Make a Plan
Once you understand the types of hazards that could occur in your community, you can then create a family emergency communication plan. This plan will act as a reference to guide your actions as well as help to ensure the safety and well-being of you and your family in the event of a natural disaster or emergency. In addition to creating this document, it is the responsibility of you and all the members of your household to regularly practice and review your plan. Developing and practicing a family emergency communication plan will help to ensure that your family is adequately prepared for any emergency. Discussed below are steps for preparing an emergency plan:
The first step in preparing for any disaster or emergency is collecting information. This information should include contact information for all the individuals in your household, school and work emergency response plans, an out-of-town contact, and emergency meeting places. Having this information in one, easily accessible document will help you to locate your family members in the event that a disaster strikes when you and your family are not together.
Some of the most vital information to include in your plan is the contact information for everyone in your household. Cell phone numbers and emails for all family members should be included in this plan. Having this information written down will help you to reunite with your family, even if your cell phone is not working. Additionally, your plan should address other plans such as school or work emergency response plans. In the event that a disaster strikes during the school or work day, children should know who can pick them up and adults should know how to reunite with their family. Having a plan will ensure that both the children and adults in your family know where to go if disaster strikes.
As well as including contact information for family members, your family emergency communication plan should also include an out-of-town contact. This contact will serve as a communication link between you and your family members in the event that local telephone lines become jammed during an emergency.
In the event that you cannot return to your home to reunite with your family, your family will have to meet at a predesignated location. Your emergency communication plan should identify multiple emergency meeting places. These meeting places should be both safe and familiar to all the members of your household. Also, if you have pets, service animals, or livestock, it is important that you consider locations that are able to accommodate animals. Types of emergency meeting places to identify in your family emergency communication plan include:
- Indoor: most likely to be utilized in the event of a disaster that requires you and your family to shelter in place, this emergency meeting place will be located inside your household. This emergency meeting place could be a small, windowless, interior room on the lowest level of your home, such as a basement, bathroom, or closet.
- Neighborhood: this is a location within your neighborhood where you and your family members can meet in the event of a house fire or some other emergency that prevents you from reentering your household. This meeting place could be anything from a street corner to a mailbox.
- Out-of-Neighborhood: this is a location outside your neighborhood where your family can reunite if you cannot return to your home or neighborhood. This location could be a community library, your church, a friend’s house, or any other safe and familiar place outside of your neighborhood.
- Out-of-Town: this meeting place should be utilized in the event that you cannot reunite with family members at any of the previously discussed meeting places due to an evacuation notice or some other factor. It is important that you and your family discuss how you will get to this location in the event that a disaster occurs when you are not together.
In addition to containing all of the information discussed above, your family disaster plan should also address needs specific to your family. This can include taking into account any family members with special medical needs as well as how you will take care of your pet during a disaster or emergency. For more information on preparing your pet, visit Ready.Gov.
Once you have collected and compiled all relevant information into a family emergency communication plan, it is crucial that you make this information easily accessible to all family members. Each family member should keep a paper copy of the plan with them at all times and review it regularly. A wallet-sized family emergency communication plan can easily be stored in a wallet, purse, or backpack. Additionally, a copy of the plan should be placed in a central location in your household.
As well as ensuring that family members have access to the family emergency communication plan, all family members should have emergency contact information entered into their cell phones and other electronic devices. Each family member should have the phone number for the out-of-town contact and at least one ICE (in case of emergency) contact stored on their cell phone. Family members can also create a group list on their mobile devices of the people who they will need to communicate with during an emergency or disaster.
After you have completed and distributed your family emergency communication plan among all the members of your household, you can practice your plan. It is of the utmost importance that you and your family members review and practice your plan regularly so that you are fully prepared for any disaster that may strike. Visit Ready.gov for more information regarding making an emergency plan.