Why talk about a Family Disaster Plan?
Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services, such as water, gas, electricity, or telephones were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.
Families can and do cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility. Learn more about Family Disaster Plans by contacting your local emergency management office or your local American Red Cross chapter.
Families can and do cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.
A National Weather Service (NWS) WATCH is a message indicating that conditions favor the occurrence of a certain type of hazardous weather. For example, a severe thunderstorm watch means that a severe thunderstorm is expected in the next six hours or so within an area approximately 120 to 150 miles wide and 300 to 400 miles long (36,000 to 60,000 square miles). The NWS Storm Prediction Center issues such watches. Local NWS forecast offices issue other watches (flash flood, winter weather, etc.) 12 to 36 hours in advance of a possible hazardous-weather or flooding event. Each local forecast office usually covers a state or a portion of a state.
An NWS WARNING indicates that a hazardous event is occurring or is imminent in about 30 minutes to an hour. Local NWS forecast offices issue warnings on a county-by-county basis.
Here is how to create your Family Disaster Plan:
Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team. Keep it simple enough so people can remember the important details. A disaster is an extremely stressful situation that can create confusion. The best emergency plans are those with very few details.
- Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disasters ahead of time will help reduce fear and anxiety and will help everyone know how to respond.
- Pick two places to meet:
- Right outside of your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
- Outside of your neighborhood in case you can’t return home or are asked to leave your neighborhood. Everyone must know the address and phone number of the meeting locations.
- Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during floods or other disasters, have a plan for getting back together. Separation is a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school.
- Ask an out-of-town relative or friend to be your ‘family contact.’ Your contact should live outside of your area. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long distance call than a local call. Family members should call the contact and tell him or her where they are. Everyone must know the contact’s name, address, and phone number.
- Discuss what to do if authorities ask you to evacuate. Make arrangements for a place to stay with a friend or relative who lives out of town and/or learn about shelter locations.
- Be familiar with escape routes. Depending on the type of disaster, it may be necessary to evacuate your home. Plan several escape routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed. Remember to follow the advice of local officials during evacuation situations. They will direct you to the safest route; some roads may be blocked or put you in further danger.
- Plan how to take care of your pets. Pets (other than service animals) are not permitted to be in places where food is served, according to many local health department regulations. Plan where you would take your pets if you had to go to a public shelter where they are not permitted.
Tell children that a disaster is something that happens that could hurt people, cause damage, or cut off utilities such as water, telephones, or electricity. Explain to them that nature sometimes provides ‘too much of a good thing’–fire, rain, wind, snow. Talk about typical effects that children can relate to, such as loss of electricity, water, and telephone service.
Give examples of several disasters that could happen in your community. Help children recognize the warning signs for the disasters that could happen in your community. Discussing disaster ahead of time reduces fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.
Teach children how and when to call for help. Check the telephone directory for local emergency telephone numbers. If you live in a 9-1-1-service area, teach children to call 9-1-1. At home, post emergency telephone numbers by all phones and explain when to call each number. Even very young children can be taught how and when to call for emergency assistance. If a child can’t read, make an emergency telephone number chart with pictures that may help the child identify the correct number to call.
Explain that when people know what to do and practice in advance, everyone is better able to handle emergencies. That’s why you need to create a Family Disaster Plan.Have older children take a first aid and CPR course. These are critical skills, and learning can be a fun activity.
Tell children that in a disaster there are many people who can help them. Talk about ways that an emergency manager, Red Cross volunteer, police officer, firefighter, teacher, neighbor, doctor, or utility worker might help following a disaster.
Teach children to call your family contact in case they are separated from the family in an emergency. Help them memorize the telephone number, or write it down on a card that they can keep with them.