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Family disaster planning

A disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It could force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services — water, gas, electricity and telephones — were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.

Four steps to safety
1. Find out what could happen to you
2. Create a disaster plan
3. Complete this checklist
4. Practice and maintain your plan
More information about helping neighbors, listening to news, checking for damage, etc.

Four steps to safety

1. Find out what could happen to you
• Contact your local American Red Cross chapter or emergency management office before a disaster occurs. Take notes about your conversation.
• Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen. Request information on how to prepare for each.
• Learn about your community's warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
• Ask about animal care after a disaster.
• Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons.
• Find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or day care center, and other places where your family spends time.

2. Create a disaster plan
• Discuss with your family why you need to prepare for a disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.
• Discuss the most likely types of disasters. Explain what to do in each case.
• Pick two places to meet:

1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire.
2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.

• Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to be your "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance, and all family members should call this person and report where they are. All family members must know your contact's phone number.
• Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.

3. Complete this checklist
• Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
• Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for help.
• Show each family member how and when to turn off the utilities (water, gas and electricity) at the main switches.
• Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
• Get training from the fire department about how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show family members where it's kept.
• Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
• Conduct a home hazard hunt.
• Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
• Take American Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
• Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
• Find the safe places in your home for each type of disaster.

4. Practice and maintain your plan
• Quiz your kids every six months or so.
• Conduct fire and emergency evacuations.
• Replace stored water and stored food every six months.
• Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
• Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.

Neighbors helping neighbors
Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how to work together until help arrives. If you belong to a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbors' special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors with special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents can't get home.

If disaster strikes
Remain calm and patient. Put your plan into action.

Check for injuries
Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.

Listen to your battery-powered radio for news and instructions

Check for damage in your home...
• Use flashlights. Do not light matches or turn on electrical switches, if you suspect damage.
• Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
• Shut off any other damaged utilities. You will need a professional to turn gas back on.
• Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately.

Remember to...
Confine or secure your pets.
• Call your family contact, then stay off the telephone unless there is a life-threatening emergency.
• Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.
• Make sure you have an adequate water supply.
• Stay away from downed power lines.

From "Family Disaster Plan." developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross.

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