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5 ways to create an emergency plan

Planning for an emergency

Earthquakes. Fires. Floods. Tornadoes. Blizzards. Hurricanes. Depending on where you live, such disasters can strike at any time. Are you prepared for an emergency? With planning, you can protect yourself and your loved ones, says Jean Ann Riedell, who develops curriculum for the University of Phoenix program in health administration with a concentration in emergency management.

Tracking studies on emergency preparedness by the Ad Council showed that 44 percent of U.S. survey respondents in 2010 had not taken any steps to prepare for an emergency. Only 38 percent had created an emergency plan in case of disaster.

Riedell suggests five ways to create an emergency plan:


Research disaster-planning websites.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross both offer tips on how to plan for a family emergency.


Create a disaster plan that’s right for your weather patterns.

Know your surroundings and prepare for the type of emergencies most likely to happen in your area. In the East and the North, people need to prepare for blizzards. In the West, earthquakes are a possibility. In the Midwest, entire communities can be hit by tornadoes. In the South, hurricane season is a part of life.

Regardless of the type of disaster you could face, you need to plan evacuation routes out of your house or neighborhood, and establish meeting places in case family members are separated. “People have disaster kits, but what you really need is a plan,” Riedell says. “Having water doesn’t help if your family is at work during the disaster.”


Make a disaster kit.

Kits should include more than extra food and water. Other key items are generators, in case the power goes out; board games, in case you’re homebound without the television or Internet; extra keys for vehicles or your home; warm clothes; sleeping bags; a first-aid kit; prescription medications; cash; flashlights; batteries; tools, including a wrench in case you need to turn off the water; and extra food for your pets, Riedell says.


Devise a plan for work.

“Most companies do not have [disaster] plans, so you can get involved in coordinating a plan for your company,” she suggests.

You should also plan how to contact family members while at work, in case your cellphone connection is lost. Write down important bank account and phone numbers, and take extra food, medicine and other items to work. Have a plan for an escape route should you be at the office when disaster strikes.

“On Sept. 11, [2001], a lot of people didn’t know where the stairwell was,” Riedell says.


Review your plan annually.

Every year, you’ll want to call out-of-town relatives to make sure their phone numbers are current, practice meeting at a particular spot with your family and conduct in-house fire drills.

“We all have a plan to some extent,” Riedell says. “We just need to make it bigger, and we need to be a lot more prepared.”

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