When an emergency happens, it’s hard to know how you or your family members will respond. This makes safely responding to a natural disaster or other emergency very difficult because people are reacting unexpectedly. The best way to alleviate the stress of the unexpected is having a plan for what to do in an emergency and then practicing it until it becomes a natural response no matter the circumstances.
Create an Emergency Communication Plan
Before you can complete an emergency response drill, you should have a plan in place. If you’ve never created an emergency communication plan, Fema.gov has an excellent template that you can start with. Find a way to get everyone in the family involved in the planning process so that they are more likely to remember the plan and excited to practice it.
The major information you need to collect for your plan is contact information for everyone in the household as well as schools, childcare and workplaces. You should also determine an out-of-town family member or friend who can act as a central point of contact. Lastly, set some emergency meeting places and determine when to use which locations.
Practice Your Emergency Response Drill
Once your plan is finished, you can actually try an emergency response drill. Name one person in the family to be the lead information sender. Practice calling and texting through your list of contacts (though you should probably warn your out-of-town contact). Talk about what sort of messages to send. They should be short and include your status and where you are.
You should also practice getting to your emergency meeting places. Discuss how each member of the family would get to one of these meeting places if they were alone, including different modes of transportation. Have contact info written down and not just stored on electronics in case the power is out for an extended period of time and you can’t access your cellphone/tablet/computer. Having backup battery options can be helpful but you also need an old-fashioned paper version in a pinch. Younger children should be taught to memorize important phone numbers.
Your plan should be reviewed and practiced once a year. It might seem like a lot of work, but the practice is invaluable in an emergency.
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