Most of us will go our entire lives without ever experiencing a major emergency, such as a flood, fire or freak storm, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared in case the unthinkable happens. It’s a good idea to have a home emergency plan to help you … weather … any emergency that comes your way.
Before you create a plan, though, you need to know what emergencies you could potentially face. Some areas are prone to flooding, some get heavy snow and some are in the shadow of a volcano. It’s unlikely that you will have to worry about lava oozing your way, but you need to know the local risks so you can make the right preparations. You can narrow it down some more and get to know the dangers in your home. For example, does the land slope in a way that will cause your living room to flood in heavy rain?
Once you know the dangers, you can take steps to prevent, mitigate and survive disaster. Smoke detectors, for instance, are indispensible in a home that has smokers (and even absent-minded cooks). Fire extinguishers build on that safety precaution and should be on hand if you have a lot of barbecues or bonfires. If you live near a river or in a high rain area then you should consider getting some floodgates or barriers for your doors and garage.
Before you create a plan, you should have a family discussion regarding the different types of emergencies that could occur, talk through some scenarios and survival ideas.
Now, let’s look at what a home emergency plan should include.
- A map of your home
This doesn’t have to be a detailed map of every knick-knack on your shelves, but it should show some vital landmarks, like the water valve, the gas valve and the mains, as well as the location of your first aid kit and home emergency kit.
- A list of emergency numbers
This doesn’t just include paramedics, fire services or the police; it also includes your family doctor, immediate friends and family, emergency accommodation and pet-related numbers, such as the vet, border kennels and animal shelters.
- Shared responsibilities
Put everyone in the family in charge of something. Make it age appropriate, so don’t put your five-year-old in charge of switching off all the appliances and the mains. Instead, she might be in charge of getting her blanket and “helping” mummy get the emergency kit.
- Emergency meeting place
If the family is in different locations at the time of the emergency (mom’s at work, dad’s taking the kiddies to soccer practice and teens are at the mall), or is somehow separated you should have a designated meeting place. In fact, pick two, in case one is inaccessible. You can pick a hotel where you might stay, the police station or a close friend or family on the other side of town.
- Provide for pets
Pets are part of the family and should also be provided for in the case of an emergency. Consider how you would get them to safety and how you would maintain their safety throughout the emergency.
- Evacuation plan
What will you do if you have to evacuate the house? Where are the safe exits? How will you make your way to a place of safety? What will you take?
Rehearse the emergency plan, especially the evacuation part, at least once or twice a year. It probably won’t go down well with your teenagers, who will roll their eyes at your pedanticalness, but don’t let that stop you. You should also drill young children so that they know their address, home phone number, your mobile number and the emergency services number. What If …? is a great website that makes this kind of learning fun.