Disasters can strike at any time. Since we cannot always tell when it will happen in your home, your family must be prepared.
But unfortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that almost 60% of American adults have not prepared what to do in a disaster, and only 39% have developed an emergency plan.
It’s crucial that your family must be prepared for any situation, and developing an evacuation plan at home should be a great tool. An evacuation plan can keep you and your family on the same page, help you reach safety, and reduce the likelihood of panic and chaos.
It doesn’t matter whether your area is disaster-prone or not. There are times when disasters (or any other unpleasant situation) happen right at home. For instance, fires can start and spread due to a gas leak or faulty electrical wiring. Or someone breaks into your home at night. It’s better to be prepared for such emergencies and situations to protect you and your family from further trouble.
To help you get started with your home evacuation plan, consider these tips:
1) Consider your needs
Every family is different, so each need is unique, too. You have to know where you and your family live and your specific needs. Know what natural disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, severe flooding, volcanic eruption, etc. – are in your area and how best to prepare for such emergencies.
In addition, check if you need to make special accommodations for certain family members – such as infants and young children, senior citizens, or family members with disabilities or chronic illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.). It would help if you also consider every family member’s dietary and medical needs.
2) Create a disaster supplies kit
You and your family need to survive after an emergency. This means having your own water, food, medicine, and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. And this is where a disaster supplies kit comes in handy for the times you need it most.
A disaster supplies kit contains everything you need in one place so you can evacuate your home quickly. Ideally, every kit should fit in one or two easy-to-carry bags and contain items that help you survive for at least 72 hours. These necessities include water, food, batteries, flashlights, fire starters for light and heat, sanitary items, baby formula and diapers (if you have an infant or toddler), dust mask, plastic sheeting, basic and essential tools, and a first aid kit, among many others.
It’s good to check on the items at least once a year. If needed, replace expiring or expired items and update what you’re putting in the kit as your family’s needs change.
3) Know where to find your home’s safe place
Know where to go when an emergency or disaster strikes. Your safe place may vary depending on the situation. First, find a safe area in your home where you would need to take shelter during a disaster, such as an earthquake or tornado. Second, locate a spot somewhere right outside your home in case of fire or any sudden situation (such as burglary). Third, find out where you would go if you need to evacuate or could not return home. It’s also important to plan the route that you would take to go there.
4) Stay connected with your family members
When a disaster hits your town or city, your family might not be together, and communication lines may be down. It is essential to plan how to contact your family members and discuss how to communicate in various emergencies. Creating a family communication plan is also crucial of preparedness for any eventuality.
Before any disaster hits your city or town, make sure that all family members have emergency phone numbers saved on their mobile phones. Make a list of family contacts with names, addresses, and phone numbers of important contacts. It is wise to designate an out-of-town contact for family members to get in touch with in case they cannot contact other family members. Often, during disasters, it’s easier to make long-distance calls than to make local calls.
Have a list of emergency contacts like police, ambulance, fire department, etc., on your mobile phone and near your home’s landline (if any).
In addition, if there’s a disaster in your area, you can mark yourself “safe” on Facebook. Or you can also register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website to let your family members know that you’re okay.
5) Protect your furry friends
When planning for disaster preparedness, don’t forget about your pets! Make a list of animal shelters or animal-friendly hotels or lodgings along your evacuation route. In addition, remember to include food and items for your pet in your disaster kit.
6) Put it in writing and in practice
Make sure you get your family emergency plan written down on paper, complete with detailed instructions for each situation. For example, an emergency plan for an earthquake may be different from an emergency plan for a tornado, so you must have a plan for each expected disaster. In addition, you can find many online resources to help you document your plan, such as this Family Disaster Plan from the American Red Cross.
Conduct an evacuation practice or drill with your family at least twice a year. You should even grab your emergency kit during an evacuation drill and drive to your evacuation route.
7) Review your insurance
Before any disaster hits your city or town, it’s also smart to take out review your insurance policy. You want to make sure what covers your insurance policy and what doesn’t. For example, a standard home policy usually doesn’t include protections like fire, flood, or earthquake coverage. It’s also good to know and study regarding filing a claim.
While you may not know when disasters may strike. But with a carefully considered, designed, and organized home evacuation plan, you can rest easy knowing that you and your family are always prepared for whatever comes your way.