Know the risks. No matter where you live, your region may be susceptible to one or more emergency situations or weather hazards, including: earthquakes, wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes or blizzards. Although some of these events— like hurricanes—may provide some advanced warning, others—like earthquakes—are hard to predict. Most of these occurrences may lead to extended power outages; however, if you live in an area where they are likely, having a plan will help you prepare for the next event.
Other emergencies can happen at any time, such as a house or building fire. Common causes include faulty appliances, electrical components and smoking. In fact, cooking equipment was the cause of 45% of home structure fires from 2009-2013.1
Decide on an emergency meeting place. Emergency situations are chaotic. In the midst of the confusion, it can be difficult to get in touch with loved ones. Decide on a meeting place with your family ahead of time to reduce some of the initial stress. Choose three locations: one in the neighborhood, one in your town and one out-of-town, and make sure everyone knows how to get there. Your safe area may vary depending on the emergency—for example, in the event of a tornado or hurricane, stay away from windows and take cover in an interior room of your home or building, on the lowest floor.
Make a plan. Make a plan that outlines all the information you’ll need to know in the event of an emergency. Not only will it help you get to a safe location, it’ll also allow you to let your loved ones know you’re safe.
1. Create a spreadsheet that includes:
- Names and nicknames of each family member
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Names of doctors
- Places of work
2. Plan a safe evacuation route.
If you’re home when an emergency occurs, you may have to evacuate with little to no notice. Select several safe evacuation routes, and make sure everyone is familiar with them.
3. Assign roles.
Have someone turn off the utilities, like water and electricity, while another person packs the important documents and another grabs pets. Giving everyone a responsibility will ensure nothing important is left behind.
Collect important documents. Organize important documents in one place—such as an accordion folder or fireproof safe—so you can easily grab them in case of an emergency. Sort them into categories: personal documents, financial, home, insurance, taxes, health/medical and employment. Also, keep any flash drives, removable hard drives or other storage media in the same location.
Practice. Now that you have a plan, be sure to review and practice it with your family regularly. The more familiar you are with your plan, the more prepared you’ll be in the event of an emergency. And, the more prepared you are, the safer you’ll be.
Stay connected. Know what to do when disaster strikes! Sign up for text alerts from your local emergency services to receive warnings and other up-to-date hazard information. Also, download weather apps to your smartphone to stay on top of dangerous weather-related activity.
Visit www.ready.gov/make-a-plan to download an emergency plan template you can tailor to your family’s needs.
Sources: 1. NFPA, U.S. Home Structure Fires Fact Sheet
Credit: Buffini & Company