Bug Out / Evacuation, Generator, Security, Pets, etc. As this is not an exhaustive discussion you may and perhaps should have additional topics in your emergency response plans. If you are forced to evacuate your home or "Bug Out" as we often call it, you need to be able to do this in just a few minutes. Make a check list of critical items and place them in areas that you can quickly access. Perhaps you have a backup generator. Use pictures and step-by-step instructions to make sure anyone in your family can get it started. In conclusion, the best plans are simple, brief, and easy to understand. Avoid long or highly detailed plans. Review them often with your family so everyone is competent. REMEMBER! These plans are for articulating your response BEFORE a disaster. While they act as a reference after a disaster, this should not be your first review.
Utilities Don't just automatically turn off all utilities in any disaster. Carefully inspect your dwelling for signs of leaking water, electrical arcing and overload, or a smell of gas. If you see a problem, shut off the utility(s). Always error on the safe side so if you are unsure, shut off the utility(s). Additionally, practice this at least every six months to make sure systems are working properly, and everyone is skilled in shutting off utilities. In the adjacent plan, I took simple pictures of how to do this at my own home. This is probably my best response plan as it is so simple and easy to understand. See what you can do in your own plans to make them simple and easy to understand and remember.
Likely disasters for your area. Let me take a moment here and discuss a few philosophies concerning preparedness. It is not likely that you will consider every possible malady that will effect you. Those infamous "Black Swan" events seem to come out of no where and test even the best prepared governments and individuals. Perhaps volcanic ash, soil liguifaction, pandemics, toxic dispersal, who can guess! My suggestion is to go to the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) web site @ myhazards.calema.ca.gov. Enter your location and it will give you information on the disaster zones you may live near. Plan specifically for those events and perhaps a few others that your research has deemed likely. While you cannot plan for every eventuality, you can plan for how they impact your family and neighborhood. Power outages, loss of housing, supply chain interruption of food, water, heating and cooling, medical needs, etc. These can all be addressed regardless of what disaster has caused them.
What if Family members are separated when a disaster strikes? This is a very likely scenario and your response is called your Family Regroup Plan. Dads at work, Moms at the doctor, Kids are at school(s). All need to have a plan to get to you primary regroup area, most likely your home. Your home could be inhabitable or inaccessible, so have a second and perhaps third regroup location. Your secondary and tertiary regroup areas should be safe locations like friends and family in neighboring cities. Dad your car kit should include maps with alternate routes should you have to walk home from work. Mom, do you know the school's plan to temporarily house your children? Lots to think about, but keep it simple as possible. It should be noted that all Family members carry a abbreviated and laminated card in their wallet, purse, etc. In the event of a disaster, everyone has the same plan and directions!
Who may I need to contact ? Certainly family, close friends, church, and out of state contacts. Also utilities, municipal contacts, and health and safety. You may also have these stored in your phone, but be sure and have a hard copy as well. Large, easy-to-read text is best. This is the first page(s) in my personal plans.
So what should my plan include? There are many ready made plan templates out there. Most are variations of the FEMA / ready.gov plans. In an effort to expand your thought process a little, consider the following. Like your preparedness gear, your plans are also an extension of knowledge, skill set, and abilities. Thus, while ready made templates are good, they may be incomplete considering your capabilities or even limitations. As you may have already read on this website that "Preparedness does not come in a box" this includes your family and neighborhood plans. Let's take a moment and go through some concepts you can use in making your plan.
Hanging File in Entry Closet with Laminated Emergency Response Plans
It all starts here! An emergency response plan is the key to a successful disaster mitigation. Consider for a moment the benefits of having a simple, concise plan that everybody understands. First, It alleviates fear and uncertainty and replaces it with peace and hope. Panic is caused by lack of direction and hopelessness. Next, a plan provides for clear thinking. In often overwhelming disasters, a plan is consistent and straight forward. The plan is an anchor in the storm. Additionally, a plan focuses the response. Truly, it puts everyone on the same page and avoids power struggles over leadership. Finally, a plan considers everyone's council and ideas before a disaster happens. When everyone is a part of the plan, the response will naturally come together. The following pictures and text are only examples. Your family plans should and will be different as they reflect your individual situation and even philosophies.
Shelter in Place. Unfortunately, most have never heard of sheltering in place. It means staying inside your dwelling to avoid either a security risk such as a criminal loose in your area, or a airborne substance that can be harmful to you and your family. The command to shelter in place will most likely be announced by health and safety personnel through media sources. You can also make that decision if you become aware of a developing situation. If you see police searching in your neighborhood, stay inside and lock the doors / windows / etc. If you see unusual signs such as birds falling from the sky, smell strong chemical odors, or see people becoming rapidly ill, don't wait initiate the response procedure below.This example is for an airborne agent.
Emergency Response Plans Displayed in a Handy Vinyl Flip Chart
Vinyl Flip charts available from:
First move all family members, SIP kit, and pets into the designated room in your dwelling. Close all doors and windows and turn off any ventilation systems. The room should have a minimum number of outside windows and be on a second story if possible. Use plastic sheets and gaffers tape to seal all windows, doors, electrical outlets, and vents. Cutting and labeling the plastic sheets in advance saves precious time. Anywhere outside air may seep in to the room, cover it! You could be sheltering in place for many hours so consider the size of the room and available air. Your SIP kit should include food, water, games, portable radio, and sanitation supplies. Wait for the "All Clear" announcement over media sources before going outside.