Emergency 101 – Preparing For Hazards

Stay safe, stay alive – form an emergency plan!

by Benton Best – January 5 2018

As we all know, large scale emergency incidents and disasters can have a profound impact on even the strongest and most resilient communities. Because of the size and severity of some disasters, it is often difficult for federal relief to arrive on site within the first 72 hours.

Even then, it is still up to local and state entities to provide critical resources and emergency responders to resolve the situation. This is why individuals and families need to be prepared more than anyone else.

You should not depend solely on the federal government to assist you following a disaster. On top of that, local and state governments may be overwhelmed with the disaster themselves. So who is going to help you in the immediate aftermath of a disaster?

Today we’re going to talk about how YOU can be prepare YOURSELF for a disaster using four simple steps. They are as follows:

Step 1: Know the hazards which may impact you and your area
Step 2: Make an emergency plan to survive those hazards
Step 3: Test that plan, and
Step 4: Stay informed. Here’s how…

KNOW YOUR HAZARDS

There are many websites which can help you identify the hazards most common to your area, but the best resource could be your local emergency management agency. They are required to maintain a prioritized list of hazards which could impact your area.

In order to identify all of the hazards most likely to affect your area, you should start broad and then narrow the list. Think of any likely hazard, whether natural and human-caused, which could potentially impact your area.

This list should be reasonable, but all-inclusive. For example, if you don’t live near a coastline, you are most likely not susceptible to a tsunami, however everyone is at risk of a large-scale earthquake, regardless of which part of the United States you live in.

Consider day-to-day hazards that could affect your family like house fires, medical emergencies, and motor vehicle accidents, but also think of larger incidents such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires.

Please remember that, just because it hasn’t happened in your area yet, doesn’t mean it won’t. In fact, if a likely hazard hasn’t impacted your area in your lifetime so far, there is a good chance that it may happen in the near future. These are the hazards to be most prepared for, as you are less likely to be familiar with them.

Once you know your hazards, you should go through them one at a time with your family and discuss what you would need to do in order to survive them. Be honest and realistic about what you would do if this hazard occurred. Ideally, you should be able to develop one plan that will prepare your family for all of the different types of hazards at the same time.

MAKE A PLAN

Next, formalize those discussions into an actual written emergency plan. For example, ready.gov has many resources available to help you identify your hazards and then also provides you with planning templates so that you don’t have to start from scratch.

In a previous episode, we talked about the importance of having a fire evacuation plan which includes an assembly point outside the home where everyone can meet and take accountability to ensure everyone is there. You should include this procedure into your emergency plan for all hazards that might require a quick evacuation. But happens after you evacuate your home?

Contact your local emergency management agency to identify where the nearest emergency shelters are and include those in your plan. Also speak with family in friends who live outside of your immediate area in case the disaster caused widespread damage and you need to relocate elsewhere.

Map out at least one evacuation route in each direction so that you have multiple options during a disaster. If you live in Pennsylvania, many of these routes have already been established and are marked by physical road signs that show a color and the word “detour.” Know where these routes are and include a map of them with your emergency plan.

We recommend having a relocation plan as part of your plan which includes more than one option for where to go if your home is destroyed. Consider a Plan A in one direction and a Plan B in another. This will increase the chances that one of the sites will be available. Be sure to include the name and phone number of the relocation sites in your emergency plan so that other people can call them if you’re not available.

Your plan should include the names of every person and pet in your household as well as their phone number and social security number. Any functional needs or special considerations such as medications, supplemental oxygen, or other critical needs should be documented right into the emergency plan.

You should also make a list of all of the critical bills or payments that would need to be made regardless of whether or not a disaster has occurred. Be sure to include the amount of payment, its due date, and to whom it should be submitted.

If you own a home, include the phone number and account information for your homeowner’s insurance company in your emergency plan. Also include details on how to make mortgage payments. In order to receive disaster assistance funding you must continue to pay your mortgage after a disaster, even if your home has been completely destroyed.

Keep your emergency plan in a binder in a safe location in your home. We would recommend keeping it in the same location as your emergency kit (which we’ll cover in another episode). Also place the plan on an encrypted thumb drive and secure it somewhere safely in your car or at work so that your plan is always available even if you cannot access the physical paper copy.

As time goes on or as children get older, we tend to forget what plans we put into place. Contact information might change, our relocation sites might move. It is important to keep your family’s emergency plan up-to-date. The best way to do this is to test it annually.

The only sure way to ensure that your plan is tested is to pick a specific day of the year and stick to it…no. matter. what. If the safety of your family is the most important thing for you, then having and testing a family emergency plan must be a top priority.

First, pull out the plan and double check all names, addresses, and contact information. Then, review the shelter and relocation sites. Consider contacting your local emergency management agency and having them review the plan or provide additional information.

Next, check to be sure that the medication and functional needs information is up-to-date. Has anyone changed their dosage or is the dog eating a new brand of food? This is important to keep current.

Last of all, test the plan. Leave your home with your go-kit and emergency plan. Follow the evacuation routes to your relocation site and see if that would be reasonable throughout all of the different hazards you’ve already identified.

STAY INFORMED

Of course, for any emergency plan to work, it is imperative that individuals and families stay informed. Luckily, there are many ways to do this.

Do you know your local radio stations? Chances are, those are a reliable method for receiving critical information during an emergency. Make a list of the locally-based stations and include that in your emergency plan.

For weather information, we would recommend following the National Weather Service. Consider purchasing a weather alert radio which will sound an audible alert tone and provide weather updates during special advisories, watches, or warnings.

For traffic information, consider downloading a mobile application on your smartphone from the local or state department of transportation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a mobile application that is free to download which can provide you with emergency alerts, shelter locations, and other valuable information.

Finally, check with your local emergency management agency to determine whether or not they have a preparedness messaging program customized for your area. In Tioga County, Pennsylvania we utilize the Swift911 system as a tool for providing emergency information before, during, and after an incident. Every resident and visitor should sign up for this free program to receive alerts through their preferred method.

Staying informed will save lives. If you don’t know that a hazard is coming your way, you don’t know to take preventative measures which could mean the difference between life or death.

For more information on how to stay informed, or any of the other topics we’ve discussed today, please go to ready.gov.

It’s important to note that it is every individual’s duty and responsibility to be prepared for a large scale incident or disaster. Help will be on the way, but it may not come for several hours or days. Every family needs to have a plan, every individual needs to have a plan. And every plan should be tested.

Credits:
Idea/Concept: Benton Best
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Benton Best
Anchor: Benton Best

Produced by Vogt Media
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