Disasters and emergency situations strike without warning.

Earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes, etc can strike when you least expect it. It's important for families to be prepared and have a plan of action in place in event of an emergency or disaster. PDisasters(43579)Credit: immediateresponsegroup.comlanning ahead can help eliminate some of the stress and worry during difficult times.  It will help your family to know that if they are prepared, they need not fear emergency situations.

To begin, you should have a family emergency-planning meeting. Gather all of the members of your family together for a discussion of emergency contingency plans.  Include extended family.  This is a great thing to do at a family reunion.  During this meeting you will want to gather all phone numbers and contact information for all family members.  Include younger members that have cell phones.  After the family meeting make a contact list with all of the names and phone numbers.  Condense it into a short list and print out on business cards to distribute to all members of the family to keep in their wallets or purse in case of an emergency.

Prepare an evacuation list. This list will include items that need to be taken (if possible) from the home, contact information of family members, insurance and bank information, prescriptions, computer passwords, etc.  Include a health card for each member of the family with vital health information.  Make copies of all of your important documents such as passports, driver licenses, social security cards, family records (marriage license, birth certificates) financial records, and most importantly, insurance policies.  Secure these copies in a safety deposit box in your local bank or another safe place.  It should be a place somewhere away from your home. 

As a family, decide on an emergency meeting place in the event of a major disaster. You will need to have a central meeting place that in the event of a local emergency that everyone will try to reach. Often times there will not be phone service so you need to have meeting places planned ahead of time. Your meeting place can include schools, churches, homes of family members, or any other central location. The meeting place needs to be accessible to as many members of the family as possible. You might need to have a couple of areas chosen in case the areas designated are affected. Have a plan in place for young children who might be in school during an emergency.

Designate an emergency contact person for everyone to contact in case they can’t reach each other right away. This person should be an outside family member or close friend that lives away from your area. Everyone should plan to call this contact person to check in and to find out the situations of other family members during an emergency. Make sure this person is included on the emergency information card.

Once you have an emergency plan in place you need to have “drills” and review the plans on a regular basis, at least every six months.  Situations change and you might need to revise or reconsider some of the plans you have.  Keep your contact list updated regularly.

Emergency Kit(43581)Credit: cgi.ebay.com

Make portable emergency disaster kits to have available during a disaster. As a family you should prepare a 72-hour kit for each family member. You can purchase these kits or assemble them yourself.  (This is a good family activity and gives you a chance to review emergency action plans.) These kits need to be easily accessible and not stored away in the basement storage room. Many people carry one in the trunk of their car at all times.  A backpack or a five-gallon bucket with a good lid makes a great container for your kits.  Items that should be included in your kits:

  • Food – Include packaged food that doesn’t need much preparation and don’t require refrigeration.  Good items are granola snack bars, cans of tuna fish, beef jerky, instant oatmeal, fruit packs, crackers, peanut butter, cookies, etc.  (Make sure you rotate these items regularly.)
  • Water – Have as much as you can carry.  Include several bottles in each kit.
  • Medications – At least five days of regular medications.
  • Mini-first aid kit with small first aid manual, dust mask, disposable gloves
  • Personal hygiene items.  Small bar of soap (the type you get in a hotel are great), hand sanitizer, toilet paper (make “mini” rolls for each kit), feminine products, toothpaste (small travel size) and toothbrush, comb, wet wipes
  • Paper, pencil, tape
  • Cash – each kit should contain some cash in bills and coins, as ATM’s and electronic banking is not possible during a power outage.
  • Change of clothing with good, sturdy shoes, gloves and a hat.  Include a rain poncho.  During the winter include some winter clothing. 
  • Plastic garbage bags, baggies, paper towels, paper plates and cups, utensils
  • Flashlight and batteries, matches, candle, headlamp, whistle (to notify rescuers), portable radio
  • Small light-weight blanket and/or sheet
  • A child’s kit should include small toys, games, book, etc. 
  • Make a kit for your pets!
  • A list with emergency contact numbers, family emergency contact list
  • Recent snapshots of each family member (for identification purposes)
  • All purpose tool such as a Leatherman

Survival KitCredit: wn.com

All family members should know good basic first aid.  Attend classes as a family at your local Red Cross, YMCA, Scouts, or hospital.  Include children in training, as this will help them emotionally as well as physically in the event of an emergency. 

Make sure you have made arrangements for family pets. Will you take them with you?  Do you have a small kennel for house pets?  Make an emergency kit for your pets and put it with the kennel. 

In the event of an emergency here are a couple of other tips:

  • Make sure your car is full of gas at all times.  It’s hard to evacuate if you don’t have enough gas to get anywhere!
  • Lock your house.
  • Learn how to shut off the water, gas and electricity and do so if you have time.
  • Listen to the radio and follow all directives from the authorities.