Preparing for an Emergency
The Next Step- Making Your House Emergency-Ready
Hopefully by now you’ve gotten things started from our previous Jump-Start post and you’ve seen that it’s not so scary, it’s rather easy, and your family is interested.
Now that you’re on the road to getting you and your family members emergency-ready, we’re going to focus on getting the house emergency-ready too. Shelter is one of the major needs of humans and like many other people who are preparing for an emergency, we think that a Bug-Out Bag is a necessity, but it shouldn’t be the default plan. As others have noted, leaving your house during an emergency officially makes you a refugee.
An inexpensive and easy thing to do is make your house more easily navigated during an emergency. During the family meetings in which Plans A,B, and C are being reviewed and updated and members are being quizzed as to their recollections of emergency procedures or just discussing ideas, take some time to teach each member how to shut off the water, electricity and gas in the case of a natural disaster. Make large, easy-to-see signs and label water and gas shut-offs. During an emergency panic may be setting in and the less thinking and remembering that one has to do the faster things will get done. Check the breaker panel as well, figure out which breakers go to which parts of the house and clearly label those as well.
Put stickers on or by each phone that lists emergency numbers such as certain city services and maybe a designated out-of-town family contact that should be called under certain circumstances – if the family is separated during an emergency and the area is evacuated and members get scattered, having a point of contact in another town can help get everyone grouped back together. Allow young children to speak to the contact periodically so they will feel comfortable calling them when the time comes. Talk with the other family members about who should be called for which types of emergencies. Make sure the children know how to call 911. If a family member has an illness or disorder teach the children how to recognize the signs of a problem. Children as young as 2 ½ to 3 have been known to summon help for family members.
Explain to children that during a natural disaster, water lines may become cracked and therefore the water could be contaminated. Therefore, in an emergency, your stored water should be what you’re drinking. (See here for info about water storage).
Your emergency may be more personal than a natural disaster or economic collapse. It may be something as common as a house fire. Prepare for fire. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and nearby wildfires, and even storms can also contribute to a fire, putting not just your shelter in danger, but your supplies and family. During the routine family meetings when you discuss emergency phone numbers and Plans A, B, and C, talk about how to escape out of the house if there is a fire. Let the children experience how to feel their door to see if it’s hot, crawling across the room if there’s smoke, how to open and escape out their bedroom window, and where to meet once they get outside.
Part of preparing for fire will cost some money, but it’s money well spent. We have more information about fire alarms and fire extinguishers (here). Please take some time to look this over. According to the National Fire Prevention Association “The death rate … was twice as high in homes without a working smoke alarm as it was in home fires with this protection (fire/smoke alarms).” Also, please note that many fire stations around the United States have programs in which they disperse fire/smoke alarms to lower-income families at a reduced rate or for free. Please call and see if yours does. Don’t be too shy or too proud, remember, it’s in their best interest too that you have an alarm so should they have to come out to put out your fire they’re less likely to have to risk their lives going in looking for you or your children.
Call your local Red Cross. Find out about classes for CPR and First Aid. If you can’t afford their fees, ask if they have any kinds of programs for lower-income families. Invest in a First Aid Kit and familiarize yourself with the contents and how to use them. See some ideas of what should be in your kit .