Whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural environment, and whether your household consists of adults, children, companion animals, or a combination thereof, every home should have an emergency plan. 🏠
Customize the plan to your unique situation and needs. Here are some things to consider when making yours:
1. Know what types of natural disasters are typical for your area
Depending on where you live, you’re at greater risk for particular natural disasters. Among the list of possibilities are tornadoes, hurricanes (called cyclones or typhoons in different parts of the world), floods, mudslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires.
In the United States the top five highest-risk states are Texas, California, Oklahoma, New York, and Florida. Regionally, the Southeast and East Coast are more prone to hurricanes, while Western states and the West Coast in particular are vulnerable to droughts and fires.
2. Prepare for both sheltering and evacuation
Sometimes staying in your home is the safer option, while other times it’s best to evacuate. Because circumstances may require you to do either one in the future, it’s important to be prepared for both.
Listen to your local emergency management department and leave when instructed to do so. In a best case scenario you’ll have some advance notice which will give you time for last minute preparations. Sometimes, however, immediate evacuation will be necessary. If you’re driving, make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas, and follow the recommended evacuation route as back roads or alternate routes may be impassable or dangerous.
However, if you’re no longer able to safely leave your residence, tailor your preparation to the emergency at hand. In the case of a hurricane, for example, you might fortify your home as best you can before finding a room or space without windows within which to shelter. Meanwhile, in the case of flooding, go to the highest floor possible, avoiding attics where you could become trapped.
3. Have a communications plan
Knowing how to get in touch with members of your household is critical in an emergency. Keep a list of everyone’s cell phone numbers and email addresses in your wallet or backpack, and ensure they do the same. Write the information on a piece of paper so it’s available even if your phone’s power runs out and you’re unable to recharge it right away.
Agree on what part of your home you’ll all go to if you have to seek shelter. Also decide on a place your household’s members will meet if you’re separated outside your home. Choose an easily accessible nearby location in your neighborhood, as well as one further away for situations where getting back home isn’t possible.
Review and practice your communication plan so it becomes second nature, and update it as needed when circumstances change.
4. Create an evacuation checklist
In a high-intensity situation, the last thing you want to be doing is trying to figure things out from scratch. Having an evacuation checklist on hand will help reduce your stress level.
Your checklist should contain information about the location of your emergency kit (containing, among other things, first aid supplies, water and food for a few days, and cash), the location of important documents you’ll take with you (birth certificates and passports, for example), a list of any medications you might need, as well as any home preparations to complete (such as turning off gas and electricity, or securing outdoor items that could become airborne).