The goal of an emergency plan is simple: you want to get your spouse, kids, pets, and valuables somewhere safe, as soon as possible. But disasters and emergencies always cause chaos, so having an emergency plan ready beforehand is vital to protecting your family and staying ready for anything. If you are missing a family emergency plan, start creating one today.
Making Your Kit
An emergency kit is a pack, trunk, or bag filled with essentials that will help your family survive in an emergency situation where access to food, water, and power may not be possible. Your basic package should include several necessities, such as three days worth of nonperishable food and a gallon of water for each person for the same length of time. Buy a trustworthy radio you can power by batteries or a hand crank to listen for emergency updates wherever you are. Professionals also advise bringing along a flashlight, first aid kit, dust mask, and simple cleaning supplies like ready-to-use towelettes.
When it comes to putting together your pack, use common sense. If you have a pet, be ready to include pet food. If you use cans – a common option – either buy cans with pull-off tabs or include a can opener. Bring along sources of power for cell phones and similar devices. If you are moving to a location outside your neighborhood, include a map as well. A small amount of bleach can be used to disinfect water (one part bleach to nine parts water). Remember key supplies such as prescription medication, infant care items, cash, key documents, additional clothes and rain gear…whatever your family in particular needs.
Post Numbers: You cannot count on being at home, ready to go for every emergency. To help others make contact and prepare, keep a list of emergency numbers and plans close to the house phone or easily accessible by all family members.
Test Systems: Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at regular intervals (such as once a year) to ensure they are working correctly and the batteries are kept fresh. Do the same with burglar systems and any other warning or protection devices you use.
Investigate Local Resources: Does your community have a public warning system? Where are the shelters, the high roads, and the open areas? Prepare to spend some time with a map.
Run Drills: Family emergency drills are an excellent way to ensure that all family members understand the plan, the dangers at hand, and the right response. Run drills every several months if you can. Keep the steps very simple and always pick a place to meet in case family members split up.
Clearly, there is a lot of variety in emergency plans. Do you include lots of rain proof clothes, or a fire extinguisher? Do you try to reach high ground or look for an emergency shelter? One easy way to decide what plan works best for your family is to study your location. What disasters most frequently plague the terrain you live in? Take this as valuable advice on what to prepare for. If you live in a desert area, flash floods may be a problem, but surviving a hot, dry climate afterwards could also pose a challenge. The coast may call for hurricane weather gear. The forest may indicate a need for speed in case of a wildfire.
An easy way to check what emergency you should prepare for is to consider your home insurance. What are you and your neighbors insured for? If flood insurance is required in your area, preparations should be obvious. On the other hand, if you live near a forest and are not covered for fire damage, you may want to rethink your chosen policy.
Who and What is in Your Family?
Remember, you should always alter plans to fit the particular needs of your family as well as your location. If you live in a rural area, transportation will be much more important than if you live in a suburb. Emergency shelters may not be prepared for pets, so know if your pet will need a separate shelter. If you only have one child, then rounding up your kids and making sure they understand the situation will be far faster. On the other hand, if you are taking care of an elderly relative or a child with disabilities, you will need to allot more time for safely moving them. Always assign family roles as needed, and use the strengths of your family to your advantage.
Remember, the right preparation and line of thinking can mean all the difference in just about any dire emergency.