Emergency Prep & Family Disaster Plans


6 Steps To Construct a Disaster Action Plan

Disaster and emergency planning is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself and your family. Just a few moments to plan ahead can spare you considerable trouble in case disaster should strike, and could even save your life or the life of a loved one. Here are six easy steps you can take to assess your personal situation and construct a basic disaster action plan that is tailored to your specific environment.

1. Talk it out. Talk with your family about what you would do if an emergency arose. If you have children, discuss what sort of natural disasters might strike in your area. Talk about the kind of dangers your family may potentially face, and work together to come up with possible solutions. The goal of this exercise is not to frighten children or other family members, but to discuss openly the potential dangers your family could potentially face, and to come up with a plan of action that will make everyone feel safer and better prepared.

2. Determine meeting plans. Outline a plan of action in case a disaster should strike. The most important component of your plan is choosing a meeting spot. In most cases, you should choose two or more spots. In case of fire you should make a plan to meet in front of your house. In case of an emergency that requires you to evacuate your home, plan to meet at a specified location outside of your neighborhood. This might be a relative's house, church, elementary school, or community center. Make certain every member agrees upon a location, and that plans are made as to how everyone will be transported to the meeting spot.

3. Determine escape routes. Your plan of action should include the best escape routes from your home. One of the most dangerous and most common types of emergencies is a residential fire. Locate two escape routes out of your house. If possible, locate at least two escape routes for each room, as well. Also, in case of a large-scale natural disaster, you and your family should determine two evacuation routes out of your neighborhood, town, or city. It's a good idea to decide on a family contact, a friend or family member who lives out of town or state that everyone in your family can call in case of an emergency.

4. Find out how to turn off your utilities. Make certain that every member of your family knows how to turn off gas, electricity, and water utilities. Be sure everyone knows how to spot warning or danger signs, when a utility should be shut off, and how to do it. If you have any questions, contact your local utility providers to learn how and when to shut off your utilities.

5. Make arrangements for your pets. As we all learned from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, when a natural disaster strikes family pets are often left behind. During an emergency, it can be difficult to account for all your pets. Most pet owners will do everything possible to pack up their pets and evacuate together. Keep your pet supplies in one location for easy access in case of an emergency. Don't forget to bring your pet's leash or carrier, water bottle, food, and any medications. Unfortunately, when an emergency evacuation is ordered, pets are often prohibited from riding along. Many animal shelters also do not allow pets. Try to locate a shelter, neighbor, or nearby relative who will agree to guard your pet safely in case you're forced to evacuate your house for an extended period of time.

The worst-case scenario is that you will be separated from your pets. This is why having your pet's tags and vaccination records regularly updated is important. If your pet is clearly identified, there is a much greater chance that you will soon be reunited.

6. Keep disaster supplies on-hand. Always keep a stock of fresh water in stock, as well as non-perishable foods. Keep batteries, flashlights, and a shortwave radio in one location, and organize an emergency first-aid kit within easy access. Review and update your stock of disaster supplies every six months or so. Fill out emergency contact cards that all members of your family can carry with them at all times.

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