Is Your Family Ready? How to Be Prepared for an Emergency in 6 Steps

 

With hurricane season here, you might be wondering if your family is prepared for an emergency or disaster, and would be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. After evacuating during Hurricanes Rita and Harvey, I have some insights into how to prepare for an evacuation or any emergency. Please share this information with friends and family so they will be safe.

30-Second Snapshot

Prepare Your Family for an Emergency in 6 Steps

  1.  Create a Family Emergency Plan & wallet cards using FEMA’s Google sheets template
  2. Protect & Store Important Documents in a waterproof container
  3. Make 72-Hour Emergency/Survival Kits (see my recommendations of 4-person and 2-person ready-made, or instructions for DIY kits)
  4. Make Emergency Packing Lists
    • Divided the lists up by person and order the items by level of importance
    • Each person is responsible for certain Important Items
  5.  Create an Emergency Packet that includes your Plan, Emergency Packing Lists, and map
  6.  Ready, Set, Drill!
    • Run through different emergency scenarios a couple times every year
    • You will probably notice some changes you need to make to  your Emergency Plan/Lists

Hurricane Prep Insider Tips: What I’ve learned from Ike, Rita, & Harvey

 

1. Create a Family Emergency Plan

One of the most stressful situations in an emergency can be when you don’t know where your family members or other loved ones are and you can’t contact them. You realize that the only thing that really matters is that the ones you love are safe. It’s not a stretch to think that cell phone towers could be down, electricity down, roads blocked or unsafe to drive on. You absolutely need a printed family emergency plan. Ready.gov has tons of resources that will help you prepare, including the perfect Google sheets template of a family emergency plan.

These are the important parts of an emergency plan that are on the Family Emergency Plan Page 1:

  • Out-of-town contact
  • Neighborhood meeting place
  • Regional meeting place
  • Evacuation location
  • Family members’ personal information
  • Family members’ frequented locations (school, work, other)
  • Other important contact & policy information
    • Doctor
    • Pharmacist
    • Medical Insurance
    • Homeowners/Rental Insurance
    • Veterinarian
    • Other: these are others I have added
      • I would add Flood/Earthquake Insurance, or other additional insurance that may be covered under a different carrier. Our flood insurance and homeowners insurance are covered by two different insurance companies. Call and ask before the disaster what number to call to report a claim and what the claims process is.
      • Auto Insurance (there were about one million cars flooded from Harvey)
      • Neighbors’ phone numbers
      • Out-of-state contacts

On Family Emergency Plan Page 2, you can fill out wallet cards for each of your family members. For our wallet cards, I included:

  • Emergency contact
  • Out of state contact
  • Neighborhood meeting place & number
  • Secondary meeting place & number
  • Other: I also included a third meeting place, in case we’re out of town. The plan is: Go to the nearest hospital.
My son’s emergency plan card

On the other side of the wallet card I put:

  • The family member’s name
  • Address
  • Cell phone number
  • Other family phone numbers
  • Photo
  • Don’t include the social security number or date of birth

Then I laminated the cards for everyone’s wallets or backpacks. Unfortunately, the card I used isn’t available anymore, but you can easily add in all necessary information on the template.

2. Protect & Store Important Documents

You can store your important documents in a bank safe deposit box and/or waterproof and fireproof safe. It’s also a good idea to store copies in a safe location online or at another trusted location.

  • Emergency Packet (as described above)
  • Birth certificates
  • Passports
  • Social security cards
  • Insurance policy
  • Financial information
  • House information
    • Deed, mortgage or rental agreement
    • Photos, videos, serial numbers of appliances & electronics
  • Cash: when there’s a power outage, stores may only take cash payment
  • Print out extensive lists of important documents at Ready.gov

3. Make 72-Hour Emergency/Survival Kits

Think about what your family would need to survive for three days. See my recommendations for ready-made 4-person and 2-person emergency/survival kits. I also have a post on how to build your kit from scratch, with checklists and product recommendations included. I based these off the lists from FEMA.

4. Make Emergency Packing Lists

Sample Emergency Packing Lists

I have a master list of everything we need to bring in an emergency, divided up by person. Each person is responsible for Important Items, then Garage Items (for the kids, this just means they need to get their shoes on). Then, if there is time, Personal Items.

Make sure you have these Important Items ready to go at any time, stored in a safe place in your home:

  • Important Documents
  • 72-Hour Kits

If you only have a moment’s notice of evacuation (which is what happened to many people during Harvey), just grab your family, your documents, and your kits.

