How to Develop a Family Escape Plan in Case of an Emergency
Natural disasters and home emergencies fill our social media feeds and dominate news headlines. It’s natural to feel anxiety about the safety of your home and your family, but dwelling in the anxiety isn’t helpful. Instead, focus on what you can do to help protect your family and home, including how to develop a family escape plan in case of an emergency.
Whether you’re forced from your home by fire, flood, earthquake or another emergency, having a plan in place will make survival and recovery more attainable.
Step 1: Create Your Plan
Before taking your plan to your children, sit down with any other adults in your household and draw up an emergency plan. Consider how you will escape your home from any room in a fire, who will be responsible for pets, who will help elderly family members or babies, what to do if only some of the family is at home, where to meet outside the home, who will turn off the gas after an earthquake, and more.
Make a list of contact information for people in your family, emergency phone numbers, school phone numbers, babysitter phone numbers, doctors and more. Put a copy of this list in everybody’s backpack, wallet, purse, or car.
Once you and all adults are on the same page, bring your plan to your children. Make processes clear by drawing your house and showing children what they will be expected to do.
Step 2: Practice Your Plan
Take your family into each room of the house and ask them to identify exit points. There should be at least two: a door and a window. Practice getting out of a window, and make sure small children have a stool or other item in their room to be tall enough to reach their window. Pay attention to obstacles as you go — do you have a way down from a second story? If not, purchase an escape ladder.
Once outside, practice going to your family’s meeting spot. This could be your mailbox or a neighbor’s house. This step is important, because in the event of a fire when every second is critical, you will want to quickly look to your meeting spot to determine if anyone is missing.
Step 3: Create an Emergency Kit
If you have to leave your home after an earthquake, or you have advanced warning of a wildfire, you’ll have time to grab an emergency kit. This will help you to survive for a few days until things can get sorted out. Include water, food, a flashlight with extra batteries, clothing, cash in small bills, a first aid kit, whistle, prescriptions, and more. Think of the items you need to get through each day. For basic to extensive items to include in your kit, visit FEMA’s website.
Include copies of important documents, like your license and passport, mortgage papers, bank information, insurance policies, and more in a water poof container.
Once your kit is assembled, show it to your family members and designate a person to grab it in an emergency.
Step 4: Update and Review
Your needs will change as time goes on. You want to make sure your children remember what they’re supposed to do and that your supplies will still work for your family. Make it a point to review your emergency plan regularly. Put a recurring reminder in your phone to have a monthly review and/or drill with your family. Check your supplies in your emergency kit once or twice a year, and update supplies as needed.
Hopefully you will never encounter a home disaster, but preparing adequately for one will put your mind at ease now — and will help you take swift action in the heat of the moment should you encounter an emergency.