Keeping your family safe and getting your life back to normal following a natural disaster depends on advance planning and time and energy devoted to preparation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP) — four comprehensive steps to prepare your family for disasters, prevent personal injuries and promote safety readiness. Taking time as a family to prepare for the unexpected not only helps to ensure everyone’s safety, but models responsibility. Use the following tips in your own preparation, courtesy of the AAP:
1. Find out what the risks are in your area.
Find out from your local emergency management office, health department, or American Red Cross chapter
- What types of disasters are likely to happen and how to prepare for each
- What your community’s warning signals sound like and what to do if you hear them
- How to help the elderly and people with special needs
2. Create a family disaster plan.
Hold a family meeting; keep it simple and work as a team.
Plan Talk about the dangers of the disaster(s) with your family.
- Have a plan in case you are separated. – Choose a place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot go home (A). – Choose someone out of town to be your family contact (B). Each family member and any babysitter must know the address and phone number for A and B.
- Fill out the local emergency phone numbers and child identification cards. Fill out an Emergency Information Form (EIF) for each child with special health care needs. (See http://www.aap.org/advocacy/emergprep.htm).
- Become familiar with the specifics of your child’s child care or school disaster plan as you could be separated from your child during a disaster.
- Plan what to do if you are asked to evacuate.
- Plan several escape routes.
- Plan how to take care of your pets.
What to Tell ChildrenIt is important to educate children about disasters without overly alarming them. Use the following guidelines:
- Tell children that a disaster is something that could hurt people or cause damage. Explain that nature sometimes provides “too much of a good thing” – fire, rain, and wind.
- Explain how important it is to make a family disaster plan.
- Teach children – How to call for help – When to call each emergency number – To call the family contact if separated – To keep personal identification information in their possession at all times
If you are told to evacuate, take these steps:
- Leave right away if told to do so.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio for instructions from local officials.
- Wear protective clothing and shoes.
- Shut off water, gas, and electricity if told to do so.
- Leave a note telling when you left and where you are going.
- Call your family contact to tell him or her where you are going.
- Take your family emergency supplies (listed below).
- Lock your home.
- Use routes suggested by officials.
3. Complete this checklist.
___ Put emergency phone numbers by each phone.
___ Show everyone how and when to turn off the utilities.
___ Make sure you have enough insurance coverage (for example, flood, fire, earthquake).
___ Do a home hazard hunt for items that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire.
___ Stock enough emergency supplies to last 3 days.
___ Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
___ Plan home escape routes – 2 from each room.
___ Find safe places in your home for each type of disaster.
___ Make 2 copies of important documents and keep the originals in a safe-deposit box. Keep 1 copy on hand and give the second to your out-of-town contact.
4. Practice and maintain your plan.
Every month… Test your smoke alarms.
Every 6 months… Go over the family disaster plan and do escape drills. Quiz children. Replace stored food and water.
Every year… Replace the batteries in smoke alarms (unless your smoke alarm uses long-life batteries).
Neighbors Helping Neighbors Meet with neighbors to plan how you can work together during a disaster.
- Talk about who has special skills (eg, medical, technical).
- Make plans for child care in case parents cannot get home.
Utilities Do the following so you will be ready if told to turn off your utilities:
- Find the main electric fuse box, water service main, and natural gas main.
- Learn how and when to turn these off, and teach family members.
- Keep a wrench and flashlight near gas and water shut off valves.
- If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.
Important Documents Make 2 copies and keep the originals of the following in a safe-deposit box or waterproof container:
- Wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, investments
- Passports, social security cards, immunization records, EIF
- Bank account numbers/credit card account numbers
- Inventory of valuable household goods
- Family records (eg, birth and marriage certificates) and photos
- Documentation to assist in identifying children who may be separated from their parents (eg, photos, adoption records, birth certificates)
Emergency Supplies List
- Signal flare
- Map of the area and important phone numbers
- Special items for infants and the elderly (diapers, formula, medication)
- Three gallons of water per person
- Three-day supply of ready-to-eat canned or packaged food
- Manual can opener
- Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Toiletries (10 day supply of prescription medication, hand sanitizer)
- Cell phone batteries and/or phone charger
- A change of clothing, rain gear, and sturdy shoes for each family member
Put the following supplies in an easy-to-carry waterproof container:
- Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
- First aid kit and manual and prescription medications
- A credit card and cash
- Personal identification
- An extra set of car keys
- An extra pair of eyeglasses
- Matches in a waterproof container
Visit the US Department of Homeland Security Website (www.ready.gov) and AAP Children, Terrorism & Disasters Website (www.aap.org/terrorism) for more information.
Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
- A study demonstrating that even post-Katrina, most Americans are unprepared for natural disasters
- Recommended contents for a disaster preparedness kit
- Basic disaster preparation tips
For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at (202) 753-4272.