5. Create an Emergency Packet

I put the following items in a basic page protector:

  • Family Emergency Plan
  • Printed map of our area, with a highlighted route to our emergency meeting place
  • Homeowners insurance card
  • Printed flier of phone numbers of local law enforcement
  • Emergency Packing Lists in an envelope

Our Emergency Packet is in a central location in our home, and everyone knows where it is. In an emergency, that is the first thing we grab. When Harvey came, I had our Emergency Packet out and ready to go.

6. Ready, Set, Drill!

It’s so important to make sure that everyone knows the plan. Run some drills to practice, using different scenarios so you have a chance to go to all your possible meeting spots. That will really give you a chance to see what you need to do to be better prepared. You should run drills a couple times every year.

Here are some examples of drills:

  • 1 minute fire drill – Everyone get out of the house & meet at a designated spot (our spot is at the mailbox). The focus is on getting everybody out safely and quickly.
  • 1 minute hurricane/earthquake drill – Make sure everyone & your emergency supplies are in a safe spot in
    Don’t forget your shoes!

    the house.

  • 3 minute evacuation – Everyone get your packing list and get as much as possible in the car. After 3 minutes, the car is leaving. Actually go to your meeting spot outside of the neighborhood.

During the first major drill we ran, we set the timer for three minutes and said we had to leave when the timer went off. Well, we made it in the van with all our important stuff. Except some of the kids forgot their shoes!


Hurricane Prep Insider Tips

Supplies to Buy Before They’re Gone

These are things the stores run out of when there’s a disaster. Buy them before the big rush, even if it’s not certain the disaster will hit your area. If they can be stored long-term, BUY THEM NOW and keep them with your 72-hour kits or other safe place.

  • Water bottles (you should already have water in your 72-hour kits, but water bottles may be more convenient)
  • Gasoline (also keep your gas tank filled up in your car)
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries for flashlights
  • Bread (not necessary if you have food in your 72-hour kits, but it’s sure convenient & good)
  • Ice (if your power goes out, you can try to save your perishables)
  • For possible flooding:
  • Other items for the possible disasters in your area
  • Generator? (We borrowed a friend’s during Ike, and it wouldn’t power our fridge. After that, we decided we didn’t need one, but you might decide you want one. Just make sure it will power your fridge)

Prep Your House {if there’s time}

Remember, your family’s safety is more important than your possessions. If you have time before you evacuate, prepare your house and property to minimize damage. The Travelers website has some great tips for all major disasters.

Better Safe Than Sorry

If you’re not under a mandatory evacuation and are wondering whether or not to evacuate, my view is, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Especially if you’re pregnant, have little kids or elderly. We didn’t evacuate for Hurricane Ike, and we should have. Our lives weren’t at risk (we don’t live too close to the coast), but it sure was uncomfortable being without power for eleven days. Plus I had morning sickness. Let me tell you, no electricity and a high level of morning sickness are a BAD combination. We had no idea our power would be out for eleven days. If you are within driving distance to a family member or friend and can afford it, head over there as soon as you know your area is at risk.

Hurricane evacuation fail

With Rita, we left too late and got stuck in the worst traffic jam ever. I will always remember one guy walking next to his car, pulling it along so he wouldn’t waste gas. Traffic was so slow and gasoline non-existent. Cars abandoned along the freeway. Thankfully we got to a shelter before the storm came, but it took many hours longer than it normally would have.

This last time with Harvey, we evacuated during the storm, which I wouldn’t recommend either! I should have evacuated at least one day earlier. After hydroplaning on the freeway, I almost had a heart attack and decided to slow way down. Thankfully we got to my sister’s house safely, but it did take longer than it normally would have. If you have a good evacuation option, don’t hesitate to evacuate! Just think of it as a last-minute vacation.

If you leave late and there’s already heavy traffic, bring a map and see if you can take side roads. That was another lesson we learned from Rita. It would’ve saved us hours.

Consider bringing extra gasoline in an approved container. We were not prepared for the Rita evacuation. I hate to admit that the night before we evacuated, Tim drove on the wrong side of the freeway just so he could get to a gas station (traffic was at a standstill). Then he used plastic buckets to store gasoline. Thankfully we didn’t get blown up! We’ve learned our lesson and now have safe containers to store extra gasoline in. Make sure you store gasoline safely.

If You’re Prepared, You Don’t Need to Be Afraid

Remember, hope (and pray) for the best, but plan for the worst. A scripture that always comforts me is: “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” We don’t need to be afraid. Prepare and pray, and God will watch over you.


Emergency Prep Links:

2 thoughts on “Is Your Family Ready? How to Be Prepared for an Emergency in 6 Steps

  1. I love the idea of an emergency packing list. How long would it take your family to gather the items on your list? Also, what a great idea to make those cards. I definitely need those for my kids!

    • We got all the important items on our list in three minutes. If you have each person responsible for different items, it goes a lot faster. You can run drills for different lengths of time and different scenarios.

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