You may never know when a disaster will strike, and it can be incredibly scary if your family members aren’t together, such as if you or they are at work, school, sports, or other extracurricular activities. Will you know where to meet up if you can’t return home? Will your children know the safest place in the home if you aren’t there to guide them?
If you don’t know the answers to those questions, it’d be important for you as a family to sit down and draft a Family Emergency Plan (FEP). Ready.gov has a printable pdf that you can fill out.
A Family Emergency Plan should include specific meeting places for you and your family, such as in your neighborhood, out of your neighborhood, and even out of town. It should also include necessary medical and identifying information for each family member as well as potential places to go in the event a disaster happens while the members of your family are out of the home. It would also be helpful to have special plans to include if you have pets or elderly relatives that may need more assistance.
The Ready.gov website also has several other helpful tips. Here are some of the most important ones:
1. Make sure to have several emergency kits.
It’s recommended that you have a few emergency supply kits on hand. Ideally, one for each driver’s car as well as one for the home.
A basic disaster supply kit should include (as taken from the Ready.gov website):
- Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone chargers and a backup battery
Additional items you can add to your emergency supply kit (such as prescription medicines) can also be found here.
2. Practice your emergency plan.
It can be easy to forget where your family should meet if some time has passed since you sat down and wrote up your family emergency plan.
Consider adding a reminder into your calendar to practice your emergency plan every six months. During this time, your family could go to safe spots in your home (in the event of a tornado or earthquake), or if you’re separated, practice meeting at your evacuation points. It may seem silly to run a “drill,” but you’ll be grateful that you did in the terrible event something does happen.
Your family is more likely to remember by “doing,” and this could be a perfect opportunity to show your children where your emergency supply kits are and what they should do in the event you are separated.
3. Keep your documents safe.
Purchase a waterproof and fireproof box for your home to keep any and all important documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards, medical records, etc.
4. Take photos and videos of your home items and have proper home insurance.
In the event that you lose your home, keeping an updated record of your items can help “you prove the value of what you owned, which could speed your claim processing, and will provide documentation for tax deductions you can claim for your losses.“ For expensive or unique items, you may also want to consider getting them appraised. Do also make sure this information is saved electronically, in a fireproof box, safe deposit box, or with someone who lives out of town where you could still access them.
5. Have an out-of-town contact.
In the event that a disaster strikes in your town, it may actually be easier for you to reach someone out of the area. In the event of a tornado, earthquake, or other natural disaster, cell coverage may be limited and difficult to reach other local numbers. Having someone out of town, or even out of the state, that every member of your family can reach out to would help ensure that you’re able to still be connected, even if something bad was to happen.
While a family emergency plan won’t take a lot of time for your family to create, it could save lives and help your family know exactly what to do in the event of a disaster.