The new school year is quickly approaching. Now is a good time to consider your family emergency plan and make any needed updates.
For many years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as many local police departments have been encouraging us to develop a plan to help our families communicate and reunite after an emergency. If you haven’t done this yet, now is a great time to plan for the possibilities.
Why You Need a Family Emergency Plan
There are several types of events that could cause an emergency, stranding your children at school and/or you at work. Consider the effect that a flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, ice storm, or even a severe thunderstorm could have on your children’s school, the bus route, your office, or your commute.
Here are two recent examples of weather-related emergencies that directly affected school-aged children and their families:
- In May 2019, heavy rainfall in Houston left many roads flooded and impassable, stranding students, teachers, and staff at some schools for part of the night.
- In November 2018, the first snowstorm of the season in New Jersey created treacherous road conditions, leaving students, teachers, and staff to spend the entire night at several schools.
Other types of emergencies could include a fire, a chemical spill or exposure, a prolonged power outage, a medical outbreak, a terrorism event, or criminal activity.
FEMA recommends that each family put together a simple plan to facilitate emergency communication to help bring them back together if a dramatic event shuts down or otherwise hinders normal school or work operations. The goals of the plan should include safety, assistance, and peace of mind.
How to Make a Plan
One crucial part of your family’s emergency plan involves contact information:
- Make sure your school, daycare, and employer have updated phone numbers for at least two reliable contacts in the event of an emergency.
- Make sure each child knows how to get in touch with you as well as a reliable secondary contact if an emergency occurs. Help them memorize your full name, street address, and telephone numbers (home, work, and mobile).
- Designate an out-of-state point of contact (a close friend or relative) for family members to contact if they aren’t able to reach each other directly. During an emergency, local lines can be congested due to the large number of people trying to make phone calls. However, long-distance lines won’t have as much traffic, making it easier to get a call through. If family members can’t reach each other locally, they should each check in with the out-of-state contact.
The stress of an emergency can make it difficult to remember even the most routine information, including phone numbers. Create a contact card with the above information, post it in your home, and give each family member a copy for their wallet or backpack. For family members with cell phones, ensure this information is stored there as well.
Additional Tips and Resources
Be familiar with the emergency plans at your workplace and your children’s schools. In addition, identify two locations—one in your neighborhood and another outside your neighborhood—where members of your family will gather if events warrant. Make sure your children know how to get to these meeting spots from school, if possible.
For additional information and resources on family emergency plans, including some printable plan templates, check out the following links:
Creating a family emergency plan doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and the resources above can make it a lot easier. You may never have to use it, but if you ever do, you’ll be glad you took a little time to prepare.