Continuing our series on Preparedness Month, it’s time for you to make an emergency plan.
An emergency plan describes where everyone should go in an emergency, what they should do, and includes backup plans if they can’t get to the preferred place. The plan also provides a list of people who we can rely on to help us in an emergency.
September is a great time to start preparing your family for an emergency. Start with an emergency plan. Share it with the people you care about and want to be with.
Here is my family’s emergency plan.
This is stored as a note on each of my kids’ phones. My wife and I both have a copy on our phones as well.
Emergency Plan – In the Event of an Emergency…
[I’m not sharing this part with you, but it’s just some family friends and their telephone numbers.]
First and foremost, stay calm. Don’t freak out. Get somewhere safe and we’ll find you. If you get stuck, start calling the contacts. Leave a message. Send a text. READ your emails. Listen to voicemails, even if you don’t recognize the number. It might be one of us trying to get in touch with you.
IF YOU CAN, stick with the original plan that morning. If you’re supposed to be picked up at school, we will try to pick you up. If you are supposed to drive home from school, try to drive home. Start calling and texting us and calling and texting the people on this list. If, after several hours you can’t reach us then you need to go to the primary meeting place. If you can’t reach the primary meeting place then go to an alternate meeting place, etc.
- Primary meeting place: [Our address]
- Alternate meeting place: A friend in the neighborhood. [Names]
- Contingency meeting place: [Our church, which is pretty close to our neighborhood.]
- Emergency meeting place: [My parents’ home, which is in a nearby town]
If you reach the house and then later have to leave the house, leave a note saying where you are going and who you are with. We (Mom and Dad) will:
- Try to contact you first.
- Go to where we think you are, if we know you need a ride.
- Go home
- Start trying to contact or go to the alternate meeting places
- Go to the church
- Go to Dad’s house
- We will repeat these steps if we can.
That’s it. As you can see, this isn’t extremely complicated. It took me about 20 minutes to put together and another 10 minutes to discuss with our family. Some things your emergency plan should include:
- Specific names and contact info. Avoid “Go to a friend’s house.” List specific people in a specific order.
- Options. Backups to backups and backups. PACE: Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency. Notice that our plan starts at our house and gets farther away. For our plan, Primary = 0 miles. Alternate = 1 mile. Contingent = 5 miles. Emergency = 30 miles. My boys know they can walk 30 miles in a day or two max.
- Safe, caring support. All of the names on this list care about my kids, and I care about their kids. The church may not be occupied in an emergency, but it’s still a familiar place with shelter and water.
- Specific actions and sequences. In an emergency, people frequently ‘freeze’ and don’t do ANYTHING. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one way to break the freeze is with a “Step 1 – do this” instruction.
September is ALSO a great time to do a fire drill at your house.
Another great activity for Preparedness Month is to have a fire drill. I started this when the boys were in elementary school, and it was a lot of fun. These days, my teenagers roll their eyes at me but they run the drill without any input from me. (They know it’s the best way to ‘get it over with’ and get back to whatever they were doing.). A fire drill is another key part of your emergency plan.
How to Conduct a Fire Drill at Your House:
- How will they know that there is a fire and they need to get out?
- Take this opportunity to test your smoke detectors. That way everyone can hear the sound and know what it means..
- They may smell smoke.
- They may hear you (or someone else) yelling.
- Where should they go? For us, it’s the mailbox OR a back corner of the yard.
- How should they get out?
- Start with the basics – you remember…
- Yell to wake up other family members.
- Army Crawl to stay below smoke.
- Check the door for heat.
- Leave everything behind.
- Stop, Drop, and Roll.
- Consider having older siblings help with younger siblings.
- Their first choice to evacuate should be the easiest, shortest, straightest way out.
- If their first choice is not safe, what is their second way out? Third?
- Start with the basics – you remember…
- Actually Practice. Yell. Crawl. OPEN THE WINDOW. We didn’t actually have the kids jump out the window (3rd choice) but we did talk about it. Better to be hurt than dead.
Take This Opportunity to Create Your Family’s Emergency Plan.
Know you know, it’s time to do. Take a half-hour this week to think about your emergency plan and your fire drill, and then put it in place. Have an awkward conversation with your spouse and kids. You might save their lives.
You can find more tips on emergency plans at Ready.Gov.
You can also find LOTS more info in our Getting Started as a Prepper section.
Cover Image: Xnatedawgx, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons