Create a Family Plan
To create an emergency plan, first meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes and talk with them about the importance of getting prepared in advance. Plan to share responsibilities, work together as a team, and practice your plan (just as children practice fire drills at school) so everyone knows where to go and what to do. For instance, all family members should know where the disaster kits are kept, which room is a “safe room” for each type of emergency, and who’s going to grab the pets, etc. Draw up a map of your home, identify two exits from each room, and plan your escape routes. Look at also planning escape routes out of your local neighborhood and your community. Many cities and towns have emergency or snow routes posted along main streets. Planning and practicing will lessen fear and anxiety.
Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help and post these telephone numbers by all phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) Make sure these numbers are also listed in your cell phone directory along with the name and number of a person identified as your ICE contact – who to call “In Case of Emergency.” Emergency services and first responders are now being trained to always look for ICE contacts on a cell phone or in someone’s wallet.
Depending on ages, show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches and teach them what they should know and look for BEFORE turning anything back on. Get training from the fire department for your family on how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and make sure everyone knows where it’s kept. Test and recharge your fire extinguisher/s according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually on an annual basis.) Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; and then test them monthly and change batteries at least once a year.
When Disaster Strikes
- Remain calm and patient
- Put your family’s plan into action
- Check for injuries, Give first aid and Get help for seriously injured people
- Listen to your battery-powered radio for news and instructions
- Evacuate only if advised to do so
- Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes
- Use flashlights (don’t light matches or turn on electrical switches if you suspect damage)
- Sniff for gas leaks and listen for hissing sounds, starting at the water heater (if you smell gas or suspect a leak, open windows, get everyone outside quickly, turn off the gas at the main valve if possible, and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home)
- Shut off any other damaged utilities – for your safety, always shut off all the individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit breaker to the entire house (remember, you will need a qualified professional to turn utilities back on – NEVER attempt to turn the gas back on yourself)
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, and other flammable liquids immediately
- Clean up broken glass or other potential hazards
- Confine or secure your pets.
- If family members are separated, call your “family contact” – do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency (remember, communication lines will be overwhelmed)
- Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons
- Stay away from downed power lines
- Do not walk or drive into flooded areas