With the recent disaster in Haiti, our minds have turned to the question, "What if?" We should all reflect upon the "What ifs?"
1. What if a disaster should strike?
2. What would I do?
3. What would my children do?
4. How will I locate my children at school?
5. Does my child's school have an emergency plan?
6. What will I do with my elderly father?
7. What about my daughter in college, the next town over?
8. What about my pets?
I think you get the idea. We need a plan. We need to know what we are going to do when the disaster occurs, or our chances of survival diminish. If we play the scenario out in our heads, practice with our families and plan for every contingency, survival is greater. We need to play games with our children, show them ways to survive, so that it's not a knee-jerk reaction, but a knowledge and skill that they already have. One we already have. Again, we just need to prepare.
So, devise a plan. Whether you are a family of one or a family of twenty, counsel together and make a plan.
1. Discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family. Know your home's vulnerability to disasters.
2. Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for any shelter in place. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
3. Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet. Keep it close in case you your only means of transportation is walking. Practice disaster scenarios to give your family practice.
4. Have an out-of-state friend or family member as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact. While some local communications may be haphazard, distant communications may not be.
5. Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate. Keep extra food and water on hand for them too.
6. Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911. Practice it together on family night.
7. Check your insurance coverage - know what's covered. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
8. Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a 72 hour kit. Where possible, put 72 hour kits in your vehicles.
9. Use a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
10. Take First Aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.
11. Know your child's school's disaster and emergency plans. Ask questions. Find out how the school will communicate with you during a crisis. If they have adequate food, water and other basic supplies for at least 72 hours? If they are prepared to shelter in place if need be? Is there a plan in place to take the students elsewhere if there is a need to get away? If so, where do they plan to take them? If there is an emergency, and the school is on "lock down" or shelter in place, will you be permitted to come to the school to pick up your child?
12. Have enough food, water and medication for each family member on hand to last for a while. I know everyone says 72 hours, but how long did it take for help to arrive with Katrina? What about Haiti? 72 hours is a good start, but you need to build on it.
13. Don't forget about the elderly or disabled. If you have family members with special needs, be sure to account for them in your preparations.
14. Keep your gas tank filled at all times.
These are just a few of the things you need to do to start an emergency plan. Check out FEMA's website: http://www.fema.gov/plan/index.shtm for more ideas on planning for emergencies.
If you have an emergency plan, share your plan with us. One of the best ways to develop a good emergency plan is to listen to and by lessons learned from other disasters. So share your plans and...be safe and be prepared.