Being prepared starts with a plan. Involve your family members in developing a plan, then remember to post the plan somewhere everyone can see the details. Here are some things to consider when creating your plan:
Discuss the dangers of fire, severe weather, hazardous materials spills, floods and other emergencies. Talk about the ways in which you will respond to each situation.
Discuss power outages and medical emergencies. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1.
Draw a floor plan of your home. Mark two escape routes from each room.
Select two meeting places - one near your home in case of fire, and another that is outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home after a disaster.
Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches.
Post emergency numbers near each telephone in your home.
Instruct family members to turn on the radio for emergency information.
Take basic CPR and first aid classes.
Keep important records in a waterproof and fireproof container.
Choose an out-of-town contact your family or household will call or email should a disaster occur. Your selected contacts should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contacts. Make sure every household member has the contacts', and each other's, email addresses and telephone numbers (home, work and mobile). Leave these contact numbers at your children's schools and at your workplace. Your family should know that if telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try email. Many people flood the telephone lines when emergencies happen but email can sometimes get through when calls don't.
Does your child's school keep children at school until a parent or designated adult can pick them up or send them home on their own? Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pick up. And, ask what type of authorization the school may require to release a child to someone you designate, if you are not able to pick up your child. During times of emergency the school telephones may be overwhelmed with calls.
Do you know what to check in your home to ensure the safety of your family?
Know how to turn off your household gas supply and water supply. Have tools nearby so they are handy during an emergency.
Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they have a battery backup and fresh batteries.
If you have an electric garage door opener, know how to manually open the door in case power goes out.
If the electricity does go off, keep refrigerators and freezers shut, and open them only when absolutely necessary.
If local authorities ask you to leave the area, they have a good reason to make this request, and you should heed the advice immediately. Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of local emergency officials and keep these simple tips in mind:
Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
Take your disaster supplies kit.
Lock your home.
Use travel routes specified by local authorities-don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
Stay away from downed power lines.
Take your pets with you; do not leave them behind! Because pets are not permitted in most public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative or friend's home, or find a "pet-friendly" hotel.
Listen to local authorities. Your local authorities will provide you with the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. Staying tuned to local radio and television, and following their instructions is your safest choice.
Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so. Leave natural gas service ON unless local officials advise you otherwise. You may need gas for heating and cooking, and only a professional can restore gas service in your home once it's been turned off. In a disaster situation it could take weeks for a professional to respond.
It's easy to figure out what you would do at home in case of an emergency, but what about your workplace? Would you know what to do if you had to evacuate your building at a moment's notice? Here are some tips in setting up business evacuation plans:
Upper management should play a leadership role in instituting, reviewing and updating the program.
Employee suggestions should be solicited in designing the plan.
Ensure the plan is comprehensive enough to deal with all potential emergencies.
Perform a hazard audit to determine potential toxic materials.
Include emergency escape procedures and routes for all employees, including the disabled.
Provide floor plans and maps that clearly show escape routes and refuge areas.
Assign a sufficient number of people to assist in an orderly evacuation.
List detailed procedures for employees who will remain behind during an evacuation to oversee essential operations.
Establish a chain of command and a person responsible for coordinating emergency activities.
Have a plan that will allow you to account for all employees after the evacuation is complete, with someone responsible for reporting any missing personnel.
Ensure your facilities have adequate and distinct alarm systems that all people can hear or see.
Finally, host regular evacuation exercises for the entire workplace, including employees with disabilities. In Sedgwick County, mark your calendar for the 11th day of each month to practice your evacuation plan.
Emergency management personnel are available to visit your meeting, gathering or classroom and discuss emergency preparedness and weather safety topics. Email your preferred date, time and topic.
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