Emergencies can happen at any time, often with no warning. Some emergencies can force a family to evacuate their home. Others may force whole neighborhoods to be evacuated, while still others may require families to stay in their homes for days. Emergencies don’t always happen when families are at home. They may occur while you are at work and children are at school. If you were forced to evacuate your home or basic services such as water, gas, electricity or telephones were cut off, would you and your family know what to do?
Families are best able to cope with emergencies by preparing emergency plans in advance. Everyone needs a plan for work, school and home, because knowing what to do is your best protection. It is an important responsibility.
Create an Emergency Plan
Discuss what types of emergencies are most likely to happen in your area. Discuss what to do in each case.
Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
Learn about your community’s warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
Pick two places to meet:
- Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire.
- Outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be your family “emergency contact”.
Everyone must know their emergency contact’s addresses and phone numbers. After a major disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Family members should call their emergency contact and tell them where they are. NOTE: if cell towers are down you can still “text”.
Ask about animal care during and after a disaster. Pets are not allowed inside emergencies shelters or in some hotels. Contact your local humane society for additional information. Plan how to take care of your pets.
Discuss any special needs family members may have. For example, the elderly and persons with disabilities may need additional assistance evacuating or may have special needs once at a shelter.
Find out about the emergency plans at your workplace, your children’s schools or daycare centers and other places where your family spends time. Make sure all family members are aware of the different plans.
Post emergency telephone numbers (fire, police ambulance, family contact, etc,) near all telephones.
Teach children how and when to call 911 for emergency help. We’ve all heard how even three-year-olds have saved family members by dialing for help.
Show all responsible family members how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.Note: Electricity must be shut off with the circuit breakers first and the main switch last, because the biggest power surge is at the main. If you turn it off main switch first, you will get the entire surge directed to you and severe burns or worse will happen.
Keep the necessary tools near the gas and water shut-off valves. Only shut the gas shut off if you smell or hear the gas. If the leak is underground, you may see dirt being sprayed into the air. If you turn the gas off, you’ll need a professional to turn it back on.
Teach family members how to use a fire extinguisher, and show them where it’s kept. NOTE: Stand back from the flames and direct the stream at the base of the fire. At the same time, yell for someone to call 911. Move forward cautiously and keep spraying until the fire is out. If you run out of the retardant, back away and call 911 if no one else is home. Then, leave the house.
Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
Conduct a home hazard hunt.
Assemble an emergency supply kit
Take an American Red Cross First Aid and CPR class.
Practice and Maintain your Plan
Practice your fire and emergency evacuation plans at least twice a year. Replace the water in your emergency supply kit every six months. If you have 30 or 55 gallon water drums treated with water preserver, then replace the water every five years. Otherwise, the water will deteriorate and be unsafe. Replace the food in your emergency supply kits according to the expiration dates.
Post a reminder
Check electrical outlets. Do not overload outlets.
Install smoke alarms. Clean and test smoke alarms one a month. Change the batteries at least once a year.
Keep a whistle in each bedroom to awaken household members in case of fire.
Purchase a fire extinguisher labeled “ABC”.
Have a collapsible ladder on each upper floor of your house.
Consider installing home sprinklers.
Most home builders will have these installed if you ask when buying a newly built home that is not yet completed. Some counties now require these to be installed on all new construction.
Plan two escape routes out of each room.
Teach family members to stay low to the ground when escaping from a fire.
Teach family members never to open doors that are hot. In a fire, feel the bottom of the door with the back of your hand. If it is hot, do not open the door. Use your second way out of the room.
In a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate your house, apartment or mobile home on a moment’s notice. You should be ready to get out fast.
Develop an escape plan by drawing a floor plan of your residence. Indicating the location of emergency supplies (Emergency Supplies kit), fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, collapsible ladders, first aid kits and utility shut off points.
Next, use a color pen to draw a broken line charting at least two escape routes from each room Mark a place outside your home where family members should meet.
Practice emergency evacuation drills at least two times each year.
Important Family Documents.
Keep these records in a waterproof, portable container.
Wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, plus stocks and bonds.
Passports, social security cards, immunization records.
Bank account numbers.
Credit card account numbers and companies.
Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers and photos of items that are valuable.
Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates).
In a disaster, ordinary items in the home can cause injury and damage. Anything that can move, fall, break or cause a fire is a potential hazard.
Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections.
Fasten shelves securely to wall studs.
Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves.
Brace overhead light fixtures.
Secure water heater. Strap to wall studs.
Repair cracks in ceilings or foundations.
Store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products away from heat sources.
Place oily polishing rags or waste in covered metal cans.
Clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors and gas vents.
Don’t hang heavy pictures or mirrors above beds.
When Disaster Strikes
Remain calm and be patient.
Put your Emergency Plan into action.
Check for injuries. Give first aid and call 911 only for life-threatening emergencies.
Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
NOTE: If you have a local CERT group, ask the Fire department where to get the training. This includes first aid training, and helps your community in disaster emergencies.
Listen to the radio or television for news and instruction. Having a portable radio on hand is best if you lose power.
Evacuate, if advised to do so. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
Check Your Home for Damage
Use flashlights in case of gas leak. Do not light matches or candles.
Do not turn on electrical switches until you rule out damage to your gas lines.
Shut off any other damaged utilities.
Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell, hear or see gas, or suspect a gas leak, turn off the main gas valve, open the windows, and get everyone outside quickly. NOTE: Only your gas company should turn the gas back on as they will test for leaks along the pipes from the street through the house.
Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately.
Confine or secure your pets.
Call your family contact. Do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
Check on your neighbors, especially those living alone or those who are elderly or disabled.
Stay away from downed power lines.