With the impacts of climate change, disasters are becoming stronger and more prevalent. Individuals and families can prepare and become more resilient by creating their own disaster plan.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 2021 National Household Survey, only 44% of respondents felt prepared for a disaster. Knowing beforehand how to react or what to do before, during, and after helps reduce the severe effects that emergencies, storms or other disasters could have on your home and family.
What Steps to Take When Making a Plan?
Step 1: Do Your Research
The first step in creating a plan is understanding what hazards may impact your local area. Every community is different. Some areas may be prone to various disasters ranging from tornadoes and earthquakes to hurricanes and wildfires, for example and anywhere it rains there is a potential for flooding.
Once you understand your risk, you can tackle your planning.
Step 2: Creating Your Plan and What to Include
Schedule a time to sit down with your family or household members to begin developing an emergency plan that accommodates everyone, including pets. Think about emergency scenarios in your plan like – “How to escape your home if there is a fire? Should you evacuate or could your home withstand the impacts of a hurricane?” – can make a huge difference in preparedness. Evacuation orders can come with little notice, knowing your evacuation routes, what you need to pack, and where are your shelter options beforehand will save time when having to make quick lifesaving decisions. Also, review your insurance policies to confirm what is covered and adjust as you see fit.
Step 3: Consider Specific Needs in Your Household.
Every family is different and will require a different game plan to specifically address their households needs. Identify specific accommodations that must be made in advance and determine who is responsible to assist others if necessary. Some factors to consider in your family planning include, although are not limited to:
- Different ages of those in your household and if they are in school
- Dietary needs and restrictions
- Prescription medicine and medical equipment
- Disabilities or access and functional needs (e.g., service animals, wheelchair access, hearing aids)
- Languages spoken
Step 4: Agree on How to Communicate in an Emergency or Disaster.
After disaster strikes it is important to be able to reach your family and confirm your and/or their safety and location. Gather and share contact information ahead of time and include a wallet sized card or a plan form with everyone’s information in case your phone is damaged or lost.
Text is suggested rather than calling after a disaster due to anticipated connectivity issues in an impacted area – texting requires less bandwidth than a phone call. Whether a text or call is chosen, designate a family or friend in another city that everyone can check in with if family members are separated.
Also, think about how your family will reconnect if they are in separate locations when disaster strikes. Is there a pre-designated meeting point? Ensure that all household members know where the meeting location is and how best to get there from school, work, or home.
A key element of communication during a disaster is subscribing to texts, emails and other notifications from local officials and the weather service. Many locations provide regular and emergency updates to help you better plan ahead of impending weather or following an emergency. Make sure all members of your household have this information and clearly understand your emergency communication plan.
Step 5: Practice and Revise the Plan
Practice makes better.
Plan Ahead for Disasters | Ready.gov provides extensive guidance, preparedness materials, and interactive exercises for readiness and planning. Materials include a family communications plan fillable card, easy access to FEMA’s mobile app, and additional budget friendly preparedness tips. Planning has never been so easy!
Disaster planning should be a year-round activity requiring revisions and fine tuning as needed. A good family disaster plan builds safety, enhances mental and physical resiliency, and strengthens the whole community.
Get prepared before disaster strikes and make your emergency plan today!