A simple action plan for disasters

Should I stay or should I go now?

When a disaster occurs you can’t make any good decisions until you know you and your family are safe. A clear plan, which everyone understands, will significantly reduce the stress of the disaster. If you care for children, other adults, or pets, be certain of how they will be taken care of during a disaster until you can reach them.

Which brings up the second decision. Once you are all together, are you staying put, or as they say in old Western movies, are you going to “get out of Dodge?”

Getting back together plan

“What if something happens and I’m not with my family?”
“How will I know they are safe?”
“How can I let them know I’m ok?”

When a disaster occurs there’s a real likelihood you and your family will not all be together. If your kids are at school they’re in one of the safest places they can be, and they can stay there for days if necessary. Schools train for disasters and have lots of supplies, and adults, to look out for your kids. 

When I was in grade school we had a bad storm. My parents were able to get me just before the roads flooded. To this day I still regret not being one of the lucky kids who had a sleepover in the school that night. 

When an emergency occurs the phone lines may be clogged. Here's a few tips to help you communicate during an emergency. Of course you don’t have to call everyone to know where they are. There are several family locator apps, and free versions on both iPhone and Android, that allow you to know where your family is based on their mobile phone or smart watch. 

Ultimately, your goal is to create the simplest plan for everyone to get back together with minimum communication. Make a plan for who will pick up the kids. This could change if someone is traveling, but it should be common sense and easy to work out.

The family should meet at the safest place in the order of accessibility. In the case of a disaster, everyone will typically race to where they think the other person is. That priority should be based on very obvious decisions. 

1st - Home 

Your home, as long as it’s safe, is the most likely place for everyone to go. Your things are there, your food is there, your bed is there. It’s a no brainer.

2nd - Walking distance 

If the home is not safe then the closest area in walking distance from home. This could be a street corner, a park, school, or shopping area.

3rd - Driving distance 

If the immediate area is in danger then a place that is a reasonable distance that everyone could easily get to in 10-15 minutes. I said driving distance, but if you’ve got a bike, that’s just as good an option. Who knows, you may even avoid traffic.

4th - The next town 

If your entire town is inaccessible then what’s the closet town you can meet in? This backup location is so important because driving 30 minutes in the wrong direction will increase your anxiety and complicate your plans. Maybe someone’s work, or a park, or a friend’s house.

Keep track of what’s happening

Document when things started and when they’re supposed to end, and what you’re supposed to do. Take note of what steps you should take. Pay attention to what’s not happening as it should have, or as was communicated. This is your clue to reassess the situation.

Coming or going

Growing up my parents rarely locked the door and never installed a security system. My brother and I always questioned the wisdom of this cavalier attitude, mostly because we wanted to set up a super duper security system. My mother’s answer was always the same, “There’s nothing of value in this house but my children.”

Fortunately, in the majority of disasters your home is the best place to hunker down. You have the most resources available to you and you’re in a comfortable place where people can find you. If your home is safe, then that’s where you’ll want to wait it out.

In the face of an oncoming hurricane or firestorm your first thought should be, “Where will we be safe?” If you turn on the TV and everyone says, “Go!” Is this really a hard decision? No.

Your second thought should be, “Where will we be comfortable?” Now imagine everyone yelling and screaming that you should have left before the roof lifted off. If the danger is where you are, or coming to to you, then you need to leave. You don’t need to explain to anyone why you are leaving, just leave. 

The one place you don’t want to be is stuck on the road because you waited too long to make a decision. Instead, be the first to check into a hotel miles from where the action is. Ride out the storm with the kids in the pool and a Mai Tai in your hand.

What can you do right now?

After identifying your emergency meeting spots it's time to start working on creating a Go bag.