You’re working on your kit (or at least thinking about it) but what then? You are thinking of a plan, you think you know what you are going to do. The reality is, you are probably not as prepared as you think you are. How do I know? Because I am so there. The plan is the hardest part.
The reason the plan is so hard is because there are far too many variables when it comes to planning for an emergency. There’s the type of emergency and how far it reaches that gets me. Then add that there might be officials who have their own plans for how we’re going to be in that emergency.
Does that mean you should wing it? No. It means having not only a plan but many, and I do mean many, back-up plans. It means having your family understand what all those plans are. In my house, I have me, my husband, a teenage son and a cat. The cat doesn’t care what the plan is but the rest of us can influence or completely overturn the plan at any moment. I don’t mean purposely sabotaging the plan but simple lack of understanding of what the plan is will create chaos.
The first thing to do is fill out a basic information form such as this one on the FEMA site. It may seem like “duh” information but I challenge you to fill it out without peeking (no checking your contact list on your phone). I tell you I couldn’t do it. The form with FEMA is good but I would encourage you to add doctor information (maybe your vet and your dentist).
While planning your plan – here are some things to consider:
1. If you have to evacuate your house, where will your family meet? Have a location that is close to your home and one that is further away. For us, we have a meeting place across the street and my dad’s house which is across town. From there, start the back-up plans. What if your locations are part of the emergency? My brother lives in the next town over, that could be one place. However, we’re in the same county so what relatives or friends are further away and would be willing to provide us shelter in case of emergency? Have at least two more locations further and further away. I may need to add someone in a different direction in case the emergency prevents me from reaching those destinations.
2. How will family members reach you? It’s easy to think that cell phones are powerful beacons. They are handy but cell towers and batteries can fail during an emergency. Do you have a contact person? Having someone away from your area serve as a go between becomes a necessity. For us, my MIL lives in the center of the country so we could easily use her to keep the rest of us in contact. For those who don’t know – the Red Cross also provides a similar service but you have to know that it exists to use it. I recommend talking with your local office to find out how that works.
3. What is the plan if the emergency happens when the family is at school/work? Do you have a plan for which family member will pick up which family member? Emergencies happen when they happen. There is no guarantee that the emergency will happen when everyone is at home.
Those are a few points and I am sure there are tons more but getting the basics help. Make sure you know the phone number and address of needed locations. Get the basic information needed. I, also, recommend having fairly recent pictures of each family member in your emergency kit so that if you are separated then you have a picture to give to emergency personnel. Practice evacuations – and remember that if some of the family is evacuating from home that they should leave a message for those who are away from home. We have a metal door so the plan is to have a small white board that can be put on the outside to alert those who might come by that the house has been evacuated. If anyone is worried about people knowing where you have gone, leave a code – Evacuated Location 1.
Don’t forget to include your kit in your plan. Who is responsible for what part of the evacuation? In our case, who is responsible for getting the kit? the cat? leaving the note?
Who’s job is it to make contact with family members? How?
I’m sorry that there isn’t better instructions for making this plan. My life is not your life so my evacuation plan will not be your evacuation plan. Having a plan will help. Remembering the plan will help so much more.