The members of your household might not be in the same place when an emergency occurs. These are some situations that have occurred and could happen again:
- School shootings
- Extreme weather, such as tornados, hurricanes and blizzards
- Workplace violence caused by non-employees or current or former employees
- Explosions, whether from bombings or gas leaks
When these kinds of events occur, people naturally want to know whether their loved ones are safe. However, communicating with other household members may be complicated by factors such as outages affecting power supplies, internet access, and cell phone service. Extreme weather may make transportation inadvisable. Local authorities may even prohibit unnecessary travel.
Without advance planning, the natural response may be anxiety at best and panic at worst. In the heat of the moment, individuals may take rash actions, placing themselves at risk. Better to think in advance about the answers to questions such as:
- How will everyone get emergency alerts and warnings?
- How will they communicate with each other if normal communication channels are down?
- How can individuals let the others know their condition?
- Where will they meet up and how will they get there?
A sound emergency communications plan for parents should include information such as:
- The names and contact information for individuals outside the area for family members to get in touch with
- Addresses of locations in the neighborhood or in the surrounding area for the family to gather
- Names, addresses and contact information for all family workplaces
- Names, addresses and contact information for all schools
- Names and important information for all family members, including dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and vital medical information
- Contacts for all family medical providers, including physicians, dentists, pharmacies, veterinarians and specialists
- The names and phone numbers of medical, auto and home or renters insurance companies and policy numbers
Family members should plan to report where they are, their condition, and whether they can travel. If the household includes pets, the report should include their location, condition, and who has custody of them.
To help families put plans together, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed templates. The one for parents contains self-explanatory fields for entering vital information. The one for children, in addition to having fewer fields for the most basic information, has spaces for drawing maps that show emergency gathering locations and all exits in the home for use during fire emergencies.
FEMA also has provided a wallet-sized template and one for commuters. Every member of the household should have copies of the plan for storage in wallets, purses, backpacks, and glove compartments
The family may never need to use the emergency communications plan. However, having one on hand can make dealing with an emergency easier for everyone by reducing stress and worry.