What kind of plan do you have in place in the event of a natural disaster or other type of emergency situation? If you don’t have a plan, you are ultimately positioning your family to be a burden on organized rescue and response teams like FEMA and the Red Cross. While these organizations are indeed in place to help people in times of crisis, think of how much more efficiently they would be able to help those in need if more families were already good to go in an emergency. Organized efforts could be geared solely to those who are unable to help themselves, like the elderly and the disabled. Have a plan in place for your family so that instead, you are in a position to help your community when disaster strikes. Family meetings can be a great way to start getting the ball rolling on a solid emergency plan.
What to Discuss at Your First Family Meeting
If you’re starting from scratch, focus on the basics. Talk about the types of disasters that could happen in your area. For example, I live near the Red River in the Midwest – my family needs to focus a lot more on having a plan of action in case of flooding than we do when it comes to earthquakes. Likewise, tornadoes are much more of a concern than hurricanes. See what I’m saying? Be informed about what is most likely to go wrong and develop strategies to deal with those situations. Have a written plan and give everyone specific responsibilities, with a “backup” in place in case anyone is missing or unable to perform their duties. Keep the written plans somewhere where everyone can access them and discuss them regularly to keep them fresh in mind.
It’s also a good idea to prepare for the emotional aspect of crisis situations. For example, explain to younger children what exactly a tornado is, what it looks and sounds like, and what the dangers are. It might even be helpful to watch educational videos that show realistic examples of what goes on during emergency situations. This kind of preparation doesn’t banish fear completely, but it does give everyone insight into what to expect so they can focus on the tasks at hand when necessary.
Plans to Have in Place
There are a few basic types of plans you’ll want to have in place as a family. First of all, set up a couple of meeting places that everyone is aware of. Your first meeting place will probably be your home, but you should also have a local and out of area meeting place in place in the event that the home is inaccessible or dangerous during an emergency. Be clear on what circumstances will go along with each meeting place. For example, in the event of a hurricane, where you have your kids go might be different depending on their starting point, since they’ll need to find the closest place to go for shelter.
Have a communication plan as well.
- Appoint a check-in person. (“If there’s a tornado warning, everyone call dad to check in.”)
- Have a buddy system. (“If you’re at school, find your sister and stick together.”)
- Life 360 is a tool you can use to keep track of your family using GPS and instant messaging.
- Email might be the best way to go, depending on your family’s lifestyle.
In a lot of cases, it might be wise to designate someone out of the area as the check-in person. For example, a family member, friend, someone out of the area who wouldn’t have been affected by the same crisis would be a good contact for everyone to have.
Having an evacuation plan is another critical plan to have in place. Know the designated emergency shelters in your area and map out routes from common locations to get to them. Don’t forget about pet shelters, as well – you might need to find emergency care for them in crisis situations. Have evacuation routes for your own home, too, in case of fire.
Keep in mind that in some emergency situations like a tropical storm or mild hurricane may leave you stranded at home for an extended period of time. Be prepared for these situations by stocking basic food items and other supplies so that your family isn’t in need if this happens. This is a good practice for any family in any area – you never know what might happen.
Last, have an out-of-town location in mind that you can relocate to as well. Be sure to have your vehicle ready to go. Hurricane emergency kits should include basic items like food, water, a shovel and a first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your car always has at least half a tank of gas.
Don’t stop planning after that first meeting! Emergency preparation should be an ongoing discussion. As situations change, so will your emergency plans. For example, a good time to route a new plan is when mom or dad changes places of employment or when one of the children graduates from elementary school to middle school. Discuss your plans regularly to keep them fresh in your mind as well. Steven Cyros, , said it well when he stated “Remember; when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.” Start planning now – even an imperfect plan is better than no plan at all.
About the Author
Based in the Midwest, Michedolene Hogan and her family are passionate about sustainable living and emergency preparedness. While they don’t have much need for an emergency escape ladder in a one story home, they do try to stay ready for flooding, tornadoes and fire. Michedolene and her husband, John are the proud parents of four children.