Have you thought about what you and the other members of your household would do in the event of a fire or other emergency? Unfortunately, most people do not consider a plan for emergency situations until they are in them. But with the unusually high number of natural and weather-related disasters that occurred this summer, an emergency plan for the home or workplace is on a lot of people’s minds, making this the perfect time to initiate one.
Consider Potential Dangers
Start by making a list of the emergency situations that are most likely to occur in your home, neighborhood, or geographical area. Is your region prone to flooding, high winds, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, or earthquakes? Are you in danger of being trapped inside your home during a blizzard or other severe storm? You household may need an emergency plan for both leaving and staying inside the home, depending on the different potential situations on your list.
Create a Communication Plans
If there’s an emergency in your home or a natural disaster in your area, you and/or your other household members may not be inside your home at the time. Come up with a plan for contacting other household members during different types of emergencies in order to make sure that everyone is accounted for.
Keep all of the numbers you may need to call on a list by your home phone, as well as stored on home and work computers and other mobile devices. Remember to store the numbers of schools, workplaces, and other places where your household members regularly spend time. Plan to communicate through email or social media as a backup in the event of a widespread emergency.
Choose an out-of-town contact person that you can all contact separately, in the event that you are separated and unable to contact each other.
Decide on a Common Meeting Place
If you have to leave your home quickly-or if there’s a disasters and you can’t get back into your home-you will need a common meeting place. Remember that your family members may leave the home at a moment’s notice without cell phones or a way to communicate.
Choose two meeting places. One should be within walking and sight distance of your home, in a safe place away from the home in the event of a fire. A second meeting place could be a friend’s home or local public place in case there’s a disaster or emergency that prevents you from returning home while family members are out and about during the day.
Learn How to Make the House Safe
All members of your household who are old enough should be taught how to turn off main lines to water, gas and electricity. If a specific tool is required, that tool should be kept in the location where it’s needed.
Everyone possible should also learn how to use a fire extinguisher and to test and replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test and replace batteries regulary as a family. Talk to everyone about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and the signs to look for which will affect pets before humans.
Have at least one person in your home get certified in first aid and CPR. Learn where the safe spots are in your home for each type of disaster that could occur there. Teach everyone how to dial 9-1-1 and when to choose to get out of the house first.
Create and Practice Your Evacuation Plan
Your evacuation plan should include an immediate emergency evacuation for situations like household fires in both the middle of the night and daytime. It should also include a separate evacuation plan for emergencies in which you are asked to evacuate your home on short notice. You may also choose to have a pre-evacuation plan, which asks households to be on call for evacuation at any time during an unfolding disaster or emergency.
Practice, practice, practice! An emergency plan is only half complete until you begin to practice it. Practice regularly, often, and at different times of the day. Hold a real, unexpected fire drill in the middle of the night. Practice a daytime fire evacuation starting from different parts of the home. Meet up in your outdoor location. Add necessary tools and practice until you get the routine down perfectly. Hold both planned and surprise evacuations at different times of the day and week.
Make sure you practice your plan on a regular basis as a refresher, as well as reviewing other learned skills you may not have a chance to practice otherwise, such as fire extinguisher use. Practice your plan more frequently during the times of year it’s most likely to be implemented.
Consider a Plan for Your Pets
Pets are part of the family and we don’t want to leave them behind in an emergency. You daytime and nighttime emergency drills should include an attempt to wrangle pets in a short period of time. Try timing your drills to see how quickly you can get ALL household member out of the home.
Remember that pets may sleep or spend time in habitual places where they’re easy to locate during a drill, but they may move toward exits or elsewhere in the home during a real emergency like a fire. Keep crates and kennels in a location where they are easily accessible in an emergency.
If you have pets that live in cages, such as birds or reptiles, consider moving their habitat closer to the home’s exit permanently or during the most dangerous times of year, as these types of pets can be more difficult to remove from the home during a fire or other in-home emergency.
Store Important Items Inside a Waterproof and Fireproof Safe
When you have to get out of the house fast, you won’t have time to grab very many, if any, important paper records, electronically-stored data, or valuables. Storing records and valuables in a water and fireproof safe means you don’t need to get them out of the house, and if you’re preparing an evacuation, you’ll save tons of time by having all these items stored in one place.