If a fire, flood, tornado, earthquake or other disaster hits, you and your family must act quickly and decisively to ensure your safety. That means you need to be prepared at all times for the worst. Developing—and implementing—a disaster plan is a critical part of owning a home.
How critical? A family that plans for trouble has a greater chance for making it through unscathed or with minimal problems. Isn’t that worth the trouble?
Follow these simple steps to draft a disaster plan and ensure every member of your family knows what to do if disaster strikes.
Create a Plan
Families—especially those with children—should draw out a basic blueprint-style map of each level of the home and mark two exits from each room (a door and a window). Once the map is drawn with all the exits clearly marked, show it to the rest of your family and make sure they understand it.
If there are family members who may need assistance exiting the home because of mobility or hearing issues, designate one member of the family to help.
But getting out of danger isn’t the only aim. You also should establish a gathering place a safe distance from your home, such as a mailbox or stop sign. What this will do is give you a chance to regroup and make sure everyone is safe. The last thing you want is uncertainty over whether everyone got out of the house safely—it could lead someone to re-enter the house.
Of course, with some disasters, it’s safer to stay put. Teach kids which emergencies warrant moving to a safe space within the house and which require evacuation. For example, in the event of a tornado, instruct children to make their way to the basement (or, if the house doesn’t have one, to an interior room in the middle of the house on the lowest level); if there’s a fire, instruct kids to get out of the house as quickly as possible and get to the meeting place.
Post your plan in a common area of your home and at a height where children can see and review it at any time. Doing so allows children to remember the plan more easily than simply showing it to them once, which will make evacuation easier in the event of an emergency.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice your disaster plan at least twice each year. It may be helpful to warn children that the practice run is coming so that they don’t panic. The intent is to practice the plan—not to scare family members.
Plan practices for after children have gone to sleep so they’re prepared for any situation at any time.
Conduct Regular Check-Ups
Make sure you have the proper warning. If you don’t have them, install smoke detectors in every bedroom in your home and on every floor. Check that they’re working properly regularly, and schedule frequent battery changes. Failure to do so could result in truly horrible outcomes. Learn about other ways to disaster-proof your home here.
Know Where To Go and Where To Take Pets
As part of your disaster plan, establish a safe haven for a longer-term stay away from home. Whether that’s a relative’s house or a shelter, make sure all family members are aware in case you’re separated.
A reminder: Most shelters only permit service animals, so your family needs to decide ahead of time where to take your pets if you must vacate the house.
The Boy Scouts have the right idea—be prepared. Teach all family members what to do in the event of different types of emergencies so they can keep a level head if/when something bad happens.