Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes. How would you contact one another? We all immediately think – telephone! But what if the power is out or the cell towers are down? Communication networks, such as mobile phones and computers, could be unreliable during disasters and land line telephone connections will be even worse. Advance planning will help all the members of your household know how to contact each other and where to meet in an emergency.
Planning starts with three easy steps.
1. Collect a paper copy of the contact information for your family and other important people/offices, such as medical facilities, doctors, schools, or service providers.
2. Make sure each family member has a copy in his or her backpack, purse or wallet. You can complete your Family Emergency Communication Plan online at ready.gov/make-a-plan, and you can print out a wallet-sized card.
3. Post a copy in a central location in your home for easy access. Practice your plan in a regular household meeting.
If you are using a mobile phone, a text message may get through when a phone call will not. A text message requires far less bandwidth than a phone call. Text messages may also save ad then send automatically as soon as capacity becomes available.
Write down phone numbers and email addresses for everyone in your household. Mobile phones allow space to save much of this information. Having this important information written down will help you reconnect with others in case you don’t have your mobile device or computer with you or if the battery runs down. For hearing impaired family members, include information on connecting through relay services. You may want to send one copy to school for each child’s file.
Because a disaster can strike during school or work hours, you need to know their emergency response plans and how to stay informed. Share this information with your children and tell them who to expect to pick them up in an emergency. You should all be signed up for alerts and warnings from the school, work places, and or local government. Instruct children without mobile phones to be sure to follow instructions from an adult, like their principal or teacher.
In some situations, making a long distance telephone call may be easier that calling locally if local lines are jammed. Identify someone outside your community to call as a central point of contact to help your household members reconnect.
Select safe, familiar, and easily accessible Emergency Meeting Places for family members to go for protection or to reunite. Identify several different locations.
• Indoors – in locations where tornadoes, hurricanes or high-wind storms can happen, make sure everyone knows where to go for protection. Select a small, interior, windowless room such as a closet or bathroom, on the lowest level of a sturdy building, or a tornado safe room.
• In the neighborhood – select a place where family members can meet in case a fire or other disaster forces you to leave your home.
• Outside the neighborhood – if you’re away from home and cannot return there pick an alternative.
• Outside your town – if you cannot get home or your community is instructed to evacuate the area. Make sure everyone know the address and how to get there.
Get a wallet-sized form here.
Billie Nicholson, editor