Communicating When Disaster Strikes#
"What do I do if a crisis happens and my family is apart?" "How will I be able to reach them?" After a disaster strikes, lines of communication are extremely important. Letting family members know that you are safe, and learning that family members are safe is a priority for all.
Following a disaster event there is a chance that communications networks such as cellular networks will not be functioning and electric power systems will be disrupted. Before a disaster strikes, consider assembling an Emergency Communications Plan for all the members of your family. By planning in advance, families will know how to communicate and where they should meet up in the event of an emergency.
A well thought out Family Communication Plan consists of a few different aspects. A comprehensive plan will contain information with Contact Info, A Designated Out-of-Town Contact, and A Designated Emergency Meeting Place For Your Family.
Create a list of important contacts and other critical information. Consider adding the following information to your plan:
- Cellphone Numbers
- Work/Desk Phone Numbers
- School and Child Care Phone Numbers
- Doctors and Primary Care Provider Phone Numbers
- Veterinarian Phone Phone Numbers
- Non-Emergency Phone Numbers for Police and Fire
- Poison Control
- Policy Numbers for Medical, Homeowners, and Flood Insurance
- Utility Provider Phone Numbers
Having this information will be critical in the event that you need to get in touch with each other or receive information from important locations.
An Out-of-Town Contact
When disaster strikes local phone lines or cell networks may be overloaded, making it hard to reach your family members. Long distance calls may be able to be made, so reach out to a family member or friend who lives out of community or even out of state and make them your Out-of-Town Contact. Family members should call this individual in, a time of crisis, to let them know they are safe and where they will be going.
Emergency Meeting Place
Family members should decide on a safe, and familiar location to reunite following a disaster. If you have pets or a service animal, be sure to take that into account when deciding on a location. Consider the following areas for meeting up:
- Inside Your Neighborhood: This is a place where you can meet your family members if you need to evacuate your home following an event such as a fire. This could be as simple as a tree, mailbox or a neighbors home
- Outside of Your Neighborhood: In the event your not at home and you can't reach your neighborhood, family members should meet a familiar location. This could be a location like your local library, house of worship, or a family member/friend's home.
- Outside of Fort Collins: In the event of a major disaster event, you may be asked to evacuate and your Out of Neighborhood meeting place may be inaccessible as well. Decide on a friend or family member's home where you can evacuate to and reunite with your family.
Make sure everyone agrees on these locations, and you talk through how you would reach these spots. Add all of these addresses or locations to your Family Communications Plan.
Everyone Needs The Info!#
How good is a plan that nobody has access to? Be sure that you share your plan with your family members after you assembled it. Have all everyone that is receiving a copy go over the plan and agree that it's going to be a useful plan!
Once everyone agrees this plan will work for all members of the family, everyone should receive a copy. Print out wallet sized cards for storage in a wallet, or place in backpacks or purses, and don't forget to place the document in your home in an easy to see and reach location!
Practice The Plan!#
After you've assembled the plan and everyone has agreed on it, all you have to do is practice!
It's important to talk through what practicing this plan would look like and some aspects that make it all come together. Your household should talk about:
- Who will decide where the family will reunite
- When you will practice meeting at the locations that you all agreed upon
- Talk through how you would reach the predetermined meeting locations
- That everyone knows how, and when, to call 911 for help
Practicing is as easy as telling your household to meet at one of the safe locations on an agreed upon date and time. After you're done, talk about what worked and what didn't. And be sure to update this plan at least once a year!