Creating a Disaster Preparedness Plan
A disaster preparedness plan will give your family confidence to correctly respond in an emergency situation. During a crisis, you may be separated from loved ones. Everyday conveniences such as land lines, Internet and cell phones may be unreliable. Creating a plan is imperative so your family will know where to go and how to contact each other in the event of a disaster.
The Department of Homeland Security recommends everyone in your family is able to receive emergency alerts and warnings from the local government. Families are encouraged to discuss disasters which might occur in their area and plan where to go and how to make contact. Once your plan is in place, and a designated meeting area is assigned, you are encouraged to practice your plan.
Government Emergency Alert Systems
Public safety officials will alert the public of national security, natural, environmental, and public safety situations through the WEA [Wireless Emergency Alerts (cell phones)], EAS [Emergency Alert System (TV)] and the NOAA Weather Radio [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Weather Radio].1 “Consider keeping a battery-operated, solar-powered or hand-crank radio or digital portable television for use during power outages.”
Creating a Plan
The Red Cross recommends you plan two meeting places: (1) outside your home – in case of a sudden emergency, and (2) outside your neighborhood – in case you are asked to evacuate. Potential meeting places could be Church Headquarters/Gathering Place, a local shelter, hotel, or family/friend’s house. The Red Cross website provides tips for creating plans for youth, people with disabilities, seniors, and pets.
Each family member should have a printed card with important contact numbers. In your cell phone, you can designate these people as ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts. The ICE designation allows someone to contact your loved ones in the event you are unable. Make sure your emergency contact is aware of any medical issues or other requirements you have.
Also, make sure your important personal and financial information is stored for easy access from any location. When storing this information, store a picture of your loved ones and pets, in case of separation so you will have means of identification.1
The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA both provide printable templates for creating communication plans.
The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Communications Commission websites give tips about how to stay connected during an emergency, including tips for using land lines, cell phones, Internet and social media. In the event of a disaster, people are encouraged to use social media or texting for non-emergency contact so life-saving emergency calls can get through to 9-1-1.1 If a storm is imminent, make sure your cell phone and tablets/computers are charged. Keep extra batteries and a car charger so your communication tools continue working.2
In the event of a disaster, you can let your friends and family know you are safe through the American Red Cross by using their Safe and Well website or by calling 1-800-733-2767. The website allows you to see the names of people who have registered their safety.
Practicing your Plan
The Red Cross recommends you practice evacuating your home twice a year. Plot additional routes to your destination and plan ahead for your pets. Frequently have conversations about your plan with family and friends. Post important contact numbers in an easily viewed area and practice memorizing them with your family. Review, practice, and update your plan whenever any important information changes.
The following resources will help you create your emergency plan and provide detailed information on how to prepare for a disaster.
FEMA: America’s PrepareAThon (PDF allows you to type in and print important contact information including a checklist for creating your family disaster plan)
Ready.gov published by the Department of Homeland Security: Communication plans for kids and adults
Ready.gov published by the Department of Homeland Security: Make an emergency plan
American Red Cross: Prepare for emergencies
American Red Cross: Safe and Well
Federal Communications Commission: Communicating during a natural disaster
The Disaster Center : Family disaster plans (old website, but provides some great planning tips)
The following books are available at Mid-Continent Public Library and contain large sections on disaster preparedness:
Disaster Preparedness by Rod Brouhard EMT-P, and Crystal Kline, MEP
Caught Prepared: 25 simple steps to protect your family in an emergency by Sam Spencer
Prepper’s Communication Handbook: lifesaving strategies for staying in contact during and after a disaster by Jim Cobb
The Practical Prepper: a common-sense guide to preparing for emergencies by Kylene and Jonathan Jones