So you’re stuck inside with nothing to do. You’re Netflixed out, you’ve Facetimed friends and family, and you’ve cleaned the whole house or apartment – TWICE. What do you do next?
How about starting or reviewing that emergency plan? Here are some easy things you can do now to be prepared for future emergencies. Try accomplishing one or two of these things every day. Before you know it, you have what it takes to have a complete plan.
List of phone numbers
Part of your emergency plan should include a list of important phone numbers on paper so that they can be copied and shared with family members. Now is an excellent time to check all the numbers and share the updated list. Make sure the list includes family members, relatives, friends, doctors, pharmacies, veterinarians, and other important people. Call the numbers to make sure they work and haven’t changed.
Emergency Phone Contacts
Part of your emergency plan should include two emergency phone contacts. Both should be out-of-town friends or relatives who are reliable. If you can’t contact family members, your emergency contact is your lifeline to let people know you’re OK, where you are and what you need.
An essential part of your emergency plan is to pick two places where you and your family members can reunite if you get separated. One place should be in your neighborhood, ideally, a place that’s open 24/7, like a convenience store, gas station, or police or fire station. The second should be in town and a well-known landmark, like a large grocery store, library, or public building. Share the locations with family members so they’ll know where to go if an emergency happens.
Copies of Prescription Medications
If you or a family member take medicines for an ongoing condition, write down the prescription number, the pharmacy name, and phone number and the medication name and dosage. As a backup, use your cell phone to take a picture of the prescription label. With this information, should your pharmacy close due to an emergency, you could still get your meds and stay healthy.
Now is the time to make sure you have all of your important medical records in one place and easily accessible. Copies of paper records are OK – better to scan them and save them to a USB drive. If your doctor or health care provider keeps them online, make sure you know how to set up your account with a secure login and password.
Make copies of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies, along with car insurance policies and life insurance and other insurance policies. Write down the phone numbers and contact information of your agents and insurance representatives. Put these copies in a safe place that you can access, like a safe deposit box.
Credit and Debit Cards
Go through your credit and debit cards. Make copies or write down the card numbers, expiration date and the security code number. Most cards also have a toll-free number that you can call anytime if the card is lost or stolen. Write down that number as well. Put the list in a safe place – NOT IN YOUR WALLET OR PURSE!
It’s a good time to make sure you know where the utility shutoffs are for your home or apartment. Your electric shutoff should be at a breaker box or fuse box in or on a wall. Know how to turn off individual circuits and power to the entire home or unit. The main power circuit should be controlled by a pull-out fuse or a master breaker in the electrical fuse or breaker box.
Water service to your home or apartment should have a master shutoff valve in the basement or utility room. Find it and make sure that it turns easily so that if you have a break or leak, you can minimize the water damage.
Some homes or apartments have stoves, furnaces or water heaters that burn natural or LP gas. Take a moment to find the shutoff gas valve for each appliance. Outside, find the gas meter and find the shutoff valve at the meter. You may need a special wrench to turn that valve. Remember that if you suspect that you have a gas leak in your home, get everyone out and then call 9-1-1. Once the gas is shut off to a home or apartment, ONLY a licensed plumber or gas company worker should turn it back on and check/re-start the appliances. LP gas tanks typically have a master valve at the top or side of the tank.
Make copies of your vehicle registration and insurance papers. Or just shoot a picture of the document with your cell phone. Make sure you know your license plate number. Shoot a picture of that, along with pictures of your car. In case your car is stolen, towed, or lost in a disaster, these will make a recovery or filing insurance claims easier.
It’s essential to have a current household inventory of your furniture, appliances, jewelry, clothing, and other significant items in your home or apartment. While you’re home, take pictures of each room or even a movie of each room. If you have computers, jewelry, or other expensive items, get them out, and take pictures of each item. Then write down a household inventory. Should you have a fire or other disaster, the inventory and pictures will help you replace items.
Emergency planning is important for life’s little disruptions to full-blown disasters. Here are some special categories for emergency planning: