Even with Oklahoma’s increased propensity for severe weather, wild fires and other natural disasters, emergency plans are not often at the forefront of our to-do lists. As we welcome in the new year, now is as good a time as any to take the time to prepare. While it’s impossible to predict exactly when a disaster may strike, having a plan ahead of time can help your family prepare for the unexpected and help ensure your safety in the car and at home.
“When disaster strikes, there’s often little time to react or prepare,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Putting a disaster plan in place ahead of time – and making sure everyone in the household is familiar with it – is the best way to prepare for an emergency situation.”
AAA’s Top 13 Disaster Planning Tips
1. Prepare Emergency Kits. Emergency kits for autos and home should include a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food for each family member, as well as a flashlight, hand-crank or battery-powered radio, batteries, extra cash, cell phone with extra battery and charger, first-aid supplies, critical medications and basic personal hygiene products. Also useful for a car kit are local maps, blankets, towels, shoes, flares and a basic toolkit.
2. Practice First Aid. Learning CPR and emergency first aid can save the lives of family members and friends.
3. Find Commute Options. Consider how different types of natural disasters might affect your commute, and determine alternative routes or forms of transportation to get home. Keep a list of local bus routes.
4. Map It. If you live in an area that’s prone to fires or flooding, map out several evacuation routes from your home and neighborhood.
5. Be School Smart. If you have young children and can’t retrieve them from school, be aware of school emergency procedures, and understand what authorization is required for them to be released to someone other than you.
6. Meet Up. Consider where family members might be during a disaster, how they would get to a safe place, and how you will communicate with each other. Designate a predetermined meeting place if you and your family members are unable to return home and communications systems are down.
7. Make Contacts. Determine out-of-state contacts and program their phone numbers into all cell phones as “ICE” – this stands for “In Case of Emergency” and rescue workers are trained to look for it. Attach a luggage tag with your ICE numbers to young children’s backpacks.
8. Plan for Pets. Make pets a part of your plan by creating a pet emergency kit including pet food, toys and a leash. If you are unable to evacuate with your pet, a pet rescue sticker affixed to a front window can alert rescuers that your pet may be trapped inside. Identify pet-friendly accommodations since pets are not always allowed in emergency shelters.
9. Assign Tasks. Create a chart of important emergency-related tasks – notifying family members, managing supplies, handling pets, monitoring emergency broadcasts, etc. – and assign each one to a household member.
10. Take Cover. If there is no time to evacuate, you may need to shelter in place, so it’s important to identify these locations ahead of time. Depending upon the disaster, this could be a tornado shelter or a ground floor room without windows, or even under a large, strong table.
11. Make an Inventory. Document your possessions on paper or with a video camera or smartphone. Note the replacement costs for your most valuable items, then talk to your insurance agent or customer service representative to be sure you have the right coverage.
12. Review Your Plan. Review the written plan every six months and keep it stored in a paper file, as well as on the computer desktops and smart phones of the members of your household.
13. Check Your Coverage. Find out if your insurance policy covers the types of disaster-related damages that could impact your neighborhood. Standard home insurance policies do not provide coverage for floods or earthquakes.