Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Floods…OH MY! Planning for a Family Emergency

Monday, September 26, 2011 Submitted by kim
When the poo comes down will you be ready?  I’m not talking about a Pampers blow-out at Target; I’m talking about a true emergency.  If there was a flood, an earthquake, a wild fire, a devastating storm or any number of other unfortunate events, would you know what to do and have everything on hand to help your family survive?
A natural disaster or family emergency is frightening and overwhelming.  Your best chance, however, of pulling through it with your head screwed on straight and your sanity relatively in tact is with advanced planning.  While you cannot account for every contingency (nor should you drive yourself batty trying), it is your responsibility to take care of your family and keep them safe so it is wise to make an emergency preparedness plan before your local news anchor or meteorologist becomes the harbinger of doom.  Planning now, while things are calm, allows you the freedom to make appropriate choices without fighting price gauging and every other last-minute, panic-stricken person in a 25 mile radius who is willing to take you down for that last case of bottled water. 

Think Ahead

Your first step is to think ahead.  

  1. Consider the types of disasters that could occur in your area.  For example, my family lives within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant.  It is my responsibility to be prepared and know what my family would need in the event of a nuclear meltdown, such as iodine supplements, the local government escape route, clean water, etc.  That is an extreme and unusual example and one contingency for which a majority of you would not have to prepare, but we do.  If you live in an area that is historically prone to flooding or if you live near a body of water, then you need to be prepared for potential flooding.  The last major flood may have been 40 years ago but there is no natural law that says the next one won’t occur while you’re there.

  2. Identify a family meeting point & out-of-town contact person.  In the event of a sudden and fast-moving event such as a house fire, tornado or earthquake, designate a location outside of the home for the whole family to meet.  This will alleviate worry about where everyone is and will prevent someone from re-entering an unsafe structure to look for a potentially missing family member.  It is also important to identify a person who lives out of town to be the family contact should the family be separated during the disaster.  It is often easier to contact someone outside of the local vicinity and that person will be calmer than the people directly involved in the situation.  Be sure that all family members know who to contact and that they all have the person’s phone number with them at all times or programmed into their cell phone.

  3. Create a Disaster Checklist.  

    Special Needs Checklist.  Start with any children or family members with special needs.  
  • Document, in writing, the person’s current care plan.  
  • Have a completed emergency form for your child on hand at schools and daycares. 
  • Have a two week supply of prescription medication on hand.  You may not be able to get to the doctor’s office or pharmacy for a while.
  • Have a back-up system, such as a generator, and the necessary fuel on hand to power vital medical equipment. 
  • Discuss your emergency plan with the child’s doctor.
  • Discuss the plan with the child’s school or care facility – how will you contact them, who should they call, what should they do until you get to your child?

    Family Checklist

  • Do you have a plan?  Do you practice it?
  • Do you have an emergency supply kit?  Is it fully stocked?
  • Do you have a meeting place/contact person?
  • Have you discussed disaster information with your family?
  • Do you know the emergencies plans for your work or your child’s school/daycare?
    -  Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis.
    -  Ask if they store adequate food, water and other basic supplies.
    -  Find out if they are prepared to "shelter-in-place" if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away.
  • Do you have a plan for your pets or service animals?

    Home Checklist

  • Are there any hazardous materials inside or out?  Research how they should be secured during the event of an emergency and be prepared to do so.
  • Know where and how to turn off utilities for your own safety.
  • Do you have working smoke/carbon monoxide detectors?  Check the batteries every time you spring forward or fall back.
  • Do you have a working generator, water hose and fire extinguishers?
  • Talk to your neighbors about your emergency plan and how best to help each other in case of an emergency.

4.  Have a family meeting.  Discuss with family members all of the information that you have prepared.  Review checklists, emergency meeting location, out-of-town emergency contacts, evacuation routes and the location of important papers and emergency supplies.   Post emergency numbers next to the phone and teach children how and when to call them.   To  help children understand the importance of emergency preparedness, check out the FEMA Kids site for games and kid-friendly instructions.

Emergency Supply Kit

First Aid Kit 

If a disaster should strike, you may be without potable (safe-to-drink) water and electricity for an extended period of time.  Should this happen, you can ease the stress by being prepared.  The following items should be stored in waterproof containers such as plastic totes and readily accessible in an emergency or to grab and go should you need to evacuate.  DO NOT wait until a disaster is forecasted to strike to start preparing.  By then, supplies will be scarce and it could be too late:

  • Water – one gallon of water, per person, for three days.  If you are buying cases of bottled water, that would be one case per person in your family.

