Most of the time we don't think about emergencies. What do you do in case of fire, flood, and plague of locusts? Most of the time we are concerned about the babysitter showing up or whether there's enough in the bank to cover all the bills we have looming this month. The prospect of dealing with disaster is usually not a part of our everyday concerns.
As a result, American homeowners agree that preparedness is important but most have not created a family plan to deal with many of the hazards that are part and parcel of living on this planet. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, it's obvious that waiting passively for help to arrive could put you or your family's health and well being at risk. The following suggestions may help you establish a working plan for those events that "might" happen.
Depending on the event, you may hunker down at home or be asked by authorities to evacuate. Some disasters may be known in advance; Katrina was tracked for days before evacuation orders were given. Other disasters, like earthquakes, occur without warning. If you haven't given it more than a passing thought, now is the time to ponder your plan.
Regardless of whether you are rendezvousing with family at home or 500 miles away, you need a plan. Start by collecting information:
Once you have answers to these questions, conduct a serious family discussion about "what if" scenarios, alternatives, plans, and agreed meeting places and responsibilities. The plan needs to be revisited once a year as circumstances change. "Every man for himself" is a perfectly acceptable plan if everyone in your family is aware of it, otherwise it's essential to set expectations and propose what should occur under various circumstances. Keep it simple so everyone understands what to do. Even young children are capable of understanding that when bad things happen, you're there to impose what order you can on the chaos. The American Red Cross is an excellent source of information and provides a variety of different checklists to help get organized.
Regardless of the additional needs your family may have, the bare essentials include:
Beyond these items, you can evaluate the following for inclusion:
Gather this collection together in a place known to everyone in the family. If you need to leave in a hurry, you should be able to pick up your "go" box and head out the door. Each family is going to have a slightly different list depending on their needs.
This page is intended only as the most basic level of preparation for an emergency. People who are prepared may be able to assist others in critical ways. It takes time for relief organizations to arrive on the scene, so it's up to each one of us to do what we can to take control of the situation. We know from watching the aftermath of Katrina that individuals were able to make a difference when time was of the essence in ways government and large organizations could not.
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