Creating a Family Disaster Plan
The first thing you need to think about when you begin your Family Disaster Plan is what disasters are likely to occur in your area.
The government website, ready.gov has a wonderful page on what to do in different disaster situations. You will find this page at https://www.ready.gov/be-informed.
After thinking about which disasters you are most likely to encounter, meet with your family members and discuss how you will respond to each disaster. You are now ready to create a plan for these emergencies. The first item in your plan should be the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of your family members. This list should always be kept in your wallet in case your cell phone is not with you or the battery has run down. Next, find out what your children’s school emergency plan is and your work’s emergency plan. Make sure you are signed up for emergency alerts and warnings on your cell phone.
Next, go through each room in your home and find at least two different ways to evacuate. Make a floor plan of each room indicating the evacuation plan and store it in that room. There is a cute video, escape grid, and safety planning sheet available at: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Preparedness/Escape-planning.
Create an out of town contact. Sometimes it is easier to make contact with someone who does not live in the disaster area because the local phone lines will be so busy. Teach everyone in your family how to text. Texting can get through busy phone lines when phone calls cannot.
Your emergency plan should include four different meeting places in case of different emergency situations:
Indoor: In case of tornado, hurricane, or severe storms have a gathering spot in your home. This should be an interior, windowless room on the lowest level of your home, or a storm shelter.
Near Your Home: In case of a fire in your home, plan a place to meet in your neighborhood, such as a neighbor's home or the mailbox.
Outside Your Neighborhood: If there is a disaster and you can't get to your home, plan a gathering spot just outside of your neighborhood that is easy for everyone in your household to get to, such as your church building, grocery store, or school.
Out of Town: If the disaster is larger and everyone in your area is being evacuated, plan a gathering spot that is out of town.
Discuss with your family what to do in case of a power failure. After a disaster you should always use a flashlight with batteries until you are positive that there aren't any gas leaks. Then you can use propane lanterns, candles, etc. If kept closed, refrigerators will keep food cold for four hours and freezers for forty-eight hours. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your food. If food has been sitting at forty degrees F or higher for more than two hours, throw it away. During an extended power outage, you can preserve the meat from your freezer before it reaches forty degrees by home canning methods. Check with your local grocery stores to see if they sell dry ice. You can preserve your frozen food in ice chests with dry ice if it is available. Turn off appliances and electronics to avoid damage from surges when the power is restored. Never use your gas stove to heat your home. Never use a back-up generator inside your home. It should be positioned outside at least fifteen feet away from any open windows. Go to https://www.energy.gov/ceser/activities/energy-security/emergency-preparedness/using-portableemergency-generators-safely for instructions on how to use a back-up generator safely.
Teach family members how to use a battery-operated radio. If you need to evacuate:
Listen to a battery-powered radio for instructions from police and other emergency response leaders.
Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
Take your 72 hour kit with you, including adequate water.
Lock your house before leaving.
Use travel routes specified by emergency response officials.
If you have enough time:
Shut off water, gas (if directed to do so by authorities), and power.
Let others know when you leave and where you are going.
Make arrangements for your pets if you cannot bring them with you.
Make a list of important phone numbers that include police, fire, poison control, doctor, pediatrician, dentist, hospital, pharmacy, medical insurance company including policy number, home owner’s insurance company including policy number, flood insurance company including policy number, veterinarian, kennel, electric company, gas company, water company, and alternate transportation such as bus station and shuttle.. Place this list by your phone and make a copy for all family members. It is also a good idea to choose someone to be your In Case of Emergency contact person. Make sure you advise your emergency contact person of any medical issues and allergies you may have and give them a copy of your medications list, including the name of the medications you take, amount of medication, and how many times a day you take it.
The Red Cross and the government both have good templates to use to create your Family Disaster plan. Ready.gov also includes a wallet-size template so everyone in your household can carry the plan in their wallet for easy access. Choose which template works best for you by going to these three web pages:
Once you have your plan completed, find a night once every six months to practice your plan. Practice evacuation routes, give demonstrations on how to turn off water, gas, electricity, and the hot water heater (don’t really turn them off, just show everyone how.) Practice filling up tubs and sinks with water. Practice meeting up at your gathering places. Practice sending out a text message to family members using a short phrase like, “I’m OK, I’m at the church building.” This is also a good time to use your 72 Hour kit and rotate the food, water, and anything else that needs updating. If you practice regularly your emergency plan will become automatic and your family members will not be confused about what to do when disaster strikes.