One of the most effective ways to prepare your family for a disaster is to create a family emergency plan. Meet with your family to discuss how to prepare for different types of emergencies, such as fire, severe weather, floods, or other common hazards in your community. Your plan will help family members understand what to do during emergencies. For complete information on how to be prepared before, during, and after an emergency, you can download: ReadyWV A Family Emergency Guide.
Create an emergency communications plan.
Use the Online Familiy Communication Plantemplate to create your plan. Things to consider when creating your family emergency plan:
- You should choose an out of town emergency contact for your family. This person should live in a place that is unlikely to be directly affected by the same event. Let this person know that you have chosen them.
- Make sure every household member has all telephone numbers and email addresses for that contact as well as each other.
- Leave these contact numbers at your children’s schools and at your workplace.
- Your family should know that if landline or cellular telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try e-mail. Many people flood the telephone system when emergencies happen but e-mail can sometimes get through when calls don’t.
Have two pre-identified meeting places.
- Choose a specific outside location on or very near your property in case of a sudden emergency, like a house fire.
- Pick a place outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Everyone should know the address and phone number and how to get there.
- Having a set meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be affected or the area evacuated. You may even want to make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency.
- Be sure to include any pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about preparing for different types of disasters. Kids are better able to handle the stress of a crisis when they know what to expect.
Find out about the emergency plans at your workplace, your church and other places where your family spends time, such as sports facilities, scout troop centers, etc.
Develop communications and pickup plans for these locations just in case an emergency occurs when one or more members of your family are there.
Work with your neighbors.
Neighbors helping neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how you can work together after a disaster until help arrives. If you’re a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce emergency preparedness as a new activity.
You also can help your family and neighbors by participating in Citizen Corps programs such as Community Emergency Response Team; Volunteers in Police Service, Medical Reserve Corps or the Neighborhood Watch Program.
Discuss how you can work together to handle natural disasters or terrorist problems. Talk about how you can share resources. Know your neighbors’ special skills (medical, technical and others). Consider how you can help neighbors with special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Develop a way to stay in touch with them as well.
Make plans for childcare, in case parents can’t get home, and exchange contact information.
Keep everyone in the loop! Make an emergency plan and share it with each member of the household.
- Teach all family members how to call 9-1-1.
- Post emergency contact information by phones. Stress can make you forgetful.
- Make sure each responsible family member knows how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches. Keep necessary tools next to the switches.
- Be sure to have sufficient insurance coverage! If you are a renter, your landlord’s insurance does not protect your personal property. Renters’ insurance and renters’ flood insurance are available from most insurance representatives. Homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damage. Ask your agent about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Remember to keep your insurance coverage up to date.
- Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where they are kept.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
- In a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate on a moment’s notice. Be ready to get out fast.
- Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.
- Take a Citizen Corps preparedness class or Red Cross first aid and CPR class. Include older children in these courses. These are critical skills and learning is fun!
- Tell children that in a disaster there are many people who can help the family. Talk about ways that people can help: neighbors, volunteers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, doctors, or utility workers.
- Have adequate home emergency supplies stored together in a convenient place.
- Have evacuation supplies easily accessible. Include copies of important records, bank statements, and credit card information.
Practice and maintain your plan and supplies.
- Recharge your fire extinguisher(s) as needed. Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions on the cylinder.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. Change the batteries at least once a year.
- Periodically check the condition of escape equipment from upper stories of a building or home.
- When you change your clocks in the spring and fall, check your emergency supplies, batteries and practice your fire and evacuation drills.
- Replace stored water and food to keep them fresh.
Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for 7 to 14 days or more if possible. Assemble a family emergency kit with items you may need both for your home and in an evacuation. Create a separate evacuation kit stored in sturdy easy-to-carry containers like backpacks, duffel bags or covered trash containers and keep it in an easily accessible location. Replace these supplies periodically.
Keep important family documents in a waterproof and fireproof container or bank safety deposit box.