  • Food – a three-day supply of non-perishable, pop-top items such as canned meats, fruits and veggies, baby food, high energy foods such as protein bars, raisins or dried fruit, vitamins, special dietary needs such as baby formula.

  • First Aid Supplies – Sterile adhesive bandages, cleansing solution, non-latex gloves, non-prescription meds, pain-reliever

  • Tools/Emergency Supplies – battery/solar/crank-powered NOAA radio, flashlights, candles or crank/solar-powered lamp, extra batteries, charger, matches in a waterproof container, whistle, signal flare

  • Household items – disposable dinnerware, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, liquid detergent, personal hygiene items

  • Copies of important documents in a waterproof, portable container – will, insurance policies, important contracts/deeds/stocks & bonds, passports, social security cards, immunization records, bank and credit card account numbers, important phone numbers, family records (birth certificates, marriage certificates), disposable camera.  According to Off Grid Survival, these items should also be scanned and stored on a password protected, encrypted flash drivefor an added layer of security.
When Disaster Strikes

If a disaster is forecasted, pay attention to the news and stay informed.  When an evacuation is ordered by local government officials, heed the warning and head to a family member’s house out-of-town or to the nearest shelter facility.  states that if the following disasters should strike, you should take the actions listed:

  • Earthquake. "Drop, take cover, and hold on." This means you should drop to the ground, get under a sturdy shelter, maybe a desk or table, and hold on until the ground stops shaking. When the earthquake is over, follow the instructions of local authorities and put your family's emergency plan into place.

  • Explosion. Take shelter under a desk or table during the explosion, and exit the building as soon as possible once it’s over. Avoid using elevators and be careful of hot doors, since there may be fire on the other side.

  • Fire evacuation. Have a fire evacuation plan for your family with multiple routes of escape from all rooms of the house. If you live in a multi-level home, consider installing escape ladders in the upper levels. If a fire occurs, get out immediately. Do not put yourself in danger by placing a phone call or gathering your valuables.

  • Flood. Listen to the TV or radio for information on where the flooding is happening. In the case of a flood warning in your area, you may be advised to evacuate; in this case, do so immediately. If you are under a flash flood warning, seek higher ground immediately.  NEVER drive through waters ponded on the roadway.  Waters from a flash flood rise quickly and cause your vehicle to stall and prevent you from opening your door or windows.  Many people have died from drowning when attempting to cross a seemingly harmless “puddle” of water on the road that was actually the beginning of a flash flood. 

  • Hurricane. If you live in a coastal area, have a hurricane plan in place with supplies to cover your home's windows and secure outdoor objects. If a hurricane is approaching, listen to a local TV or radio station to stay informed, and be prepared to evacuate. Before you leave your home, remember to turn off your utilities and propane tanks as recommended.

  • Terrorist attack. Watch TV, listen to the radio, and check online news sources to determine how authorities suggest you react. If you are in immediate danger, quickly leave the area and contact local authorities to find out what you should do next.

  • Tornado. You should be prepared for a tornado no matter where you live. In a tornado situation, take shelter in a basement, storm cellar, or the most interior room of your home. Stay away from windows, doors, and exterior walls. If you are outside and cannot get to shelter, lie flat in a ditch or other low location.

For more information on specific disasters, check out FEMA’s Plan & Prepare site for specific instructions on a wide variety of potential disasters.

What Do I Do Now?
After a disaster, unless it is structurally unsound, stay in your home and listen to your radio for updates and instructions.  Remain calm.  Panic will only worsen the situation.  Stay out of unfamiliar places and, particularly, any flooded areas where hidden, downed electrical wires, sewage or hazardous materials could be lurking.  Check everyone for injuries and your home for damage, fire or gas/water leaks and if you need help contact local authorities immediately for assistance.  Put your emergency plan into action by calling your family contact.  If you are having trouble reaching people via cell phone, try text messaging.  Often text messages are able to get through when a call cannot.  Check on your neighbors to see if they need help and then assess the situation to determine if you should stay put or evacuate.

In the days and weeks following a disaster, frustrations and fears can run high.  It is vital that you remain calm and be patient.  Utility companies, local authorities and clean-up volunteers are working as quickly as they can to return your neighborhood to normal.  Children are particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster.  Reassure them using language that they can understand.  For some great tips on helping your child cope with a disaster, check out FEMA’s website or the American Academy of Pediatrics Disaster site.
Sad Child 
For more information about riding out a disaster check out the following sites:

Kim is the wife of one rockin' Worship Pastor and full-time mom to four crazy and beautiful kids. Toss in a part-time job, housework, writing, training for a foster care license and what passes for a social life these days and she’s still wondering how she fits 32 hours into a 24 hour day. 
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