Preparedness Month: Make A Plan

September is National Preparedness Month!

Each week this month we will be providing tips on how to keep you and your family safe in an emergency.


This Week: Create an Emergency Plan

During a disaster, emergency response teams are usually unable to quickly provide assistance to families due to the high demand for their services. To ensure that you and your family are safe during an emergency, you should have enough supplies prepared to sustain yourselves for at least three days. While the first step towards preparing your family for a disaster is keeping an emergency kit in your frequented places, it is imperative that you and your family decide on a disaster plan before an emergency event strikes.

Here are some things you and your family should consider when creating your emergency plan:

  1.  You and your family should decide on a location to meet following a disaster. You should choose two different meeting locations: one directly outside of your house (in case of a fire), and one outside of your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Depending on the types of disasters prevalent in your area, it may be wise to choose a spot located on high ground. Maps showing safe routes to high ground may be a good addition to your emergency kits! 
  2.  Choose an emergency contact outside of your immediate area that your family members can contact in case you get separated. Make sure this contact is far enough outside of your immediate area that they would not be impacted by emergencies affecting you. 
  3.  Make sure your family knows your address and phone number, including your children. 
  4.  Be aware of disaster plans at your workplace, your children’s school or childcare, and other places your family frequents. 
  5.  If you have children, make sure you know how to contact them at school or at childcare in the event of an emergency. Keep your child’s emergency release card up to date, and make sure that your child’s school or daycare is up to date on individuals authorized to pick your kids up in an emergency. 
  6.  Make sure you and your family know where the closest fire and police stations are. In addition, you and your family should be aware of what the community warning signals sound like and how to react to them. 
  7.  All family members, to the extent that they can, should learn first-aid and CPR. In every emergency kit, make sure you have first-aid supplies, a first-aid booklet, and extra medicine for each member of your family. 
  8.  When deciding on your disaster plan, make sure you take in to account your location—if you live in a more rural area, away from police or fire stations, or far from stores, it may be important to keep more emergency supplies in your kits than someone who lives in close proximity to these services. 
  9.  Make sure you know how to shut off your water, gas, and electricity and locate shut off mechanisms ahead of time. Your water heater is a great source of drinkable water in an emergency, but it is extremely susceptible to ground disturbances. Secure your water tank by attaching it to the wall using heavy-gauge metal strapping, wrapped 1 and ½ times around the tank. Commercial strapping kits are available at many local hardware stores. 
  10.  Make sure all of your family members know evacuation routes for your home. Keep these routes clear at all times. 
  11.  If some members of your family don’t speak English, make sure they have emergency cards prepared with their name, addresses, and medical information. These cards should be accessible at all times. 
  12.  Make sure your family is aware of and agrees upon, your disaster plan! If possible, practice emergency drills every six months.

Additional Resources

  • For more information about preparing your home for a disaster, click here.
  • For a complete list of preparedness topics, click here.
  • Read the previous posts in this series about creating a disaster kit and knowing important phone numbers.
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Annika Vaughn is a current Political Science undergraduate at the University of Washington. Despite being a second-generation Olympian, her interest in government work began at the age of 15 when she was a Legislative Page for the Washington State House of Representatives. After completing her undergrad, Annika plans on entering the workforce before returning to school for her master’s degree.
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