No matter where you live or what type of natural disasters are likely to strike your area, having an evacuation plan is essential to keeping your family safe. Do you know what to do or where to go in case of an earthquake, tornado, fire, hurricane, or flood? Some natural disasters may require you to shelter in place initially, but require you to quickly mobilize later. Putting together a plan now and familiarizing everyone in the house with it can help bring you peace of mind in case of emergency.
"Make a plan today. Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area," said Ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security. "Know how you'll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that's familiar and easy to find."
Family-specific details matter
Key to a successful evacuation plan is taking in all the tips and then adjusting them to the specific needs of your family. Where will you go, how will you get there, and what basic needs should be considered along the way are just a few questions to ask yourself. "Tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities," said Ready.gov. "Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment. Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance."
FEMA's Family Emergency Communication Plan is a great document to fill out, print, and keep in a safe place, because it gets your plan on paper. Now, it's time to practice the plan as a family. This helps ensure that everyone knows what to do and doesn't have to think about it under stressful conditions.
Pack a "go" bag
Do you have an emergency bag packed for a "just in case" situation? Not many of us do. In case of a hurricane and subsequent flooding, there may be time to put some preparations in place, but natural disasters like fire and earthquakes may strike without any notice. Packing a "go" bag is a smart strategy for anyone who wants to be prepared.
FEMA's recommendations are extensive, including things like: One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days; at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food like granola bars; a battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio; extra batteries; a flashlight; and a first aid kit. In addition, you'll want any medications for family members, cash in case electricity fails and ATMs and credit card machines don't work, your important documents in a waterproof bag, and a mobile phone charger.
Zello is another must-have today. This app turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, so even if cell service is spotty, you can still communicate. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Zello wss "the most popular free app on both Android and iOS app stores," said USA Today. "Zello was among the key tools used by rescuers to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston."
Don't forget your animals
Scenes of animals being evacuated during Hurricane Harvey was heartbreaking but also heartwarming, as pet owners refused to leave their beloved dogs and cats behind and rescuers risked their own lives to pulls animals from flooded homes.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has some great tips you can use to make sure your animals stay safe along with the rest of your family in an emergency situation. If your pets don't have updated identification on their collars or have not been microchipped, now is the time to get that taken care of. Practicing getting your pet into a carrier and getting in and out of the car is also helpful. See more tips here.
Gas up ahead of time
If your mom always told you to make sure not to let your gas tank get too low, she was on to something. A Today Show report on safe evacuations noted that during Hurricane Rita in 2005, more than 100 people died while trying to evacuate because they ran out of gas and suffered from heat exhaustion. Even if you have advance warning of a coming natural disaster, like a hurricane, fill up your tank as soon as possible. Gas stations will and do run out of gas, leaving those who are trying to prepare at the last minute out of luck.
Your escape plan maybe slightly different in the case of fire. The National Fire Protection Association has outlined a series of safety precaution steps including unblocking exits so they're always clear, finding two exits from each room, and checking to make sure street numbers are clearly displayed on the front of your house so that any emergency personnel can find you easily.
"Key to your family's safety is planning and practicing a home fire escape plan twice a year," they said. "Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm."
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