Do You Have A Family Emergency Plan?
Every family should have a family emergency plan in place for emergencies and natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, snow storms, earthquakes, wildfires, etc. Hurricane Harvey caught all of us Texans off guard and shocked the snot out of us. Weather forecasters were predicting anywhere from 15 to 30 inches of rain, but the local authorities never gave us the order to evacuate. We waited, we watched, we listened. But we also remembered the nightmare evacuation for Hurricane Rita in 2005.
With Rita, over 6.5 million people tried to evacuate the Houston area all at the same time. For my family, it took us almost twelve hours to make a two-and-a-half-hour trip to relatives in East Texas. There were many, many people stuck on the roadways for nearly twenty-four hours in their attempt to evacuate the Houston area.
Gas ran out, food ran out. The heat was deadly. People suffered. There weren’t even hotel rooms to be had for the people stuck on the freeways when they finally decided to abandon their vehicles and walk to the nearest hotel. Far too many people died trying to evacuate. It was a nightmare that officials did not want to see repeated with Harvey.
The city I live in was hit hard by Harvey. In one part of Friendswood, over 50 inches of rainfall was recorded. All I have to do is drive to the grocery store to see the amount of destruction Hurricane Harvey inflicted on my town. Residents all over the Houston area are ripping out flooring and walls, throwing everything the flood waters touched into the huge piles that are still sitting on their front lawns almost three weeks after the flood occurred. It’s sad.
Most residents did not have a family emergency plan. My family didn’t. But that’s about to change. This post is an accumulation of everything I have learned from researching how to prepare for the next natural disaster. So, if you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to come up with your own family emergency plan. If you already have one in place, take a few minutes to review it and make sure everything is still up to date and ready to use.
Step 1 – Be Aware Of The Emergencies You May Be Facing
Start by making a list of the natural emergencies and disasters you may be facing in your area. Carefully consider all scenarios. Don’t rule anything out even if it’s a remote possibility for it to happen, make a plan for it. Many of the victims of Hurricane Harvey never thought they would be flooded, but they did.
Preparing for a tornado is very different from preparing for a hurricane, an earthquake or a major snowstorm. Be aware of the types of emergencies you may encounter and then read up on how to best prepare for each of them. This information will become the basis for your family emergency plan.
Step 2 – Find A Safe Spot In The House
Right now is a good time to find a designated safe spot in your home in case you ever have to wait out a disaster or emergency. When the unexpected hits, stress, fear, and panic could cause you to make a bad decision. Think about the safest place now and make sure everyone in your household is aware of what and where that safe spot is.
You can even stash a little emergency kit with a flashlight, emergency radio, and a bit of food and water in the spot just in case. How and where that place is will vary from home to home and emergency to emergency.
Generally, for hurricanes and tornadoes, the safest room in your house is the basement, but if you live in an area that doesn’t have basements, like Texas, you need to choose an interior room on the first floor with only one door and no windows. This could be a closet, bathroom, pantry, or small storage room.
For earthquakes, you need to stay away from windows and objects that are loose, breakable, or could slide. If you can, brace yourself in a doorway or hallway.
When a flood strikes, you need to go up, find the highest place in your house where the water will not reach. If you are forced to go into your attic, make sure that you have an ax or saw with you that you can use to cut a hole in the roof so that you can flag down rescuers. It would be wise to keep an emergency box in your attic containing an ax or saw before you are in a situation where you need one but can’t get to it. Throw in some hand-crank radios and flashlights, as well.
Step 3 – Keep Emergency Contact Info With You At All Times
During an emergency, you or a family member could become separated from the rest of your family. You never know what may happen, so it’s a good idea to always keep their contact info on you. This should include all cell phone and landline numbers, as well as email addresses for immediate family, friends, and for relatives who live further away and who may be able to act as a go-between for you and your loved ones. Use the Family Emergency Communication Plan printable to record all of the contact information you need. Trim the edges, fold it up, and store it in your wallet.
For emails, make sure you use web-based emails that can be accessed from anywhere. During the hours after 9/11 the phone lines were overloaded and it became impossible for people to make a phone call. People resorted to email to communicate with their loved ones. Text messaging may be another option when calls don’t go through, but I wouldn’t rely on that.
Keeping this information stored on your phone is great as long as your battery doesn’t go dead. As a backup, make sure you have a printed copy of this information kept with your important documents that you will be taking with you when an emergency or disaster strikes. Keep another printed copy in your vehicle just in case you can’t make it home to grab your important documents.
Step 4 – Food, Water, And Medical Provisions
You should always have some emergency rations on hand. Stock up on enough clean water, food and any medication you will need to last for 3 to 7 days. By then emergency personnel should be in your area to help you. Again, the types of supplies and how long you should prepare for will vary from family to family and emergency to emergency. Do what you can to be prepared.
Step 6 – Declare a Safe Meeting Spot Should You be Required to Leave
Some natural disasters and man-made emergencies will require you to evacuate. It’s a good idea to come up with safe meeting spots well ahead of time. Meeting up with a relative who lives further inland, for example, is a good plan when a hurricane is approaching.
Decide on a meeting spot and make sure each family member, including your children, knows where to meet up. You never know when disaster strikes and who may be where. If your spouse is at work or your older kids are at school or staying at a friend’s house, you want to make sure they know where to meet you if there is no way of getting them before you leave. The Family Emergency Communication Plan printable has space to record all of this information. Be sure to print it out, fill it out, and put it in your wallet.
Step 7 – Create A Checklist
When the order to evacuate is given, you want to be able to hit the road as soon as possible. During the Rita evacuation, I was not organized. I was running around throwing whatever came to mind into laundry baskets that we stacked in the back of our vehicle. When we got to East Texas, I realized I hadn’t brought enough baby formula for my four-month-old son. I just didn’t think about it because I always kept the diaper bag well stocked, but obviously not enough for the four days we were gone. When I went to the local store, I bought the last three cans of formula on the shelf.
To avoid making mistakes or forgetting something important during a disaster or emergency, like I did, you should make a master checklist, or break it up into several checklists, of everything you will need to do in case of an emergency.
You will need a list of things you need to do to prepare for the situation before it actually occurs if you have time, such as topping off your gas tank, anchoring outside furniture down, boarding up windows, and finding a place for your pets if you can’t take them with you.
You will also need a list of things to do before evacuating your home, such as turning off the gas and electric, locking doors and windows.
You definitely need to make a list of everything you need to take with you if you must evacuate. You will need to grab your important documents, medications, food and water, clothing, sentimentals, etc.
Expect the best but plan for the worst. The time and effort you put into creating a family emergency today just might end up saving your’s or a loved one’s life later.
If you appreciated this post, you might like my post on 4 Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Keep Your Important Documents Safe and Secure, as well
Keep on keepin’ on….