September is National Preparedness Month and this year’s theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” If there is anything that working in an ER has taught us, it’s that emergencies can happen at anytime. From fires, to tornados, to hurricanes, to winter storms, Mother Nature can be harsh. While we can’t plan for everything, we can take action to help prepare ourselves for an emergency situation. The plans you make today could save a life down the road. You can start to protect yourself and your loved ones by making an emergency preparedness plan. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Unfortunately, we may not always be with loved ones when disaster strikes. Start your emergency preparedness plan by sitting down with family and friends to make a communication plan.
Choose an emergency contact-
Select a friend or family member to serve as your emergency contact. This person may live out of town so that they are easier to reach in an emergency situation like a natural disaster. Have everyone memorize that contact’s phone number. During an emergency, family and friends can call or text the emergency contact so that person can keep a running tally of who is safe.
Make a contact card for everyone in the family-
Family members should fill out a contact card with their name, address, emergency contact person, and important medical information. These cards can be kept in a wallet, purse, or backpack.
Know emergency telephone numbers-
Cell phones are such a big part of our everyday lives that it can be easy to take them for granted. During emergency situations cell phone networks may be overloaded with calls, or you may have lost power and can’t charge your phone. Write down emergency telephone numbers and keep them with you or put them on the back of your contact card. Important numbers to save include family members, the fire department, police station, and hospital.
Make a Disaster Plan:
It’s never easy to talk about, but sitting down to create a family disaster plan could save your life, or the life of someone you love. Start by researching what types of emergencies you could be likely to face in your area. If you live in the Panhandle it may be wildfires or tornados that you have to worry about. If you live on the coast it could be hurricanes or flooding. Once you’ve identified what risks you may face follow these tips to make a disaster plan:
Find the safe spots in your home-
If you live in an area prone to earthquakes look for areas where you can “drop, cover, and hold on” like under a very sturdy desk or table. During a tornado you need to find shelter in a lower level room without windows. It’s also important to locate a tornado shelter near your neighborhood. If you are out running errands and hear the siren go off, you need to know where the nearest shelter in your community is located.
Determine the best escape routes-
Make an escape plan for your home. Sit down with the family and go over all of the ways to escape each room in your home. You should have at least two escape routes for each area of your home. Also consider making a community escape plan. Come up with at least two driving routes out of your neighborhood, ranch, or farm.
Practice Makes Perfect!
Don’t stop with just creating a plan, you actually have to practice it in order to make sure it sticks with you in times of stress. Run drills with the entire family! Practice helps you commit your plans to memory.
Teach kids what to do-
Help your kids prepare for emergency situations by teaching them how and when to call 911 for help. Include them in your planning strategy and emergency drills.
Don’t forget your pets-
Come up with an emergency plan for your four-legged friends as well. Think about what you would do with your pets during an emergency, can a friend or family member look after them? Is there a shelter or boarding area near-by? Create a list of pet friendly motels and animals shelters in your area.
Make an Emergency Kit:
Make sure you have an emergency kit on hand and packed ahead of time. You may think you’ll have time to run to the store but emergencies happen quickly and without warning. In some cases stores may even run out of supplies and you’ll be forced to scramble in order to find the things you need. Prepare your kit well in advance and make sure you replace supplies as needed. Things like medication can have an expiration date and will need to be replaced periodically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you have these items on hand:
At least a 3-day supply of food and clean water
- Water- one gallon per person, per day
- Food- non-perishable items that are easy to make and won’t spoil. Think canned foods, powdered milk, and granola or energy bars.
- Manual can opener
- Basic utensils to prepare and eat meals
- Minimum of a 3-day supply of all medications
- Medical supplies like syringes, cane, hearing aid and extra batteries
Personal Care Items
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Baby wipes
- Contact lenses, saline solution, glasses
- Complete first aid kit
- Emergency blanket
- Multi-purpose tool like a pocketknife with pliers, screwdriver, etc.
- Radio- battery powered with extra batteries, solar, or hand-crank
- Cell phone with charger
- Extra batteries
- Copies of all your important paperwork like insurance cards and immunization records.
- Emergency contact list
- Map of the area
- Extra set of car/house keys
- Extra cash
Make sure that you store all these items in easy to pack, easy to carry containers. Depending on where you live, you may want to keep important paperwork and documents in watertight bags. Clearly label all of the contents and store your kit in an easy to reach area. You may want to create more than one kit and keep one in your home and one in your car. While this is a great guideline, keep in mind that every family is unique. Tailor your emergency kit to your family’s particular needs.
Be sure to learn where to turn off the water, gas, and electricity to your home. New homeowners and renters don’t always know where to find the main shut-off values.
Be sure to show all members of the family where to find fire extinguishers and how to use them.
Have a family member take a first aid and CPR training course. You’ll learn everything from bandaging wounds to the Heimlich maneuver. These skills are valuable in a wide variety of situations.
When the unexpected happens the staff at ER on Soncy are prepared to help. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take care of you and your family no matter what life throws your way.