Thursday, September 22, 2016

#NatlPrep : Create A Family Communications Plan

Note: This is day 22 of National Preparedness Month . Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.
This month, as part of NPM16, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.


Disasters can strike with little or no warning, and family members may be at school, work, or simply away from home.  While ubiquitous, cell phones may, or may not work.

So in the event of a sudden evacuation or displacement, you’ll want to have a family meeting place already decided upon, and for everyone to have a list of emergency contact information.
To drive home the message, FEMA has produced a PSA called `Waiting’, which shows anxious parents in a community shelter trying – and failing – to reconnect with their child during a disaster. has produced an updated Emergency Communications planning guide to help you and your family prepare for the kinds of communications interruptions, and separations, that can occur during a disaster.  Below you’ll find easy to use fill-in-the-blanks PDF templates for creating emergency communications cards, and other planning aids.
Emergency Communication Plan
This page explains what an emergency communication plan is and why you should make one. It also provides tips and templates on how to make a plan.

Why Make a Plan

Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to think about the following situations and plan just in case. Consider the following questions when making a plan:
  • How will my family/household get emergency alerts and warnings?
  • How will my family/household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?
  • How will my family/household get in touch if cell phone, internet, or landline doesn’t work?
  • How will I let loved ones know I am safe?
  • How will family/household get to a meeting place after the emergency?

Download and Print a Plan

Here is a template that you can download, print, and fill out:
Here are a few easy steps to start your emergency communication plan:
  1. Understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings. Make sure all household members are able to get alerts about an emergency from local officials. Check with your local emergency management agency to see what is available in your area, and learn more about alerts by visiting:
  2. Discuss family/household plans for disasters that may affect your area and plan where to go. Plan together in advance so that everyone in the household understands where to go during a different type of disaster like a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire.  
  3. Collect information. Create a paper copy of the contact information for your family that includes:
  • phone (work, cell, office)
  • email
  • social media
  • medical facilities, doctors, service providers
  • school
  1. Identify information and pick an emergency meeting place. Things to consider:
  • Decide on safe, familiar places where your family can go for protection or to reunite.
  • Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs.
  • If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.
Examples of meeting places:
  • In your neighborhood: A mailbox at the end of the driveway, or a neighbor’s house.
  • Outside of your neighborhood: library, community center, place of worship, or family friend’s home.
  • Outside of your town or city: home of a relative or family friend. Make sure everyone knows the address of the meeting place and discuss ways you would get there.
  1. Share information. Make sure everyone carries a copy in his or her backpack, purse, or wallet. You should also post a copy in a central location in your home, such as your refrigerator or family bulletin board.
  2. Practice your plan. Have regular household meetings to review your emergency plans, communication plans and meeting place after a disaster, and then practice, just like you would a fire drill.

Filling out these cards may seem a small step, but that's what most preparedness involves.

Taking small, organized steps that, when put together, create a fabric of individual and community preparedness.  If you do just one small step each day, in almost no time you’ll find yourself and your family far better prepared to face any emergency.

For more on how to prepare, visit these websites:

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