When you think of family, this could mean immediate family that lives with you such as your spouse and children under the age of 18, or elderly parents and adult children living away from home. Whether you are the parents of young children, empty nesters with grown children and grandchildren, or a person who has never married or had children, creating a family emergency plan can help prevent tragedies.If a family member lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it is important to find out what emergency plans the facility has in place. The same goes for older children living in college dormitories. You simply cannot assume that these facilities have created or will implement proper emergency procedures.
A recent audit of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) revealed that during Hurricane Sandy, property managers did not have correct emergency information for 80 percent of tenants who used wheelchairs or life-sustaining equipment, such as oxygen. The audit found “alarming deficiencies” in the plans to help tenants with disabilities, disaster trainings and drills, emergency staffing policies, reporting systems, and generator inventory management. The lessons learned from past tragedies should cause facilities to remedy situations, but sadly, this is not always the case. The audit found that 3 years after Hurricane Sandy, NYCHA had not corrected these oversights, putting more than 400,000 current NYC residents at risk if a major storm hits again.
Basic Information to Include
Include phone numbers and addresses of locations where each family member spends the most time, whether that is home, work, school, or a senior center. Along with this contact information, the plan should include a social security number, date of birth, and important medical information for every family member. In addition, it is crucial that there is at least one out-of-town contact person in the plan, with his or her name, telephone number(s) and email address written down. A plan should include the address and phone numbers of local fire and police departments, local and regional meeting places (like community centers) and a contingency evacuation location. All of this information should be stored in a locked fireproof box with a copy in an off-site safe deposit box. Key phone numbers can also be stored on cell phones.
Emergency planning should also encompass the care of pets and family members with accessibility and health issues, as well as safely shutting off utilities. Your full plan should be discussed, practiced, and updated twice a year at a minimum.
FEMA has many downloadable resources available to get you started on creating your own personalized family emergency plan.