Do I need a family disaster plan?
Disasters can strike without notice and we all have busy lives so having a disaster plan is vital when it comes to improving your chances of saving yourself and your family if something should go wrong. Governments and businesses have disaster plans so why don’t families. Most likely people don’t have time or don’t worry about such things until it’s too late.
You should have a family disaster plan in case-
- A disaster hits and you have to evacuate the area
- Your family is located all over town when the disaster hits
- The communications systems are down so you can’t communicate with your family
- The emergency services are not immediately available and you are on your own.
- You need a plan B in case plan A doesn’t work
- Your family members out of the area can’t get in contact with you and worry.
- And to ensure your family is prepared for a disaster if it should happen. Having a plan will reduce their stress levels.
What is a disaster?
“A sudden accident or a natural catastrophe that causes great damage or loss of life” quoted from Oxford Languages.
There are other added elements in some descriptions including economic collapse and disruption to daily life. Disruptions such as loss of communications systems and electrical grid for extended periods.
Disasters are large or widespread events that overwhelm the local authorities’ resources. Your home burning down is a personal disaster that you should plan for but it’s not a disaster in the community sense. Disasters can be natural or man-made events and one disaster can set off a chain reaction creating other disasters.
For example, a severe thunderstorm is accompanied with-
- Lighting which can take down the power grid or set buildings alight,
- Strong winds which can blow over trees, damaging power lines, roads and buildings,
- Heavy rain can cause flooding, landslides, bridge damage and road damage
- Tornadoes cause a lot of damage along its path.
- Disease possibilities from contaminated water or sewerage overflow.
The aftermath of the disaster can see buildings, roads, businesses damaged which affects the day to running of the community. And caught up in all the chaos are the general public, your family who could be injured or worse.
What is a disaster plan?
Take a moment to consider. Your town has just been hit with a big earthquake damaging buildings.
You try to contact your partner but the phone system is down. What are you going to do?
Your kids! Where are your kids? Do you know?
At their friend’s house, great, what was the address of their friend’s house? Can’t remember.
In your panic, you decide to go get your partner from work they will know as they dropped the kids off.
A short distance down the road there is a tree blocking both lanes and traffic is banking up behind you, you are now stuck in traffic. What will you do now?
What will your family do with you caught up in traffic?
With a written plan and communicating it with your family the plan can be put into action even if you are not there to control it. Carry out your research before the event, such as contact details for kids’ friends, school, sports team and so on. This will make it less stressful to ensure they are safe in the event of a disaster.
How do I make a family disaster plan?
Research your local area
To make a plan you need to know what could happen in your local area. What is the history of disasters in your area? Is the area in a tropical cyclone zone, wildfire zone, severe thunderstorms, blizzards, local flooding, storm surge, tsunami zone, earthquakes for example?
Talk to your local council, emergency services, local websites, or the local public to get local knowledge.
Most of the town may be free from flooding but some streets or suburbs can flood regularly. If you are new to the area, you may have rented or bought a home in the wrong location and will need to have a plan if anything should happen.
Have a hardcopy of the local street directory. Look for alternate routes, safe areas to meet up, hospitals, public toilets and more. Keep the hard copy in your emergency kit in case the digital network is down.
Research your family
Is your contact information for your family (near and far) up to date? Do you know the address and contact details for your partners work? Do you know where your kids’ friends, sports clubs etc contact details and what day/time they are there?
I know trying to get information out of teenagers is difficult as they think you are spying on them. But explain the situation and hopefully, they will give you the information. Waterboarding your kids has never been a good way of getting information.
Just come up with a plan on what the family will do if separated and communicate it to the teenagers. They won’t realise how important the information is until they need it.
Don’t forget your elderly or disabled family members who don’t live with you. They may be in a nearby flat or a nursing home under special care. What are you going to do if the area is hit by a disaster?
Do you need to evacuate them to your home? If they need palliative care, you are better off leaving them at the nursing home or moving them to a hospital where they can get emergency care.
Discuss the nursing homes disaster plans. Does the home have a plan? What do they require of you during and after a disaster? Is the home in a disaster zone and if so where do they evacuate their clients to?
Put the plan into writing
Having the plan in writing will help communicate the plan with other family members. These family members can be your direct family in your home but don’t forget to share it with a primary contact family member outside the area.
Having an outside family member knowing what is happening will help them find you and they will be able to pass on the information to emergency services if something goes wrong.
Think about alternate plans. Having more than one answer for example multiple routes when it comes to evacuation gives you the information on hand if plan A fails. Don’t go overboard and have everything up to plan Z as this can create confusion. Just be flexible.
When should I review the plan?
You should review your plan
- When the information has changed such as new school, phone number or new home
- Before the designated disaster season
- At least once a year
- When there is a new person in the home (family, baby, border)
- Before you carry out a practice drill.
- And after the practice drill to see what worked and what didn’t.
What to do with the hard copy of the plan?
Once you have completed your plan you should
- Print off a hard copy and place it in the emergency kit for ease of access
- Communicate the plan to direct family
- Send an electronic copy to an outside family member
Where do I start?
Carry out the steps listed above, have discussions with family and neighbours. Write down the plan. Having any sort of plan is better than having no plan at all.
If you need some assistance in creating a family disaster plan you can purchase my ‘Disaster Planning Workbook Family Guide’. This workbook is 32 pages of printable practical activities, tips, checklists and information to help you create your family disaster plan.
You can purchase and download your Disaster Planning Workbook here.