Personal and Household Emergency Planning
Personal and household emergency planning truly is the foundation of all other emergency planning. We all organize and conduct our lives around a very basic set of priorities, and for most of us, those priorities are centered on the welfare of our families and household. Your emergency planning efforts should be prioritized in exactly the same manner.
Disasters strike quickly, and often without warning. Recent winter storms trapped thousands for days without access to additional food and water, and in some cases without heat and power. Hurricanes, floods or tornadoes are other events that could easily isolate your household and cut off utilities. While police, fire and emergency medical services will respond quickly, in larger events it is very likely they will be overwhelmed and unable to assist everyone who needs help.
Being prepared to take care of yourself and your household is your best protection, and your responsibility. A quality household emergency plan will answer questions such as:
- How can I make my household safer?
- How will our family find each other after a disaster?
- What emergency supplies should we keep at home?
- What do we do with our pets?
- Where can I get more information?
Finding each other
Do you remember the wrenching images of notes posted all over New York City seeking to find lost loved ones after 9/11? While we often imagine that everyone will be home when a crisis occurs, actually, that is rarely the case. Without a plan, simply finding each other can be hugely difficult. On the other hand, a simple plan known and practiced by all members of the household can avoid that agony entirely.
Your plan should include a cache of supplies to meet your basic needs should you be cut off and isolated for a period of time. Such a list includes suggestions for water, food and sanitary supplies. Similarly, it is recommended that you assemble an evacuation kit should you need to leave quickly. This kit typically includes a flashlight, radio, extra batteries for both, money, family records and other important household documents, medications, glasses, warm clothing, blankets and a set of basic tools.
A comprehensive household plan will also consider the challenges presented by infants, the elderly, special needs individuals and pets. The plan should also anticipate what actions are recommended at the various homeland security threat levels.
For business too
Household emergency planning is an important topic to be promoted and supported in the workplace as well. In addition to the obvious wisdom of demonstrating your concern for the well-being of your staff, it is a good business practice. Studies have shown, and common sense tells us, that in a real crisis, our employees will not be coming to work unless they feel secure about the welfare of the children, partners and parents they leave behind.
No matter how much time you’ve put into it, no emergency plan is ever perfect. And a plan is only paper until you’ve run through the motions to reveal its weaknesses and deficiencies. Talk about the various aspects of the plan regularly; for instance, pick a topic to discuss once a month at dinner. Quiz the kids to see if they remember where you will all meet should you need to evacuate the home. Who is your local and distant family emergency contact? Check and update all of your emergency phone numbers at least once a year. Finally, and most importantly, practice—conduct family emergency drills at a variety of times in both the day and night.
A variety of resources contain quality information to assist your household emergency planning efforts. Some include personal planning documents and checklists that can be downloaded free of charge. Use them at home and share them with other family members, and rest easier with the comfort that comes from being prepared.
Begin here. Ready America is a national public campaign that offers great information for your household, business, even children. Many well-designed aids are available to be downloaded in both English and Spanish.
Do 1 Thing offers a unique approach to preparedness via a 12-month program that focuses on a different area of emergency preparedness each month, and provides a range of preparedness options for each topic.
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Joe DeFors is a cofounder and principal
officer of Comprehensive Emergency
Management Associates, LLC. CEMA is a
full-service emergency planning firm based
in mid-Michigan specializing in planning,
training and exercising.