What Do I Need to Know?
Preparing for an Emergency: What Do I Need to Know?
After a major disaster, emergency responders will not be able to take care of everyone’s needs immediately. Emergency planners agree that citizens should prepare to be on their own for at least 72 hours.
Having a family plan.Knowing what to do involves:
- Knowing where to get reliable information before and during an emergency.
- Being able to make an informed decision about whether to stay or go during an emergency.
A Family Plan
Emergency planning experts encourage you to build a family plan.
Your plan should include, at minimum:
- Instructions for children. Kids need instructions about what to do if an emergency occurs while they are in school or otherwise separated from parents. Give children who are old enough a friend or relative to call if they are unable to reach parents by phone. Pick two family meeting places – one near your home and one outside the neighborhood – and make sure all family members know where they are.
- Plans for pets. Pets have become a pressing issue for emegency planners because recent experience shows that many people will put themselves in danger rather than leave their pets behind. If you feel strongly about your pets, you must prepare in advance what to do with them in case of emergency!
Now is the time to explore whether you could leave your pets with a friend or relative; whether local veterinarians or the Humane Society provides emergency pet sheltering; or whether certain local motels or hotels would accepte pets. Remember that most shelters and hotels do not accept pets (except service animals).
- Insurance. Know what kind of disasters you are insured against and what your coverage includes. If you live in areas prone to a certain kind of disaster, check with your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate coverage for that specific event. For example, regular insurance does not cover floods; you must purchase flood insurance for coverage of flood-related damages.
If you are a renter, purchase renter's insurance to protect yourself against loss of your possessions.
- Protect your records. Important family documents belong in a watertight bin, easily portable and protected against the elements.
- Site-specific plans. Familiarize yourself with site-specific plans for schools, daycare providers, workplaces and other establishments that involve your family. In the Baltimore region, all public schools now have their own emergency plans.
Getting Reliable Information
Getting through a disaster requires that you have reliable sources of information. Local news stations are vital tools used by emergency managers for getting information to you. Every household should have a battery-powered radio so it can monitor the news if the power goes out.
A weather alert radio, also called a hazard alert radio, is a particularly useful tool, especially if you live in coastal or other disaster-prone areas where emergenies can happen without warning. Hazard alert radios can provide specific area messaging for weather related events and even some civil emergencies. These radios will alert you any time of the day or night, if a tornado, flooding or other disaster suddenly threatens.
Other sources of information:
- Local emergency management web sites.
- Government access cable TV; some local jurisdictions now can interrupt regular programming with emergency messages.
- Reverse 911. Emergency managers may use automated calling systems to notify citizens by telephone of emergencies.
- E-mail alerts. Some local jurisdictions have systems that allow citizens to subscribe to emergency alerts.
Stay or Go?
During any emergency, listen to instructions from state and local authorities about whether to evacuate or stay put.
Evacuation. In our region, evacuations most commonly are used to get people out of flood-prone areas during a tropical storm or hurricane, or to clear an area where there has been a gas leak. Some jurisdictions have designated evacuation routes; others do not, because the evacuation route would depend on th enature and location of the emergency. Contact your local emergency management office for more information.
If local authorities encourage you to leave a certain area for reasons of safety, you should follow their advice. If you choose to stay behind, rescue units may not be able to return to the area to help you if the situation worsens.
Sheltering in place. Many emergencies in our region will require you to "shelter in place" -- to stay put, secured in an indoor location. Resist the urge to flee if emergency managers issue a shelter-in-place advisory; some types of emergencies -- releases of toxic chemicals, for example -- make exposure to the outside dangerous. During a disaster involving a hazardous material, you may be advised not only to stay indoors but to "seal the room" against outside contaminants.
Schools, daycare providers, workplaces, neighborhoods and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans. In the Baltimore region, all public schools now have their own emergency plans.
You should ask about plans at the places where your family spends the most time: work, school and other places you frequent. Familiarize yourself with these plans.
If your employer, school or other establishment does not have a plan, express your concerns. You may want to volunteer to help create one.