By definition, emergencies happen when we don't expect them, and often when families are not together. Suddenly, you need to think about your kids at school or elderly parents across town. If phones don't work, or some neighbourhoods aren't accessible, what will you do?
To get started, let's look at one of three scenarios.
Scenario 1: You and your family are separated
In an emergency, you'll need a simple way to contact and meet one another if going home isn't possible. Decide, in advance, on a safe place to meet like a community centre or school.
The phone can help too. Long distance calls may work better than local ones, so select a couple of out-of-town contacts who can help your family communicate and find each other. Let them know about your plan and how they can help.
Of course, children are a big concern. If they're in school or day care, they will need to be picked-up. Know the school and daycare's emergency policies and if you can't pick up the kids, designate someone who can.
And talk to your kids about your Family Emergency Plan. Teach them basic personal information so they can identify themselves if they become separated from you and who to call like, your local emergency number, to get help.
Scenario 2: You are together at home
In this case, listen to the radio for information from local authorities and follow their instructions. They may advise to turn utilities off or on so it's important to know the location of your home's water valve, electrical panel, gas valve and floor drain. Make sure everyone also knows the location of your family emergency kit and fire extinguisher.
Scenario 3: You have to evacuate
Everyone should know your home's safe exits and best places to go. And remember your pets, who may not be allowed in shelters or hotels. Identify kennels or friends' homes where they can go in an emergency.
Elderly family members or those with disabilities or special needs should also be a part of your plan. List the medications and supplies they may need in the event of evacuation and any information care-givers will require. If they live alone, ask a friend or neighbour to check in on them or help them evacuate.
In addition to your plan, documents will help you stay organized. Make copies of birth certificates, passports, wills, and insurance info.
These documents, along with photos of your family members, should be kept at work, or other safe locations.
Having a plan is also part of being a responsible community member
Local authorities will react swiftly, but they can't reach everyone at once. Being prepared allows these responders to help those in urgent need first.
Do your part! Learn about the emergencies that can happen where you live and plan for situations that are more likely to occur.
Take 20 minutes today and create your family emergency plan.