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Disaster Preparedness
Family Disaster Plan

  hurricane photo

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. Families can and do cope with disasters by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility. Therefore, we urge you to develop a Family Disaster Plan.

To be properly prepared, you need to be able to answer certain questions, such as: Where will your family be when disaster strikes? How will you find each other?  Will you know if your children are safe?

Suggested steps to create and implement a family disaster plan:

  1. Contact the local chapter of the American Red Cross, county emergency management or the National Weather Service and ask what types of disasters could occur in your area and how you should respond. Are there Community Warning Signal and Evacuation Plans for your community?

  2. Pick two places to meet: right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire; and outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.

  3. Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.). Teach your children how and when to call 911. (Everyone, including small children, should know their home address and phone number).

  4. Ask an out-of-state friend or family member to be the “family contact” for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Make sure each family member knows the “family contact” phone number. After a disaster, it is often easier to call long distance rather than calling someone locally.

  5. If you are a pet owner, that plan should include your pets. Being prepared can save their lives. In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead.  Don’t wait until disaster strikes to do your research. Many communities have developed pet-friendly shelters, and more are in the process of doing so. Check with your local emergency management office to see if such facilities exist in your area. In any case, plan ahead for your pets’ needs to include food, medication, bedding and comfort items.

    1. Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of pet-friendly places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have advance notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations. Use internet sites such as www.petswelcome.com to search online for pet friendly hotels and motels.

    2. Ask friends, relatives or others outside your area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared in case you need to house them separately.

    3. Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.

    4. Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.

  6. Show each family member how to:

    1. Turn off water, gas and electricity at the main switches;

    2. Use a fire extinguisher;

    3. Conduct a home hazard hunt in which you inspect your home for items that can move, fall, break or cause a fire, and correct them;

    4. Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit. (See suggested Supply Kit Checklist);

    5. Determine the best escape routes from your room and find safe spots in your home for different types of disasters.

  7. Learn or take refresher training for CPR and first aid through training courses offered by the American Red Cross and other entities in your community.

Practice and maintain your plan:

Ask questions frequently to make sure your family remembers the designated meeting places, phone numbers and safety rules in your Family Disaster Plan.

Conduct drills.

  • Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.

  • Test and recharge your fire extinguisher according to manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Check Smoke alarms and batteries monthly (batteries should be changed at least once a year).


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