuate.
Documents will also help. Make copies of birth certificates, passports, wills, and insurance info. These documents, along with photos of family members, should be kept at safe locations like your workplace.
Having a plan is also a part of being a responsible community member. Local authorities will react swiftly, but they can't reach everyone at once. Being prepared allows these responders to help those in urgent need first.
So, do your part! Learn about the emergencies that can happen where you live and plan for situations that are more likely to occur. Take 20 minutes today and prepare your emergency plan.
Emergencies happen when we least expect them and few understand the benefits of having a plan for how to react. This video uses three scenarios to introduce what should be in your emergency plan, including:
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