Are You Prepared? How To Create A Family Emergency Plan

Emergency checklist

Hurricane Florence finally made landfall after creating a state of high-alert throughout the southeast. Over the last week, more than a million people have evacuated from high danger zones along the coast while city and state officials have prepared for the worst. With so much attention on the coast, it’s easy to think that living inland (i.e., in Richmond) keeps us somewhat protected from hurricanes and other coastal concerns. But for those of us who remember Hurricane Isabel in 2003…well, we know all too well that “inland” doesn’t mean immune from a state of emergency when it comes to hurricanes.

Hurricane Isabel turned out to be the costliest disaster in Virginia history – and here in Richmond, hundreds of thousands were left without power, trees were downed across the region, and flooding reached epic proportions, particularly along the James River and other waterways.

And, of course, we’ve had our fair share of brutal snow and ice storms, as well. During these events, families have been snowed in, lost electricity (and heat!), and experienced the danger of falling branches as snow and ice weighed heavy limbs down to the point of breaking.

Yet, for the most part, we are fairly lucky in Richmond. Compared to many other regions, both domestic and international, we’re in a pretty good place – geographically and meteorologically speaking. And while this might make it easy to feel complacent, we all know that when you have a family, complacency is not an option.

Events do not have to be widespread to create an emergency situation for you and your family. Things like ruptured water mains, frozen pipes, power outages, or downed trees can leave you and your family vulnerable with no warning.

With that being said, the one good thing about a hurricane or snowstorm? We usually know when they’re coming – and we can do our best to prepare. However, it’s important to remember that emergencies and disasters can happen anytime, with or without warning.

Even if Richmond doesn’t feel the full brunt of Hurricane Florence, we can still expect heavy rains, which brings inherent risk. Likewise, winter is just around the bend, bringing with it the usual unpredictability of Virginia weather. With those things in mind, we wanted to make sure that everyone has the chance to be proactive about their family’s safety. We’ve put together a list of basic precautions you can take to maximize your family’s safety during any emergency.

Prepare A Family Emergency Kit

While it’s not likely that the zombie apocalypse is coming anytime soon, having a family emergency kit makes sense, especially for families with young children. After all, it’s better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

Emergency kits come in all shapes and sizes and can even be customized for a specific event (e.g., severe weather, outdoor survival, etc.). But for standard kits, you’ll want to cover the basics – water, food, safety, health, and warmth.

If you’re stranded at home, a good family emergency kit will include:

– Non-perishable food for at least three days
– Water (one gallon per person) for at least three days
– A light source (flashlights, lanterns, chemical snap lights, etc) and extra batteries
– Blankets/sleeping bags
– First aid supplies
– A sharp knife or multitool
– Matches or other fire starters in a waterproof bag
– Candles
– Moist towelettes or baby wipes
– A fully charged cell phone power station or backup charger
– A whistle for signaling help
– A hand crank or battery operated radio
– Duct tape or other waterproof tape and plastic sheeting
– Extra food, water, and supplies for pets

*And of course, if possible, a generator is always a good idea. Be sure to keep adequate fuel stored in a safe, but accessible, place.

In a situation where you need to evacuate or leave home in a hurry, include the basics but consider adding these extras:

– Prescription meds and glasses (you may want to make a note to grab these last minute instead of packing them in advance because of expirations, daily uses, etc.)
– Non-prescription meds for things like cough/cold, upset stomach, or allergies
– Extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, or other hygiene products
– Insect repellant
– Important documents (originals or copies) like insurance policies, health information, birth certificates, and bank account information etc., sealed in a waterproof container
– Some extra cash or traveler’s checks
– Individual photos of family members in case you get separated
– A manual can opener, basic utensils, and plastic bowls
– Diapers, formula, bottles, or any other specific needs for babies and toddlers
– Sanitary products and toilet paper
– A change of clothes for everyone
– Basic toys or non-electronic games for kids
– A water filter

If DIY isn’t your style, there are plenty of pre-packed emergency kits available at local retailers and outdoor supply shops, as well as online at sites like Amazon, Family Survival Supply, and Stealth Angel, just to name a few. A basic internet search will yield plenty of options, allowing you to check reviews and find the kit most suited to your family.


Stay informed

Keep up-to-date on the latest news and know your options. In the event of an emergency or natural disaster, it’s important to know where shelters are, what options are available, and when and if you should act. Start by signing up for emergency alerts by text or email.

Then, for ongoing news and updates, here are some great sites to follow:


Double Check Your Insurance Policies

Before disaster strikes, take a few minutes to double check your homeowners or rental insurance and make sure you’re aware of what is and isn’t covered. If possible, update them to include any potential needs, keeping in mind that it may be too late for Hurricane Florence, but may come in handy another time. Keep copies of any important documentation in a waterproof container in your emergency kit or another easily accessible place. Same goes for your health and life insurance policies. Keep them current and accessible and make sure you have access to any cards or relevant documentation.


Protect Your Pets!

People aren’t the only victims in a disaster. Make sure if you have pets, they’re part of your emergency and/or evacuation plan. The Center for Disease Control offers a comprehensive guide to Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet. Be sure to read it over and/or check with your local SPCA and keep your furry family members safe, too.


Listen To The Warnings

In a world of sensationalized news, it’s easy to downplay anything that sounds extreme. But when it comes to our families, we can never be too cautious. So while building a bomb shelter in your backyard may be a bit much, it is important to listen when state and city officials warn about impending danger. Better safe than sorry!


Practice Common Sense

Again, it’s all too easy to feel a false sense of bravado or bravery in a disaster. However, your family is too important not to practice common sense and caution. Here are a few basic reminders:

– Avoid driving in extreme conditions or near flooded roadways
– Stay indoors
– Reinforce windows and doors as needed
– Be aware of large trees at risk of falling (and avoid rooms that might be in their path)
– Secure any items in the yard that could pose danger in the event of high winds
– Make sure you’re stocked up on supplies.

There’s bottom line is that there’s no way to stop a natural disaster and no way to predict an emergency. But they are a part of life. The best way to ensure your family’s health and safety is to be prepared.

And so from all of us at Richmond Mom to all of you – STAY SAFE, RICHMOND!