The Most Important Thing: Your Family's Safety

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services--water, gas, electricity or telephones--were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they will not be able to reach everyone right away, so it is important for you to develop a plan for you and your family.

Families can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed below to create your family's disaster plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

 Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere--at work, at school or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe?

Four Steps to Safety

1. Be Aware: Contact your local emergency management office or chapter of the American Red Cross. Ask about disasters most likely to happen in your surrounding area. Learn about the existing warning systems in your area. Ask about animal care after a disaster. Don't forget to learn the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or daycare center.

2. Create a Plan: Meet with your family and discuss the need to prepare. Discuss the local hazards and discuss how you will react in a disaster. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.Pick two places to meet, including your home or some commonly known location (school, relative, park, church). Talk to an out-of-state friend to be your "long-distance contact." After a disaster, its often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone number. Discuss what to do in an evacuation, where you will go and how to get there.

3. Complete This Preparedness Checklist

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by your home phones and program them into your cell phone.
  • Teach children how and when to call 911 for emergency help.
  • Learn how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches in your home.
  • Review your insurance coverage.
  • Maintain supplies for your own self-sufficiency and assemble a portable disaster kit.

4. Practice and Maintain Your Plan

  • Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
  • Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
  • Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly and replace the batteries twice a year.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Plan together how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help arrives. If you're a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or neighborhood watch group, introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbors' special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons.

Use Caution After The Storm

The storm has passed, but the worst may not be over. These steps to ensure your family's safety after a disaster.

If Disaster Strikes

  • Remain calm and patient. Put your plan into action.
  • Check for injuries, give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
  • Listen to your battery powered radio for news and instructions.
  • Evacuate, if advised to do so. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.

Check for damage in your home...

  • Use flashlights--do not light matches or turn on electrical switches, if you suspect damage.
  • Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.

Remember to...

  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Call your long distance contact..
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.