Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to Create an Emergency Kit for Your Home

Guest post by Jeralyn Nelson
First published on House Sitting Jobs


You never know when an emergency will happen, which is why you should always be ready for one if the situation does arise. To make sure you’re prepared for whatever may come, take the time to create an emergency kit for your home and make sure every member of your family and your nanny know where it is and what’s inside.  Also make sure everyone knows and understands the emergency procedures for a disaster. This kind of preparation can save you seconds or minutes in a life-threatening situation.

Learn about your local emergency warning systems. Your local emergency management office, civil defense office, or Red Cross chapter can give you detailed information about your area’s early warning systems. Know where to get up-to-date information about natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, and flooding. To make sure you don’t miss a critical announcement, purchase a self-powered weather alert radio that can be set to your location and warn you of a weather emergency. 

Stock up on supplies for a power outage. Short power outages are inconvenient, but long outages can be a danger to your family’s health and safety. Make sure you have self-powered flashlights and lanterns, an emergency radio, and plenty of batteries for book lights, portable DVD players, and handheld games.  Stock up on non-perishable food like canned meats, tuna, soups, fruits, and vegetables, plus boxed food like crackers, goldfish, and other kid-friendly snacks. Make sure you have a hand-held can opener on hand too. Have plenty of water available for each person in your family. If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, stock enough wood to keep a fire going for a few days. In winter, this may be your only way to keep the chill away.

Create a fire escape plan. This can be a family project. Using graph paper create a map of each floor of your home, including all possible emergency exits, like windows and doors. Map out one, and two if possible, escape routes from each room. If you have a second story, include routes that use lower story roofs and home emergency window ladders. Choose a place far from the house to meet as a family once each person escapes the house. Make sure there’s a clear landmark like a street sign or large tree to avoid frightened or panicked family members becoming disorientated. Decide in advance who will help younger children out of the house. Practice getting out of the house and meeting at the family meeting spot with your children at least twice a year. This can be a fun family activity. Have everyone start in bed blindfolded to simulate a smoky, nighttime fire. Practice staying low to the ground or crawling, covering your mouth with a cloth, and checking doors to see if they’re cool to the touch and safe to open. Once you get outside, remove the blindfold and head to the meeting spot. Time the escape from start to finish to ensure your family can make it out in a reasonable amount of time.

Choose an emergency meeting place in case of evacuation. Chances are your family members will be in separate locations when disaster hits. If your neighborhood is unsafe or has been evacuated, choose a place to meet. It should be accessible by every member of the family, in a safe area (e.g. out of the flood zone), and not in an area that gets congested during an evacuation. Each family member or caregiver should have a map with the designated location and alternative routes to get there clearly marked.

Know who to contact in case of an emergency. Often during an emergency, local phone lines are down and cell towers are overloaded, making it impossible to connect with family members or caregivers who are not with you. Designate a first and second contact person, that way if a family member isn’t able to make it to the meeting point they can get a message to the rest of the family through the contact person. Choose people far outside the local area who would likely be unaffected by the disaster.

Don’t forget your pets. Include your dog or cat in your emergency plan. Designate one person to be in charge of crating and carrying the animals in an emergency evacuation, and if your pet sleeps in a crate, releasing him in case of fire.

Fires, natural disasters, and other emergencies can be scary, especially for children. Developing a smart plan of action, practicing the plan, knowing who is responsible for doing what, and having the right supplies on hand can not only give you peace of mind, it can also be the difference between handling an emergency and a experiencing family tragedy.
 

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