Planning is the most important part of being prepared. When we’re under the stress of an emergency, a trusted and tested plan gives us the confidence to take action immediately, saving lives and protecting property. When you hear the question, “what do we do now?” doesn’t it feel good to have the answer?
Before you start planning, you need to know what you’re planning to handle. Think about the most likely emergencies where you live or work. Consider the most common hazards we face in Lexington. Do you have household members with special needs? Look at an online map – are there nearby rail lines, highways, or industrial facilities? Do you know how local authorities will notify you of an emergency? Once you understand the full range of possible problems, you can determine how you’ll respond to each one of them.
Your household disaster plan is the cornerstone of your preparations. This master document contains the key information that you’ll need to travel, communicate, and take action in a wide range of emergencies. To help you get started, check out our disaster plan template, which itemizes the things you need to put in writing.
If your family isn’t all in the same place when an emergency happens, how will you reunite with them or let them know you’re okay? A communications plan addresses this through multiple methods of communication. Key points of a family communication plan are:
- Basic contact information – Make sure everyone in your family has everyone else’s home, work/school, and cellular phone numbers, as well as home and work/school addresses.
- Meeting places – Designate primary and back-up meeting places in case you can’t get home. Your primary location should be in your neighborhood, while the back-up should be outside it.
- ICE – Put In Case of Emergency contact information on each smartphone’s lock screen (there’s an app for that).
- Teach everyone how to text – The way cell networks work means text messages often can get through even when voice calls fail.
- Out-of-town contact – In a large-scale disaster, local communication can fail due to the volume of communication but long-distance phone connections may still work. Designate a far-away relative or friend to serve as a message drop so you can let concerned parties know your status. Save that person as a contact in every cell phone in your family. And make sure your out-of-town contact knows you’ve picked him or her for this duty, too!
There’s a saying in legal circles: if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. A paper trail also is critical during and after a disaster. Without critical documents, it may be difficult to file insurance claims, regain access to your home after an evacuation, or reunite with family members. Make copies of the following financial and family records and store them in a fire-resistant, waterproof container:
- Automobile titles
- Tax records
- Stock and bond certificates
- Medical powers of attorney and do not resuscitate (DNR) forms
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Insurance policies
- Household inventory (with records of key property’s serial numbers) for insurance claims
Consider renting a safe deposit box for the originals. Off-site backups are as important for paper records as they are for digital data.