I was interviewed yesterday by a young lady for a class assignment. We talked about several things, all of which pivoted on this year’s theme for National Preparedness Month. “Don’t Wait, Communicate” is applicable for so many aspects of our lives, and especially when a disaster hits us.
In the context of disasters, communication can become as challenging as buying ice or gasoline after a hurricane. We forget that the ubiquitous smartphone may not be so useful when cell towers are down or when there’s no way to recharge our electronic devices. It’s frightening to think that we may not be with our loved ones when a disaster occurs and have no way of finding out their status. Are they all okay? Where are they? How can we get to them?
Here are seven things you can do before a disaster occurs.
- Identify an out-of-state family member or friend willing to serve as your check-in person in the event of a disaster. Provide all of your family members with that person’s contact information. Why? In a disaster, it is sometimes easier to contact a person outside the disaster area than it is to contact someone in that zone.
- Teach your family members (children and older adults who may not know) how to send a text message. Texting can be a more effective and reliable tool than voice calls when the network is overwhelmed.
- Know your family members’ daily routines. Be familiar with school and work disaster plans. Who are the emergency contacts?
- Designate a meeting place in case you have a home fire or cannot access your home.
- Give each member of your household a printed list of emergency contacts. This will be useful when their cell phones are not available or phone batteries are dead.
- Make sure young children know their full names as well as your name and home address. Their knowing this information can help responsible adults reunite you with your children in a disaster or emergency.
- Assign emergency duties to older children and adults. For example, if authorities have issued an evacuation order, you will need to gather all of your essentials and leave as directed. Older children may be responsible for assembling all of the family’s emergency go (travel) kits, getting pets, turning off lights, or other performing specific tasks. Adults should be responsible for keeping the vehicle fueled, planning evacuation routes (always have more than one way out of your home, neighborhood, and community), gathering important papers and medicines, and making sure everyone is accounted for. At least one member of the household should include cash in a go kit or evacuation essentials. ATMs may be down or out of cash during a disaster.
Don’t wait for the disaster to figure out how you will communicate with your family. Make a plan. Your plan will not look like my plan, nor like your neighbor’s plan—that’s okay. Just make and share it with your family and friends.