Do You Have An Emergency Action Plan?

Over Labor Day weekend, this California girl was shaken awake by an earthquake. That wouldn’t be quite so surprising if it weren’t for the fact that I now live in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ll admit, in the same sleep-addled instant that I registered that we really were having an earthquake in Missouri, I also decided, in total Californian style, that this was not even a 3.5, so I stayed in bed.

Frankly, that was a really unwise move on my part. Structures in Missouri are not built to the high earthquake tolerances of regions, such as the pacific coast, where appreciable earthquakes are so much more commonplace. The smarter choice, given that I was on the second floor, would have been to get into doorway. But I’ll admit, I did not do the smart thing.

And that got me to thinking: How prepared am I for a real emergency?

Luckily, this recent earthquake was relatively minor out here in Kansas City. But it did make me realize that, while we have an emergency action plan here in the Lauren’s Hope offices, and I know the schools have regular drills, I was lacking a big piece: home preparedness. So, during this, National Preparedness Month, here are our Top Five Tips for Creating a Home Emergency Action Plan:

  1. 300x500Dorothy_Medical_ID_Cuffs.jpgPlan for communication: Just because one family member is home in an emergency doesn’t mean you all are. Decide how everyone will touch base in an emergency. For instance, it may be most efficient for everyone to contact one central person and to do so via text (or group text!). When disasters strike, phone lines can be overloaded, and it is easier to get a text through. Here are some handy emergency communication plan downloads from our friends at Ready.gov.
  2. Plan for utility outages: It’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit in your home. The Red Cross recommends having the following on hand. Check out their site for the extensive lists of home and evacuation preparedness items:
    1. One gallon of water per person per day (2-week supply recommended)
    2. Two-week supply of non-perishable foods that are easy to prepare without power
    3. Flashlights and extra batteries
    4. Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries
    5. A fully stocked first aid kit
    6. A Swiss Army Knife or similar multi-purpose tool
    7. Sanitary/hygiene items (toilet paper, etc.)
    8. A folder with contact lists and copies of key documents in the event you need to evacuate
    9. Cash, as credit card systems and ATMs may not be functioning
    10. Emergency blanket(s)
    11. Maps of your local area and any area to which you might evacuate
    12. Cell phones (with chargers and ideally a battery-charger backup)
    13. Medical and personal supplies such as daily and rescue medications; baby formula, food, and diapers; durable medical equipment such as extra glasses, diabetic supplies, hearing aids; gloves, masks, and a full first aid kit.
  3. Plan for evacuations: In the event of an evacuation, having a Family Emergency Plan is very helpful. It’s also a good idea to share that plan with friends and relatives so that, should disaster strike and cause communication outages, your network has an idea of where you may be. Ready.gov has some excellent tips for developing multiple evacuation plans depending on the scenario while the Red Cross has a great list of items to have in your evacuation kit.
  4. Plan for your family’s medical needs: In addition to stocking your emergency kit as mentioned above, it’s important when one or more family members lives with serious medical conditions, chronic illnesses, special needs, impairments, or other challenges that you put additional plans in place. For instance, someone like my son, who has severe autism, would not handle the chaos and noise of an evacuation shelter, and his non-celiac gluten sensitivity requires dietary restrictions. So our emergency planning needs to take into account the fact that we should evacuate early and head to friends’ or relatives’ homes with several days’ worth of non-perishable, gluten-free foods on hand. Consider what your family members’ needs are, and determine how you can best ensure their safety in the event of an emergency and/or evacuation.
  5. A473_Blue_WriteOn_Medical_ID_Wristband_Two-Sided.jpgPlan for your pets: During our recent earthquake, I’m not sure which woke me up first: the shaking of the quake or the shaking of my bed as my little dog, Nugget, went racing under it to hide. Pets sometimes hide or exhibit odd behavior during natural disasters. They’re more likely to run away and can easily get lost. Make sure you have plans in place as to what to do with your animals in case you need to evacuate, keep extra food on hand just as for your human family members, and always make sure your pets are microchipped and wearing their ID tags.

And speaking of IDs… emergency planning is a great reminder to check the engraving on your medical ID jewelry and make sure all of the information is up-to-date. We highly recommend keeping a few write-on silicone wristbands in your emergency evacuation kit, as you may need a backup ID, may be evacuating and want different contact information temporarily, and/or may want to have identification on those family members who may not normally wear medical ID jewelry.

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