By Kristyn Jackson, LMFT and Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service
Fires, flooding, severe storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes affect families every year. Failure to adequately prepare for these emergencies can result in a number of consequences. However, in the event that you and your family experience one of these emergencies, proper planning and preparation will help you to weather the storm.
The most important element in preparing your home for an emergency situation is
communication. Everyone in your home must be involved and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Additionally, you will want to consider involving your neighbors. In times of crisis, your neighbors will most likely be the first responders to the situation.
A home emergency plan is the best way to plan and prepare for an emergency. This plan should be clearly communicated to all members of your household and practiced at least once a year. Also, if your family moves around frequently, tweak your emergency plan for the home that you are living in. There are four steps that you can take with your family to prepare your home for an emergency:
- Know what types of emergencies can affect your home. Certain types of emergencies are more likely to occur in specific geographic areas. For example, you may not know it but you may be living in an area that is prone to flash flooding. Regardless of where you live, the number one home emergency is fire.
- Create an emergency plan. Hold a household meeting to discuss how you will respond to a home emergency. It should be clear that all household members should share responsibilities when an emergency occurs. Be mindful of which tasks are age appropriate for each household member. The following topics should be discussed:
- How to deal with different emergencies (e.g., fire, flood, severe storm)
- Create an evacuation plan. Identify two meeting places outside of your home – one should be right outside and the other should be outside of your neighborhood in case you are not able to meet at your home.
- Establishing a “safe room” in your home that will protect you and your family from emergencies such as a severe storm
- Identifying an out-of-area safety contact person who will be able to assist you. Additionally, consider discussing your emergency plan with a trusted neighbor who can help you in the event of an emergency.
- Take emergency precautions. Taking the following safety precautions will help you and your family to deal with emergency situations:
- Post emergency telephone numbers in central locations
- Teach children how and when to call 911 for emergency assistance
- Install multiple fire extinguishers (one on each level of your home)
- Install smoke detectors, being sure that smoke detectors are located near all bedrooms
- Stock up on emergency supplies such as food, water, flashlights, matches, etc.
- Take a first aid and CPR class
- Practice your plan! Review your plan every 6 months, conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills, test fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, and keep your emergency supplies well stocked. Make sure that every member of your household is familiar with your plan and feels comfortable asking questions. Be mindful that a good plan is one that is easily understood and can be adjusted as needed.
The preceding is a general plan for action on how to prepare your home for emergencies. There are multiple resources available that will provide more specific details. For example, consider conducting a quick internet search to determine what should be in your disaster supplies kit. While creating your home emergency plan, you may also think of other steps that you need to take to ensure that your home is prepared for an emergency.
Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that commonly accompany home emergencies. Communicating with your family can potentially clear up any confusion and ensure that everyone survives an emergency situation. This is one of those discussions that should not be put off!
Contact Jennifer at [email protected]