National Preparedness Month is all about helping individuals, families, businesses and communities to take action. As kids return to school and families begin to reorganize and make new routines, September is an ideal time for updating your family communications and evacuations plans and to become better informed about different threats and local emergency plans.
During National Preparedness Month, the Red Cross urges everyone to take these three simple steps to Be Red Cross Ready: 1) Get a kit 2) Make a plan and 3) Be informed.
“These steps are so simple, any family can complete them,” says Darlene Sparks Washington, Director of Preparedness for the American Red Cross. “No one should wait for a large disaster to get prepared. Smaller disasters such as home fires happen ever day and can be just as devastating.”
In the event of a disaster or emergency, things can get pretty hectic. Planning ahead of time can make it easier to make critical decisions during times of stress and confusion.
There are two types of plans that every family or household should develop to prepare for disaster. One is a communication plan and the other is an evacuation plan. Your communication plan should address what to do, where to go and who to contact in the event of an emergency. The evacuation plan will ensure you and your loved ones know how to evacuate your home if necessary. Take the time to make your plan now and include everyone in your household to work as a team.
You can start by talking with your family about what kind of disasters may occur in your area and how you can begin to prepare for them. Contact your local Red Cross chapter or local emergency management to find out what could happen to you. Everyone should take the time to learn their community’s warning signals and what they sound like and mean.
When forming your plan, choose an out-of-area relative or friend as an emergency contact in case local phone lines are not working. Create a contact list with your out-of-area contact as well as local emergency officials, doctors, hospitals, and a current list of phone numbers for everyone in your household and others you may need to contact.
Making your communication and evacuation plan with the whole family will ensure you and your loved ones can work together to Be Red Cross Ready. Set aside a time to talk about disasters that could happen to you and don't forget to practice your plan often."
(Photo Credit: Stock Photo/American Red Cross)
Make a copy for everyone and post it by the telephones in your house. It’s also a good idea to have one at work or school and in your disaster supplies kit and wallet.
“During times of disaster local phone lines could be very busy or out of service,” Sparks Washington reminds us. “Having an out-of-area contact that you and your family can check in with assures that everyone will be accounted for, even if you are separated.”
Don’t forget to plan for your pets, too. Many regard their pets as part of their family, so be sure you’ve made arrangements for your furry friends in case you need to evacuate. Some hotels will allow pets, so it’s a good idea to have a list of resources in your disaster supplies kit.
Don’t forget to use these simple steps as a guide when making your plan:
- Post emergency telephone numbers by phones in your house. Include your contact sheet and a number for emergency services such as your local police.
- Teach young children how to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
- Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
- Have members of your family get trained in how to properly use a fire extinguisher and show them where it’s kept.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
- Stock emergency supplies and assemble your disaster supplies kit.
- Take a Red Cross first aid or CPR class from your local chapter.
In addition to having a communications plan, it’s also important to have an evacuation plan. In the event of a disaster such as a hurricane, you may be asked to leave your home for an unspecified period of time. Make sure that you and your family know a few evacuation routes out of town should you have to leave your home quickly and without warning.
Make sure all family members know your designated meeting place right outside your home for a sudden disaster like a fire, and one right outside your neighborhood to meet in case you can’t return home or are forced to evacuate without notice.
Finally, what good would a plan be if you didn’t practice it? Involve the whole family and go over your plan several times so it is easier to follow when you really need it.
“Every family will need to practice their plan differently,” says Sparks Washington. “Some may practice differently during the weekend than they do during the week. Families should practice until each person in the household is comfortable enough to execute the plan like second nature.”
Don’t forget these few things when asked to evacuate your home:
- Lock your home when you leave.
- Take your pets with you; do not leave them behind. Because pets are not permitted in public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative's or friend's home, or find a "pet-friendly" hotel.
- Use travel routes specified by local authorities — don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
National Preparedness Month reminds all of us to prepare now, before disaster strikes. Being Red Cross Ready means being ready for the unexpected. Take these steps now for you and your loved ones. For more information on the Be Red Cross Ready campaign visit www.redcross.org/BeRedCrossReady to take the free, online tutorial and find out more about what it takes to be prepared.
**This is part two of a three part series on Redcross.org**
The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.