Review Your Plan Every YearEach year my wife and I sit down and review our emergency plan. We also review it when we know about an impending threat. Just recently I learned ways to improve our family emergency plan. Could your family survive a disaster? How would you find each other if separated? Even if you have a disaster plan in place for your family, keep reading as some of these tips might be new to you. They certainly were to me!
Know How to Prepare for Different Types of Disasters
When floodplains experience several days of intense rainfall, melting snow combines with a spring thunderstorm, or any time that streams and rivers overflow are all causes of flooding. A flash flood is when this happens within six hours of the event causing water levels to rise.
- Talk to your insurance agent to make sure your homeowner’s policy covers flooding before any kind of situation occurs.
- Evacuation may be required. If your family gets separated, have an escape plan that covers any potential “what if” scenarios that ensure everyone gets to the destination point.
- It’s important to hear the latest news and to be able to see after the sun goes down. Keep a battery-operated or wind-up radio and flashlight in case of power outages.
- If you are out and come upon flood waters, turn and go another way with the goal of climbing to higher ground. Full grown adults can be swept away in as shallow as six inches of water. Even vehicles such as trucks and SUVs can be swept away in as little as 2 feet of water.
Affecting more than 40 states and territories in the United States, earthquakes affect every region of the country. Just because it hasn’t happened in your neighborhood doesn’t mean it couldn’t. In 2011 Washington, D.C. experienced the effects of an earthquake measuring 5.8 near Mineral, Virginia.
- Talk to your insurance agent, and be sure that your homeowner’s policy includes earthquake insurance. Earthquake insurance also covers damage from sinkholes, mudslides, landslides, and any other earth-shifting event.
- Practice earthquake drills as a family, selecting the safest area in each room of the house. Choose places like under a bed, or beneath a desk placed against an interior wall of the home. The closer you are to your safe place, ideally less than 10 feet away, the less likely you are to be injured while getting there.
- Once at your safe place, drop down, hold on, and cover your face. This is called “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” and practicing it twice a year can help your family remember what to do in case they ever experience an earthquake.
Storms with winds from 39 to 73 miles per hour are classified as a tropical storm, but when they reach a constant speed higher than that, the storm is considered to have reached hurricane status. Along with high winds, storm surges create walls of ocean water that can tower at heights up to 20 feet and obliterate seaside towns. Inland communities can experience cyclones and flooding. As each hurricane is different, never assume your family can know what to expect.
- Know the difference between a hurricane warning and a hurricane watch. A watch means there is a hurricane threat within 24 to 36 hours, while a warning means one is expected within 24 hours or less.
- When planning what your family will do, expect the worst and hope for the best. Complacency and late responses are two of the primary reasons why people do not survive hurricanes.
- When discussing hurricanes with your family, have an evacuation plan in place. Know what to do if one member of your family becomes separated. A couple of questions to ask are: where is your designated meeting point? And how will you communicate until everyone gets there?
- If your community is in an area that is at risk from hurricanes, contact your insurance agent or local Red Cross or other emergency center to find out what steps you can take to protect your home from flooding. Because basic insurance plans do not cover flooding that is a result of a hurricane, ask about adding flood insurance to your policy.
In the city of Edmonton where I live, winter storms can wreak havoc on the surrounding communities. Once an obscenely early autumn snowstorm knocked power out for more than a week. Although we’re usually ready for winter weather by early November, the October storm had us scrambling to put our usual winter plan into effect weeks ahead of schedule.
- Make sure your family understands the importance of keeping warm, as the wind chill factor can cause air to feel up to 35 degrees colder than what the thermometer reads.
- Enroll your family in a first aid class to know the proper ways to treat cold-weather injuries like frostbite and hypothermia. Knowing the symptoms for each is as important as knowing how to treat them. Also know how to care for a heart attack victim until emergency services arrives, as a heart attack from the stress of overexertion while shoveling snow is another common winter weather tragedy.
- Keep your gas tank full. Not only will it keep your fuel lines from freezing up, but the extra weight could also help keep your car from sliding on slick roads. And speaking of vehicles, make sure each one has its own car emergency kit.
- During the winter months make sure each family member is outfitted with water-resistant boots and gloves, as well as a warm jacket, scarf, and a hat. Wearing a hat is one of the best ways to keep warm when it’s cold outside.
- Keep non-clumping cat litter on hand to generate traction on icy surfaces. You can also keep ice melting products from your local home improvement store on hand.
Planning for PetsSomething else a lot of families don’t stop to consider until dealing with a catastrophic situation is pets. How will Fluffy the kitten or Squiggles the hamster fare if your family is forced to leave the area? What if Rex the dog hates storms and the National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning?
Planning for Special CircumstancesDepending on your family, you may also need to address things like how to care for an elderly member who depends on oxygen support when the power goes out, or how to care for an infant during a full scale evacuation. Know how to reach your family if they are at work or school, and have alternative methods in place in case the disaster knocks out cellphone service.
As you can see, how a family plans for disaster is as unique as the family itself, but the important thing is that you have a plan in place, period. Listen to the advice from local officials, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.