National Preparedness Month: The Key Aspects of a Plan for Your Household
September is National Preparedness Month, a great time to take a fresh look at your household’s emergency plan.
Too often, we put off things like planning for an emergency — after all, if we don’t find ourselves in the middle of an emergency, it’s easy to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach.
However, National Preparedness Month serves as a good reminder that we never know when a natural disaster or other emergency situation can strike, and it’s essential for us to be as prepared as possible.
Whether you update your household’s plan regularly or you’re looking to create a plan for the first time, here are some things you should take into consideration.
Get Familiar with Your Emergency Alerts
Modern technology has played a huge role in assisting with emergency preparedness.
For example, modern weather forecasting and modeling technology allows meteorologists to identify when a storm will strike and which areas will be hardest hit. This, in turn, allows us to get a head start on evacuations or preparations for events like hurricanes or blizzards.
Emergency alerts are another aspect of modern technology that play a key role in emergency preparedness.
There are many different kinds of emergency alerts, but the two most common are:
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA): These alerts can be activated by local, state or federal officials. The alerts are pushed out to your mobile device, often accompanied by a message and a notification vibration or sound. For most cell phones, these alerts are enabled by default. In our area, you’ve likely received one for a severe thunderstorm watch or an Amber Alert.
- Emergency Alert System (EAS): We’ve all had television or radio programs interrupted with a “regularly scheduled test” of the EAS. These alerts are distributed through cable and broadcast channels, and are often accompanied by the distinct “buzzes followed by a beep” sound.
It’s important to take these alerts seriously!
While it’s easy to tune out an EAS test on the TV or swipe away a notification on your cell phone, these alert systems will provide you with crucial information in an actual emergency.
Next time you get an alert about a thunderstorm or have a show interrupted by an EAS test, take a few seconds to read through the alert to be better prepared for a true emergency.
Create a Household Communication Plan
We often take for granted how easy today’s technology makes it for us to stay in touch with one another. After all, we have a near limitless amount of information in our pockets at any given moment.
During an emergency, however, that technology may not be as reliable as it is during a normal day. Storms can knock out power, cell phone batteries can run out, and phone lines can become overloaded due to overuse.
For these reasons, it’s important to have an “old school” fallback plan for staying in contact with your loved ones.
Create handwritten or printed contact cards with key contact information for both the members of your household and for emergency contacts outside of your household.
Relevant information includes:
- Names and phone numbers for each member of the household
- Names and phone numbers for emergency contacts
- Email addresses
These cards can be stored in a wallet or purse, and can even be stuck in a cell phone case to ensure that they’re on hand in case of an emergency.
By having them on hand, you’ll always have access to the contact information you need, even if your cell phone battery runs out.
Analyze the Members of Your Household
While the basics of a good emergency preparedness plan will apply to households of all kinds, it’s also important to consider your household’s unique needs.
For example, a household with young children will need to take different measures than an empty-nester couple.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to survey your household to identify any particular areas of concern.
Things worth considering include:
- Medication concerns — do you have an adequate supply on hand?
- Dietary needs — are special foods required?
- Mobility issues — does anyone need help in the event of an evacuation?
Identifying these issues in advance will allow you to address them as part of your emergency preparedness plan, helping to eliminate any surprises.
- Check on Your Insurance While insurance is usually one of those “set it and forget it” type things for many people, it’s a good idea to regularly check in with your agent. You may be eligible for discounts or lower rates. It’s also a good idea to have physical copies of your insurance policy, medical insurance cards, and other important financial documents on hand in case you need them.
- Know Your Shelter Options Take some time to take stock of the emergency resources in your community, including evacuation shelters. In the age of COVID-19, many large shelters may be closed or operating at reduced capacity, making it important to know all of your options.
Brian Pomodoro is an EMT and Disaster Educator at South Shore Health.