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Emergency preparedness and emergency planning are the kinds of tasks that few people consider when they think of family safety planning.
But, thanks to global warming, war, natural disasters and terrorism, no one is truly safe from the possibility of a disaster occurring in their neighbourhood. And most people are totally unprepared to deal with an emergency should one occur in their city or town.
Few of us even know the emergency preparedness definition, understand the importance of emergency preparedness, or know what is an emergency preparedness plan.
Those familiar with emergency preparedness and emergency planning will know that these terms refer to how prepared people are to respond to an emergency situation.
An emergency could come in the form of a natural disaster such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, which are unpredictable. It could be a terror attack, burglary, or home invasion, which again is unpredictable.
It could be a preventable accident such as a gas explosion, electricity accident, fire, or even a financial or economical disaster, such as a money crisis or power outage.
How many people do you know who have been through some sort of emergency preparedness training? Perhaps your family has attended a family emergency planning seminar or family emergency response training.
You may have read all the emergency preparedness books and emergency preparedness guides you could get your hands on, and may even have earned an emergency preparedness merit badge in your school days.
You might have installed the most high-tech security and burglar alarm system in your house. You could have a large storage house of canned goods, in case of an outage or crisis, and you may have the most complete emergency kit ever.
But if you don’t have a home emergency preparedness plan for when that dreaded day comes, it will all be to no avail.
Have you been asked these questions before?
- What’s inside your fridge right now?
- Is your dog food or cat food edible by humans?
- Do you have an emergency meeting place for your family?
- Who’s going to get your kids from school, in case you don’t make it?
- What’s in your emergency preparedness backpack?
If you find these questions somewhat intimidating, privacy intruding, and uncomfortable to answer, that’s no surprise because most people don’t really have a satisfactory answer to any of them.
These are just some of the questions that you will answer when you create an emergency preparedness plan with your family.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prepare your family in case of a worst-case scenario. Remember, when you plan for an emergency, you must consider all possible threats, calamities and disasters.
Home-related emergencies may include the most common – electrical or fire accidents, physical accidents such as falling downstairs, gas leak explosions, earthquakes, typhoons and even burglars.
Remember, that emergency preparedness and emergency planning are not just buzzwords, but a practical and realistic way to prepare your family for emergency situations.
The degree of devastation and havoc created by natural disasters can be shocking. High-speed winds, torrential downpours and severe floods are some of the possible events that can cause widespread destruction and loss of life.
Emergency preparedness planning refers to a set of activities or a list of reminders that will familiarize every member of the family with what they need do in case of an emergency.
It actually just takes less than an hour for you to formulate an emergency plan, have it printed and give each member of the family a copy. So, gather your folks around and get started with your emergency preparedness planning right now.
Emergency Preparedness Checklist
It is always a wise decision to prepare your home for the possibility of a natural disaster occurring. Here’s an emergency preparedness checklist to use in case you’re faced with such a situation.
The first step is to make an emergency preparedness chart and put it into a binder with all relevant documents and a list of contacts to emergency units like the police, 911, fire department, hospital, clinic and technicians, in case of electrical appliance accidents.
It’s a good idea to put your emergency preparedness binder near the telephone or in a place where a telephone conversion is commonly held so that every member of the family can access the numbers easily when required.
Make sure you create a speed dial for numbers like 911 on all your family mobile phones and landlines. Another important element in your emergency preparedness plan is a list of contacts living outside your city or State.
In case of a regional disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake, it may be difficult to stay connected using local lines. Ensure that everyone in the family shares the same list of contacts.
The most important emergency planning rule is to clearly lay out the emergency exits in case of a home invasion or a natural disaster. This means identifying the fire exit route of your house and having everyone memorize it.
Note that a fire exit is not only intended as an escape from a fire in the building, but also for disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, flooding and even burglaries and home invasions.
First, make sure that every member of the family is present. Then start discussing the plan around the safe exits of the house. Show everyone the locations of the floor drains, gas valves, water pipes, electrical boxes and fire extinguishers.
Exit doors are usually found in the kitchen, but what if the emergency took place in the kitchen? In that case, would the main door be a better option for an exit? How about in each room? Do the kids have assigned routes to emergency exits?
Discuss all these possibilities with your family so you get an idea of how everyone sees it. For all you know, they may point out important details that never crossed your mind.
Safe Meeting Place
The second thing to consider in your emergency preparedness plan is a safe meeting place for your family. When you leave your loved ones at home, how will you contact them in case of emergencies? Where will you meet and who will they call?
It could be your favorite restaurant or it may be a good idea to appoint a relative living nearby as your destination of refuge. You could deal with it on a case-by-case basis.
For example, during a fire accident, determine which house or place of refuge your family members will be staying in temporarily. If there’s an incoming hurricane, recommend that your family members evacuate to a friend or relative in a nearby city or state.
