A home emergency plan is important because we don't know when there will be an emergency at home or in our community. As a child it's exciting when you have a snow day or schools close due to a hurricane. It's not until you become an adult with responsibility for the safety of others, that you look at what's needed to prepare for emergencies you might face at home.
September is National Preparedness Month, so we're helping spread the word that everyone needs a home emergency plan. The website Ready.gov challenges us to prepare for disasters as the day before a disaster looks like any other day, meaning you rarely get any advance warning so you want to have a home emergency plan so you're always prepared!
Don't think an emergency will find you? Here's a map (from Ready.gov) that says otherwise …
Planning for a Home Emergency
On normal days, each family member has a routine – you go to work, to school, after school activities and community events. If you have children, somewhere in the kitchen (the refrigerator until stainless arrived and wasn't magnetic) you've got the names and phone numbers of key contacts for your babysitter.
The question then is what more is needed on days that aren't normal? And you can't assume that a quick call on everyone's cell phone is enough. Often cell phone towers supporting will suffer damage during emergencies or everyone's trying to call at once and you can't get through. That's why the first thing you need for your home emergency plan is a strategy for family communication:
- A friend of family member who lives out-of-state, someone willing to coordinate family communication during an emergency if problems arise when family members are scattered and unable to reach each other.
- All family members learning the name and phone number of their emergency contact person.
- Programming the contact information into everyone's phone under In Case of Emergency (ICE), as emergency personnel often look there … and don't forget to let these people know you've listed them as emergency contacts.
- Make sure all family members know how to text each other as often, these short messages will get through when a phone call won't get through.
What Should a Home Emergency Plan Include?
Emergencies are stressful. Creating and familiarizing family members with the information in your home emergency plan will make it easier for all family members to support each other during the crisis. Here's what you want to include in your home emergency plan:
- Family communication plan for local family members.
Cell phones might make family communication easier today but never forget it's your top priority after physical safety. In high school, there was a blackout that shut down the entire northeast. I was on a train returning home from a school trip to New York City. We had to wait to be escorted from the train to the nearest station, and then wait in line to call home. My mother was relieved to know I was fine. She told me to wait there until she could find a car with enough gas and several hours later I was home sharing my adventure with my family.
- Identify roles for each family member, e.g. who's in charge of communication, pets and the special needs of family members.
- Pick a strategy for getting the family back together, from location to who decides if it's safe for family members to travel.
- Create a list of critical items needed when evacuating, like prescriptions, special medical equipment, special dietary needs
- Have a plan for pets. Here's a video to help you review what your pet will need.
- Include a checklist for shutting off utilities in your home emergency plan.
- Decide on a strategy for staying home without electricity, e.g. generators are popular today given the increase in weather related emergencies.
- Stock enough supplies to keep everyone comfortable through an emergency, like medication, extra batteries, food, etc.
- Assemble a basic disaster supply kit, reviewing it once a year along with your home emergency plan.
Do you have a home emergency plans?