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Friday, April 30, 2010

Shelf Reliance - Emergency Planning


Looking for a summer project? Consider spending a few hours or days getting your emergency plan up to snuff. Emergency plans are one of those things that need constant maintenance, whether that means refreshing the food in your 72-hour kit, changing out clothes your kids have outgrown, or practicing how to get out of the house safely in case of a fire.

Take a look at the following steps, then decide what you can do to prepare most effectively. As you start next week's shopping, keep an eye out for deals on supplies that will keep you safe and comfortable when the circumstances are less-than-ideal.

Preparing for an Emergency

Step 1: What are you at risk for in your area?
- Contact your local emergency management office of local American Red Cross Chapter to gather the information you will need to create a plan.
- Ask what types of disasters are likely to affect your area.
- Find out if your community has warning signals. If so, learn what they are and what you should do when you hear them.
- Check with your schools, workplaces, and other places you frequent about their disaster plans.
- Educate yourself about community evacuation plans.

Step 2: Make a Plan
- Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.
- Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.
- Pick two places to meet:
1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
- Ask an out-of-state friend to be your "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone number.
- Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.

Step 3: Complete This Checklist
- Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
- Show each family member how and when to turn off the utilities (water, gas, and electricity) at the main switches.
- Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
- Train each family member on how to use the fire extinguisher and show them where it is kept.
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
- Conduct a home hazard hunt. Check to make sure heavy objects on walls are safely secured.
- Stock emergency supplies and assemble an Emergency Kit.
- Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
- Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
- Find the safe places in your home for each type of disaster.
- Establish a “family password” with your children. This password will help your children know who can and can't be trusted in an emergency; if you ask a friend or family member to pick your child up from an event, they'll be able to share that password and indicate to your children that they are safe.
- Complete a Family Communication Plan. You can find a great form online at www.ready.gov.
- Put all vital records and documents in a fire and water proof safe box. This would include birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, wills, deed, and financial, insurance, and immunization records. They may be also kept in a safe deposit box at your local bank. A fire and water proof safe can be purchased at most large retailers.

Step 4: Practice and Maintain Your Plan
- Quiz your kids every six months or so.
- Conduct fire and emergency evacuations.
- Replace stored water every year and keep your stored food rotating by cooking with it often.
- Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
- Review first aid and CPR training.

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