Assign a person who will pick up your kids when you can’t make it and make sure they have a list of health conditions of all your family members, especially a record of allergies. Make a list of your neighbors’ contact numbers and the emergency services in your area.
Don’t forget to brief every family member about this designated safe place where all plan to meet, just in case not everyone is present during an emergency.
Finally, give everyone a family photo or individual photos of all your family members to keep with them at all times. This can be extremely helpful when a family member is missing.
Pets are family members too, so your emergency preparedness plan should include emergency preparedness for pets. Unfortunately, they’re not allowed in evacuation and resettlement areas, so you may have to leave them in a veterinary clinic or with a relative.
Secure Doors and Windows
To begin with, you will need to make certain alterations to all the doors and windows at your home. You might want to replace a window with one that is sturdier and install an impact-resistant window.
This can decrease the possibility of your window breaking to little pieces of glass if a tornado hits the area. Another practical idea would be to install impact-resistant shutters to cover the openings in the window.
This would prevent flying debris from entering the house through cracks in the window panes, which could be dangerous for anyone in the vicinity.
Your entrance doors must have a security lock, with an inch-long bolt, and a minimum of three hinges. This will anchor the door frames to the wall so that the door stays intact.
If you have sliding glass doors that are delicate and get damaged easily, you may want to consider replacing them, especially if you live in an area prone to hurricanes or tornadoes.
Doors constructed with plastic glazing, laminated glass or a combination of both are impact-resistant and can be used as a replacement for sliding glass doors.
Preparing the Lot
There are a number of things you must do in case of a hurricane warning. Rid your property of tree limbs and dead, weak trees. If your home is in an area that is likely to get flooded, it’s best to evacuate it before the onset of the hurricane.
If this is not the case, you must purchase the essential 72-hour kits to prepare for the possibility of being stuck in your house for days at a stretch.
Stocking Food and Water
When a hurricane or storm forces you to hunker down for days because leaving home is dangerous, your emergency preparedness supply is likely to dwindle if the storm continues for too long.
It’s important to stock adequate food and water in your 72-hrs Emergency Preparedness Kit, to provide your family with the nourishment they need to survive the storm.
That’s why you need to stock up on water and food supplies that will last a minimum of 72 hours. Other essentials include:
- First-aid kit
- Portable & emergency power supply
- Power bank
- Wireless Chargers
- Solar air lantern
- Rechargeable flashlight
- Extra batteries
- Emergency solar hand crank portable radio
- Manual can opener
Don’t forget to include other personal items of need, such as extra keys for your car and house, medications, diapers and baby formula.
Listen to the weather reports on your emergency solar portable radio to prepare for any dangerous situations you and your family may encounter. If you have a clear idea of what to expect, you’ll be able to plan properly.
The most important thing is to stay calm. Panic-attacks will not help you think clearly when implementing your emergency preparedness plan. As a final thought, teach your family how to be responsive and manage stress during critical moments.
Always check, keep, maintain, and update your emergency preparedness supplies. You could be storing expired food in your emergency preparedness kit so make sure you constantly check the expiration dates.
To avoid spoilage of food in your emergency kits, make a schedule or calendar of maintenance where you can list the expiry dates of the items and set a reminder on your mobile device to consume the canned foods in your emergency before they expire.
Emergency Preparedness For Kids
Call your children’s school and ask about their emergency plan. Remember that children could become stressed during a disaster. Kids are typically afraid of seeing people injured and may be afraid of being alone.
Keep your children calm and assure them that everything will be alright. Teaching emergency preparedness for kids will give them the guidance and confidence they need to think on their feet and cope with unfamiliar situations.
Encourage your kids to get their Cub Scout emergency preparedness pin or Boy Scouts merit badge for emergency preparedness.
Help them fill out their emergency preparedness merit badge workbook and go over their emergency preparedness merit badge answers with them, so they’re mentally prepared if disaster strikes.
Another fun way of preparing kids for an emergency is to introduce them to these emergency preparedness games for kids. You can also watch emergency preparedness videos on YouTube or subscribe to updates from emergency preparedness websites.
If possible, get your entire family to do a free FEMA Emergency Preparedness Course online, so they understand:
- What is emergency preparedness?
- Why is emergency preparedness important?
- The principles of emergency preparedness &
- Emergency preparedness requirements in different situations
Who knows, one of your kids may even go on to get an emergency preparedness job as an emergency preparedness coordinator or go into emergency preparedness consulting.
These emergency preparedness training courses and emergency preparedness tips may not prove to be adequate in all situations, so add more rules as and when you see fit.
Remember that emergency preparedness plans can help you mitigate the risks and ill-effects of a disaster and keep your family safe from harm.
Note: It is very rare for home insurance policies to cover damages caused by either flooding or natural disasters without specific add-ons. After the above preparations have been made, review your homeowner’s insurance policy to ensure you are covered prior to any severe weather indications.