Thursday, May 16, 2013

‘Hey, where is everyone?’ Communicating with your family during disasters

Family making an emergency plan / FEMA
Have you ever planned an event with your friends or family? You decide where to meet and how to reach one another if someone is late or gets lost. You also pick someone to be in charge of transportation. Having plans in place ahead of time helps create a successful gathering.

Getting your family ready for an emergency is kind of like organizing a family activity. There are many similar things to think about: Do you have a plan if something goes wrong? Do you have supplies? Do you know where to meet or how to contact one another?

Chances are not all family members will be together when a disaster strikes, so it’s important to plan ahead. Talk to your family about what to do in advance of a disaster. This will help reduce fear and anxiety when things are tough.

Here are a few key tips for communicating with your family before and during disasters:
  1. Meet with your family about why you need to prepare for disasters.
  2. Talk about the types of disasters that are most likely to occur in your area.
  3. Pick three places to meet based on each situation.
  4. Develop a communications plan in case family members are separated from one another. Complete a contact card for each family member and place it in their wallet, purse, book bag or backpack.
  5. Communicate with text messages during a disaster, as cell phone service may be out. Text messages often go through when a phone call might not.
  6. Program your cell phone with your “ICE” contact, short for “in case of emergency.” Emergency workers will check for ICE contacts if something bad happens.  If you have put a lock on your phone, you might want to think about putting a sticker with your ICE contact on the back of your phone.

Everybody’s needs are different, but we can each take important steps to prepare our families for disasters. And communication is key.

For more information on preparing families for disasters, check out  American Red Cross’s Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be Informed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Develop a Family Disaster Plan and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Family Emergency Plan Template.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign also offers a fact sheet for parents in English and Spanish to help your family make a plan.

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