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K-State Today

September 14, 2011

National Preparedness Month: Plan ahead before disaster strikes

By Steve Broccolo

If your family is not together when disaster strikes, an emergency plan can make all the difference, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready Campaign. Such a plan will help determine how each family member is contacted, where they will meet up and what to do in other circumstances. Other suggestions include:

  • Identify an out-of town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
  • Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cellphone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cellphone, program that person(s) as "ICE" - in case of emergency - in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
  • Teach family members how to use text messaging. Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
  • Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or emails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management website.

Should you stay or go? Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay where you are or evacuate. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is an immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for information or official instruction as it becomes available. Further information on staying put or sheltering in place can be read here.

Be aware of where to find emergency information. Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and manmade, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified. Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and television broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or emergency workers may go door-to-door.

You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, day care and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance. Read more here.