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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Family Disaster Plan - Meeting Place Planning

Most disasters probably won't strike while you and your loved ones are all gathered around at the old homestead. Instead, you may be at the office, the kids off at school (and probably different schools at that) and home is 12 miles away. How will you know that the kids are alright? Where can the family get back together? Part of any family disaster plan needs to be a plan for a meeting place after a disaster.

Good suggestions at the Pacific Disaster Center's Family Disaster Plan:
Meet with family members to discuss what to do in an emergency. Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated by disaster. Pick two meeting places: (1) a location a safe distance from your home in case of fire, and (2) a place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Choose an off-island or out-of-state friend or relative as a "check-in contact" for family members to call.

Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone and put a list of the numbers in your wallet or purse. Program the numbers into cell phones.
Well, "off-island" will apply in some limited circumstances, but the point is good - make sure your kids know to call Aunt Petunia in Peoria to let her know they are safe and where they are - and you call her to check in yourself. In addition, the Red Cross has the "Safe and Well" program:
After a disaster, letting your family and friends know that you are safe and well can bring your loved ones great peace of mind. This website is designed to help make that communication easier.

If your house is on fire, it is good to have a designated spot away from the house to gather and count noses - "We will meet across the street on the Smith's front walk" is a good plan. Practice it. Remind kids not to hide in their closets. Hold fire drills.

For those bigger disasters that happen when the family is spread out, choose some location unlikely to be impacted and reachable by foot if necessary. "We'll meet at the baseball field in Disruption Park. We'll be there everyday at 10am until we know where everyone is."

More good suggestions from this commercial site How to Create a Family Emergency Meeting Place:
Meeting Place #1: Inside Your House

Where would you like your family to meet if there is an emergency such as a tornado or a shelter-in-place situation? Basements are usually the obvious choice, but if you don’t have a basement, then you’ll need to select another room. You’ll want to choose a room that no or few windows and are on the main or ground floor for safety and ease of sealing off windows.

Meeting Place #2: Directly Outside Your House

In the event of fire or other disasters that require immediate evacuation, pick a meeting place right outside your house that near the house but not next to it. The mailbox, a tree in the front yard, the sidewalk or the end of the driveway can all be a good location. It is crucial to practice evacuating to this meeting place especially with small children so that you do not have to be worried about them being trapped in the backyard.

Meeting Place #3: In your Neighborhood

If you are away from home when an emergency occurs and are not able to get back to your house – perhaps trees are down and are blocking you from your street – choose a meeting place that is in your neighborhood. It could be a friend’s house, a church, a community center, a hotel/motel or even a store that is open 24 hours. You can contact your local emergency management office to learn which buildings in your neighborhood are designated storm shelter sites, valuable especially in situations of flooding. You’ll have a safe place to go, and your family, if you are separated, will know where to call to make sure you arrived safely. A place that is within walking distance from your home is ideal.

Meeting Place #4: Out-of-Town

Hurricanes, flooding and other area-specific emergencies require an evacuation plan that asks you to leave your home and neighborhood far behind. If phone lines are down and you are separated from your family during an evacuation, you will be able to rest easy knowing that your family is headed for the same out-of-town evacuation location. Choosing this location will require some careful consideration of geographical factors: if you are evacuating from a hurricane, you’ll want to move inland. If you are evacuating from a flood or tsunami, you’ll be looking for a location at higher altitudes.
Once you’ve designated your four meeting places, make sure each family member has a printed copy of the locations, the addresses and the phone and email addresses to those locations. Ask that they put a copy in their emergency backpacks, send a copy to their email and download a copy to their portable flash drives.
It is also a good idea to check with your neighbors to see what their plans are and asking that if things go real south if they would mind looking after your children if necessary.

Cell phones may or may not be working right after a disaster, so it is important not to plan to rely on them solely as your system for finding your kith and kin.

Planning ahead may help to ease some of the stress of post-disaster recovery. And to drive home the point, Family Communications has a link to Family Communication Plan for Parents and Kids pdfs that you can use to assemble your plan. :

Complete a contact card for each adult family member. Have them keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse or briefcase, etc. Additionally, complete contact cards for each child in your family. Put the cards in their backpacks or book bags.

Check with your children’s day care or school. Facilities designed for children should include identification planning as part of their emergency plans.
Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.

Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Let's leave this with a Robert Heinlein quote from Have Spacesuit - Will Travel:
There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.
Such statistics include the odds of being involved in a disaster of some sort. Be adequately prepared.

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