Disaster can strike when you least expect it. You could be just about anywhere when it happens. You need to be informed about what types of disasters could affect your area and have an emergency communication plan in place, so you and your family know what to do to stay safe and reconnect with each other if you are separated.
What is an Emergency Communication Plan?
- It is a short plan put in place that describes how, when, and with what your family will send and receive information during emergencies and after a disaster.
- It also establishes specific meet up places that are familiar and easy to find if family members become separated.
- Keep in mind that during a disaster communication networks like mobile phones, or computers and even electricity may become disrupted and be unreliable. Communication plans made in advance and practiced will help ensure that these types of events are accounted for and that family members know how they will communicate and what they will do.
What Should My Plan Look Like?
- Create an emergency contact list. Include names and addresses, emergency contacts, and any allergies or other medical conditions. Put all this information on a small card.
- It may also be helpful to include phone numbers for emergency services, utilities, service providers, medical providers, veterinarians, insurance companies, and other services.
- Be sure every family member has access to these cards and keeps them accessible. Some places might include your emergency kit, at work, in your car, in your wallet or purse, in luggage, on the refrigerator, in your cell phone, and inside children’s backpacks.
- Be informed about emergency response plans for work, or your child’s school or childcare provider. Discuss plans with your children and make sure they know who will pick them up in an emergency. Talk with children and make sure they know to follow instructions from a responsible adult in emergency situations.
- Household members with phones should sign up to receive alerts and warnings.
- Appoint an outside contact who household members can get in touch with. In disasters it is typically easier to make long-distance calls because local phone lines can become jammed.
- Decide on meet up spots that are familiar and safe where your family can go for protection or to reunite. Several scenarios will need to be considered with special meet up spots for each. This may include spots inside your home, in your neighborhood, outside your neighborhood, and outside your town or city. Make sure family members memorize these safe spots and know how to get to them.
- Make copies and share your plan with the household. Post a copy in a central place in your home so it is seen often. Check in often to make sure family members are carrying their cards.
- Enter all emergency contact information into mobile phones or devices.
- On your mobile device or phone list at least one emergency contact under the name “Emergency Contact” or “In Case of Emergency (ICE).”
- Create a group list of people you would need to contact on your phone so it is ready and accessible.
- Once you have put a plan together, gathered information, and discussed it as a family, it’s time to practice. Fema.gov has some great ideas.
- After you practice take some time to discuss what went well, what you need to improve on, and what parts of your plan you may need to change.
- Review and update your plan at least once a year or whenever any information changes.
- Save battery life. Keep conversations on your phone short and turn down the screen brightness.
- Text works best. Texts are more likely than phone calls to reach a recipient due to less bandwidth.
- Update status on social media. Take advantage of wi-fi if you have access to it and post a status update or mark yourself as safe in an emergency event. This will help to free up phone lines which can become bogged down when there are disasters in a designated area.
- Prepare everyone. Even younger children can at the least learn to dial 911. Practice your communication plan as a family and prepare each household member as best as you can.
- Emergency preparedness is something you should start today. Most of the work involved is fairly easy to do and only requires a minimal amount of time. Putting together an emergency kit, creating your communication plan, creating contact lists, and being informed are some of the steps you can get started on right away.
There are a lot of “What if’s” when it comes to emergency situations. Make a plan today and eliminate some of the worry. With an emergency communication plan in place you will have a greater chance of keeping your family safe and being reunited as quickly as possible.
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