Create a family emergency plan to avoid disaster

September is National Preparedness Month, and just as the hospital plans for emergencies and disasters, you and your family should also plan to protect yourself and your loved ones when an emergency occurs.

Disasters, whether natural or caused by humans, often happen with little to no warning, yet a study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that fewer than 50 percent of American households had discussed or developed an emergency plan.  There are five basic steps to help you and your family be prepared for a disaster:

  1. Know the risks in your area
  2. Have an individual and family preparedness plan in place
  3. Always have a supply of water and non-perishable supplies available
  4. Ensure that you have an up-to-date contact list for people you may need to reach out to during a disaster
  5. Establish alternative means of communication in case traditional means are not available

There are several things to consider as you develop your family preparedness plan in order to make it effective during an emergency.  The first step is to determine how you receive emergency alerts and warnings and keep those in mind so you receive messages. Emergencies can require you to leave your home, think about where your family will seek shelter during an evacuation.  If the need arises to evacuate, think of the best routes out of your community but also think about the best way to quickly leave your home while grabbing any long term necessities. Finally, determine the best way to quickly connect and communicate with all family members to put your plans in motion.    

There is a lot to think about when you create your plans, start with the following to ensure everything is covered.

  • Ages of members within your household
  • Responsibilities for assisting others
  • Locations frequented
  • Dietary needs
  • Medical needs including prescription medications and medical equipment
  • Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment
  • Languages spoken
  • Cultural and religious considerations
  • Pets or service animals
  • Households with school-aged children

If you have questions, or for more information on how to create a family emergency plan, visit FEMA at www.ready.gov or the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management at www.ready.nj.gov.  Always remember tragedy can be avoided if the proper steps are taken to be prepared.  

Scott Skrivanek is coordinator of Life Safety and Emergency Management at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center.  Raritan Bay is a N.J. designated Primary Stroke Center and recipient of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2018 Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award, recognizing optimal treatment of stroke patients, a recipient of the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the AHA’s Heart Check Mark for Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers, and the AHA’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award recognizing high-quality care of patients experiencing a severe heart attack.

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