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Family Emergency Communication and Survival Plan

May who were around on 9/11 or when Katrina flooded New Orleans know the vulnerability we face when trying to survive while attempting to reach out to family and friends in the middle of an emergency.

Not only most of us ended up being not prepared for such disaster but we many were left out of touch with their families. It is important to make sure that you not only have an emergency survival plan but also a family communications plan as well. You should have plans to make sure that you are able to contact one another.

Pre-Disaster Planning

Successfully surviving any type of disaster or an emergency only happens if you plan for it in advance.  First step is to document and organize your assets, identifications and survival needs.  Today’s technology makes it very easy to do the preceding.  As tempting as that maybe to use that as your only and primary means of organization, keep in mind that you may not have access to any online service for days or weeks.  The best option is to have a fire and water proof safe at home to store what may be important, such as:

  • Copies of your ID, birth certificate and passports.
  • Insurance policies.
  • Photos of family members.
  • Prescription medicine information.
  • Cash

Note: Cash is important to survive short-term disasters (although for a longer-term disaster it may not hold much value) as you will need it to buy food, pay for living, such as a hotel room.  You should keep enough cash to survive about a week.  About a $1000 should be sufficient for most scenarios.

In addition to the information you should also do a home inventory and make sure that:

  • You have a working wired landline.
  • All battery operated devices are in working order (such as smoke detectors and flashlights)
  • All hanging equipment is well-secured.
  • Have a fire extinguisher.
  • Know where all the master cut-off switches are for electric, gas and water lines.

First Plan of Action: Protect Yourself

That is right if you are not able and safe yourself there is not much you can do to help others.  If your home is an option (not in flood zone or not destroyed by fire or earthquake) and is safe then it is the best place where you should stay. If home is not an option then you should have an alternate place which everyone is familiar with.

Second: Have an Emergency Communication Plan

Recognizing that many of us may not be at the same place together when disaster strikes as some may be working while one or more of our kids will be at school it is critical that we are able to get in touch with one another after occurrence of a man-made or natural disasters.

Many state and local agencies have emergency alerts systems available if you simply register with them.  There are federal agencies such as Federal Emergency and Management Agency(FEMA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who issue regular alerts as well.

During an emergency we have found that the cell phone service is either out of service or so busy that it is not usable. Imagine thousands of people frantically calling when only a few hundred connections are available. I would highly recommend that you get a land line at your home.  Many times when cell towers are no longer able to carry a call, the good old fashioned phone line may still be working.  Of course this only works if you are at home.  Note:  Even though cell phones may not be able to dial out  but many times if you send text message those may be able to get to the person you intent to reach.

Many disasters are usually local, such as a flood or earthquake.  In most all cases it is always a better bet to call an out-of-state relative or friend who everyone in the family can call to notify that they are safe or communicate message regarding where to meet. If your pocket book allows there are voice mail boxes available so even if your phone line at home is out because of flood you can still leave a call your home number from another line and leave message for others to hear.

We would also suggest that you include your neighbors in your plan.  Identify safe neighbors so your children can go to in case parents are not able to get home.

In summary you should:

  • Plan to get together at your Home (only if it is safe).
  • Get a landline at home.
  • When cellphones are not working try text messaging.
  • Make your neighbors part of your plan.
  • Identify at least 2 common place accessible and known to your family members.  Make one of these primary and the other as the backup option.  The backup option should only be used if and only if the primary one is victim to the disaster.  This will be the best option if there are no viable form of communication available.

Third: Have an Disaster Preparedness and Survival Plan

Even the simplest emergencies cast significant toll on those involved.  To survive you will not only need to be mentally prepared but also have access to food and medical supplies. Your medical kit should last between 3-7 days with 3 being the minimum.

You should have create/buy at least the following two types of kits:

Fourth: Three Day Food Ration

Having enough easy to cook food to last for at least three days should be part of all plans.  Quantity of food will depend on the number of people and their ages.  Depending on the ages of the people you may need somewhere between 1800-2500 calories per person.

Fifth: Planning for your Pets

For most of us our pets hold the same place in our hearts as other household members.  When disaster strikes our pets will require rescuing just like other people and will have the save needs post-disaster thus keeping them in our planning process is very important.

You should assemble a pet emergency preparedness kit and keep it handy in sturdy containers that can easily be carried.  This kit should include:

  • Medications
  • Sturdy leash and/or carriers
  • Food

We hope you find the information provided above useful.  If you have other ideas or feedback please write it in the comments.

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