Whether it’s a fire, bad storms or personal injury, every family experiences an emergency at one time or another. When your immediate and extended family members know what to do, you can increase the likelihood of getting the help you need when you need it and making it safely through any situation.
Make a phone tree: Each and every member of your family must have easy access to emergency phone numbers and know who to phone next on the phone tree. This should include emergency services as well as the numbers of friends and family members who can help in a pinch.
Program these numbers into your phones so that they are on speed dial and store a hard copy of the phone list in an easy-to-reach place like on the fridge. If you have smaller children, practice dialing emergency numbers and make sure they know their address. Share emergency numbers with teachers, schools and other care givers.
Evacuation plan: Discuss how to exit the home in the event of a fire. Make sure they know how to get out of every room in the house (including basement and attic). Practice climbing out of windows or getting down safely from second floor windows. If you live in an apartment block, ensure that they know where all the fire exits are.
Meeting point: Have a meeting point which is a safe distance from your home where all family members go if get separated. It can be a school, a sports field or a favorite restaurant. Ensure that your child knows how to get to the meeting point from your home, their school and other locations.
Emergency bag and first aid kit: Pack a bag which is easy to grab in an emergency. This should include a basic first aid kit and any other medications vital to the health of your family members. You should also pack blankets, food, flashlights, extra batteries, water for three or four days, rain gear, pet food if you have pets and photocopies of all your vital documents. Make sure everyone knows where the emergency bag is. Consider getting a bag with wheels which would be easier for younger children to carry.
Shelters: Do you know where the dedicated emergency shelters are in your neighborhood? Look these up online and visit them with your children so that they know where they are too. Many shelters do not take pets, so if you have a family pet make sure you know the location of nearby pet-friendly hotels and motels.
First aid: Make sure that everyone in your family knows basic first aid. Do refresher courses every year and practice often so you will know what to do in an emergency.
Regularly discuss what you would do in an emergency situation and practice dialing emergency services or exiting buildings in the event of a fire. Ensure that you reinforce these practices each year so that all your family members are prepared. You should also check your emergency bag once a year to see that none of the medication or food has expired. Being prepared won’t prevent accidents from happening, but it may make all the difference in your family’s ability to deal with adverse situations.