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Disaster Planning Can Save Your Life

Besides having appropriate stores of water, food, and equipment to survive a disaster, what’s just as critical yet more often overlooked? The family disaster plan, of course. I don’t mean the “yeah, we talked about it once a few years ago” disaster plan. I mean the actual, written down, well-thought-out, explained-to-the-family, and practiced disaster plan.

Amazingly, most people never get around to making such a plan. Or, if they do, it’s inadequate at best and often not up-to-date when needed. Remember, after a disaster is always too late to make your family disaster plan!

Create Your Disaster Plan With Ease

Fortunately, such plans can be created with a bit of effort, forethought, and a few hours. There are many examples you can find online, including my unique disaster plan template I have created for myself and now share with you. Once complete, review your plan periodically (at least yearly or perhaps each time you change your smoke alarm batteries).

Disaster/emergency plans can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. You should consider other family members willingness to use it as well as the complexity and effort you’re willing to give. Additionally, certain specifics of your disaster plan should be tailored to other members ability to understand. For instance, a five year old child isn’t going to comprehend every aspect of your plan. Maybe you just try to explain that it would be necessary to go stay at so-and-so’s house for a while if something “bad” happens. You’ll need to decide.

Disaster Plan Contents

What should your family’s disaster plan look like? Again, that’s up to you, however, any good family disaster plan could include:

  • identify disaster risks in the area (earthquake, flood, hurricane, etc) and what you would do in each case such as shelter in place or evacuate (if evacuating where to, when, for how long?).
  • a meeting place near home–for neighborhood scenarios–as well as a place further away from home–for community-wide scenarios (in-state and out-of-state contacts listed below can double as meeting places).
  • in-state/nearby contacts (people who live less than an hour away but probably not down the street)–family or friends–including names, phone #’s, street address, e-mail address, relationship, etc.
  • out-of-state contacts (people who live 2-3 hours away but not much further as it may be difficult to travel)–family or friends–including names, phone #’s, street address, e-mail address, relationship, etc.
  • information for each family member including name, social security #, date of birth, medical information (allergies, medications taken, medical conditions, special needs), etc.
  • prescription drug information including prescription name, dosage, place filled, etc.
  • professional services such as doctors, pediatrician, and pharmacist – names, numbers, locations, family member treated, etc.
  • home/rental and medical insurance policy #, provider name, contact name (if available) and phone #.
  • information regarding each person’s work and school including name of employer/school, address, phone #, supervisor/teacher name and number, evacuation location (specific to that site).
  • pet information – vet name and phone #, immunization records, etc.

More Than for Natural Disaster Preparedness

A truly comprehensive “disaster plan” can include more than just what to do after a natural disaster. In fact, it should include other information and even possible scenarios (such as what to do in the event of a fire) and can include:

  • posting emergency contact information in a central location (such as your refrigerator) including your home address and phone number, the emergency contact number (9-1-1), poison control number (800-222-1222), local hospital phone number and address, etc.
  • developing (and practicing) a fire escape plan – a critical aspect for any family with young children!
  • educating capable members of the household how and when to turn off utilities (water, electric, gas) and when they can turn them back on.
  • showing family members the location of important emergency equipment and supplies such as fire extinguishers, first-aid kit, special needs supplies (e.g., asthma inhaler, insulin), bug-out bags, 72 hour kit.

Obviously, this list can include and exclude anything you like. The purpose is really two-fold:

  1. to get you thinking about what to do in these situations, and
  2. to give you a plan of action in the event you need it.

Why So Much Planning?

You may ask “why should I do something as simple as posting my emergency contact information on the fridge?” Well, for instance, although your home address may be permanently etched into your brain and you swear will never forget it, emergencies have a tendency to help you forget even the simplest of details. Being able to read out your address to a 9-1-1 operator the one time you may need it could save someones life.

Likewise, ensuring that every capable family member can turn off all utilities correctly and safely without you being around increases your peace of mind and further prepares your household to function together rather than relying solely on you. It’s the simple things that tend to make a difference.

Your Disaster Plan is ALL Wrong – My Revelation!

–October, 2010 –

I was recently updating my family’s disaster plan when it dawned on me that what I had in front of me wasn’t a plan at all. Rather, it was mostly a list of information about my family, our life, and various contact information. While certainly important, let’s call this former disaster plan what it was: information and contacts I would need if I were to ever evacuate on foot. Plain and simple.

In truth, the only planning part of what I had in front of me was a small section that detailed basic evacuation procedures… where we would meet if we had to evacuate our home or couldn’t return home. I felt that, as a plan, this was woefully inadequate. Unfortunately, this is about the only family disaster plan you’ll find if you search the Net. In other words, every family disaster plan out there is poor at best, including yours!

So, I set out to create a REAL family disaster plan. Something that you can use to determine:

  • the top 5 disasters that concern you the most and how you’ll prepare for them
  • what to do with special needs situations such as for diabetics or what to do with children and pets
  • evacuation procedures including when and where to evacuate, what supplies you’ll need, and so on
  • an overview of your home security and safety and what you can do about it

When it comes to a disaster plan, you want a plan… not just information. Premium subscribers can create and download a comprehensive family disaster plan, a fire escape plan, an emergency contacts one-pager, a household inventory worksheet, as well as a variety of other planning tools to truly get you and your family ready.

Remember, don’t expect to necessarily take this plan with you if you were to evacuate. That’s not the point. Its purpose, however, is to get you to think now while you’re calm and rational. Get your spouse involved if at all possible. Two heads are better than one and your spouse will be more likely to accept the plan if he or she were involved from the beginning. Remember, take your time, do it right, and plan, plan, plan!

Now is the time to act… Get a plan template. Complete it. Share it. Post it

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