The core message of the Community and Family Preparedness Program is the Family Disaster Plan -- four steps people can take to prepare for any type of disaster. Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere - at work, school or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe?
Disasters can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services - water, gas, electricity or telephones were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. Families can, and do, cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed to create your family's disaster plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility:
STEP 1: Find out what could happen to you...
Find out what types of disasters are most likely to occur in your community and how to prepare for them.
· Request information on how to prepare for each disaster (you may contact your local emergency management office).
· Learn about your community's warning systems: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
· Learn about animal care. Animals are not allowed in shelters.
· Find out about disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or daycare center and other places where your family spends time.
Contacting your local emergency management office for information and guidelines is a good way to get started.
STEP 2: Create a Disaster Plan...
Hold a family meeting and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of disaster to your children. Plan to work as a team.
· Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.
· Pick two places to meet: 1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire. 2. Outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home. (Everyone must know the address and phone number.)
· Ask an out-of state friend to be your "family contact". After a disaster, it is often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone number.
· Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.
STEP 3: Complete this checklist...
Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
Teach children how and when to call 911 for help.
Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves. Remember, turn off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if you are instructed to do so. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.
Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher, and where it is kept.
Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
Conduct a home hazard hunt.
During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. Anything than can move, fall, break or cause a fire is a home hazard. For example, a hot water heater or a bookshelf can fall. Inspect your home at least once a year and fix potential hazards. Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.
· Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
· Take a class from the American Red Cross on first aid and CPR.
· Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
· Learn location of all Emergency Shelters that might be opened in the event of a disaster.
· Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.
STEP 4: Practice and maintain your plan...
The final step emphasizes the need to practice the plan on a regular basis so family members will remember what to do when disaster strikes.
· Quiz your children every six months so they remember what to do.
· Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
· Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
· Test and recharge your fire extinguishers according to manufacturer's instructions.
· Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.