Emergency Communication Plan
Having a way to communicate with your family in times of an emergency is vital. Making an emergency communication plan PRIOR to a disaster is the only way to ensure everyone knows how to keep in touch should anything happen. In times of crisis, having a plan in place will keep everyone more calm and more safe. Being prepared is key to reuniting your family.
If you don't have a an emergency communications plan, how are your family members going to know where to find you if you are at work and a disaster strikes your building? The time when you are most likely to be away from other members of your family is during the day. Children are at school and adults are at work. How do you find your family members if they are at home and something happens to the neighborhood and it has to be evacuated or there is a power outage?
Having a plan in place allows everyone to know where to meet. Furthermore, if they are unable to reach the planned location, they will know who to contact.
Where to Meet
Think about how your family is going to get back together in a disaster situation if you are all in different locations. You need to pick a location where you can all meet that is easy to remember.
1) Choose a place in your neighborhood to meet when the disaster is at your home. Pick a place that is familiar to everyone in the family, like the front porch of the neighbors across the street.
2) Choose a place outside of your neighborhood to meet such as a school playground or local park in case it is not possible to get to your home or neighborhood.
3) If you are prevented from getting to either location because of the emergency, have a designated person who can pick up your children at school or daycare, attend to any pets, and/or care for any elderly members of the family (at home or in facilities). This needs to be something that is done automatically if you do not show up. It sounds awful, but it has to be considered.
How to Stay in Touch
When an emergency situation arises, communication can be a real challenge. Phone lines can be swamped and cell phone towers can be down. Only make the most essential calls during a disaster crisis. So that your family has a way to ensure everyone is safe when you are not all at the same location, choose two people as emergency contacts. Select someone local for your family members to call and also choose someone out of the area to contact. Long distance calls may still go through when local phone service isn’t working. If you are using your cellphone, the preferred method during a disaster is texting. It takes up less bandwidth.
Everyone in your family should know who your emergency contact is and have their home and cell telephone numbers memorized. If you have family members who are very young or elderly or have memory issues, they can have the information written on a 3 by 5 card and kept with their personal items.
- Be aware that an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate with separated family members simply because they aren't in the midst of the disaster situation.
- Be sure every member of your family knows the phone numbers. Even young children can memorize phone numbers.
- You may have trouble getting through, or the telephone system may be down altogether, but be patient.
In the event that communication systems prevent you from reaching your family, the Red Cross does offer an alternative. As soon as they get a shelter site set up, they can help you register on The American Red Cross Safe and Well website. It is a central location for people in disaster areas in the United States to register their current status. That way, anyone in your family can check on you and see how you are doing. It really relieves stress for people who need updates on how their families are doing when reaching them by phone is impossible.
Here is the link: Red Cross - Register Safe Listing
Implement the Plan
Having an emergency communication plan is great, but it won't do you any good if you don't put it all in place. Take the time to practice your plan with your family. That means actually going to the places you have designated as meeting places. Your family members, especially children, need to see those places. Place the important phone numbers by the telephones in your house. Put the ICE information in your cell phone. Talk to your neighbors. You have to implement the plan if it is going to work.
Neighborhood Emergency Communication Plan
Here is another thing to consider: Check with your employer, your child's daycare center or school and even your church about their emergency communication plans. Not all organizations are as prepared as you would expect them to be. Take the lead if you have to and offer to create a plan for your office or your child's daycare center. Most schools have plans in place and if you ask to see them, you should be able to get access. Talk to your child about the plans your school has and make sure he/she knows what to do if a disaster strikes. With regard to your neighborhood, many times you can meet with the people closest to you and talk to them about specific scenarios and figure out what you could do as a group to get through the situation as a team.