Why it's important to have a family disaster plan
Emergencies are, by definition, unexpected.
Many South Carolina residents who faced flood waters last fall never thought it would happen to them. The time between seasons — when the danger of ice is waning and the fiercest storms are yet to be forecast — is the perfect to time prepare in case disaster strikes.
Derrec Becker, a public information officer with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, said being prepared is a family affair.
“We encourage everybody to have an emergency plan,” Becker said. “It doesn’t have to take a lot of time — a simple five minutes around the dinner table. Emergency preparation can be a fun and cool thing. Think about the Boy Scouts. They are great at emergency preparation.”
Becker said parents should talk with children — if they are old enough to understand — about what to do in emergency situations, including establishing family meeting places outside the home, if necessary. Parents should consider what they would do if an emergency strikes while their child is at school and the parents are unable to leave their location. Ask school officials about family reunification plans and the school emergency plans.
Emergency situations can arise even without large-scale extreme circumstances.
“A severe thunderstorm can be just as devastating as a hurricane when it comes to your family,” Becker said.
Before disaster strikes, Becker said parents should consider their insurance coverage, including whether or not they need flood insurance.
Beyond that, emergency preparations can be personalized to each family’s needs. Becker urges families to consider people, pets and property as they determine their needs. Keep extra diapers, formula and baby food, if those are needed in your home.
“Anything that your family uses on a daily basis — imagine having your ways of stocking those items cut off,” Becker said. “Make sure you have enough medications on hand. Talk to your doctor about how much to buy in advance.”
Becker said families should have two gallons of water per person per day — one gallon for drinking and one gallon for other needs.
Keep extra batteries on hand. Create a family first aid kit. Consider buying a NOAA-certified tone alert radio or install the NOAA app on your phone. Keep some cash available, since ATMs may not work.
Families should remember to text first and plan to talk later in the event of an emergency, Becker said.
“Think about other ways to keep your devices charged,” Becker said.
While creating a formal disaster kit isn’t necessary, Becker said it is important to keep ample supplies on hand. Families with pets should have food and water set aside for them as well.
Remember that a disaster could also mean a lot of waiting and no electricity.
“Find ways to keep your children entertained, especially if you have to evacuate,” he said.
Becker recommends having a few portable — but not electronic — toys, puzzles and books available.
Becker recommends building up disaster supplies gradually and rotating food to ensure freshness.
“Rather than bread and milk, head for the canned goods aisle,” he said.
And it is a good idea to have items needed for recovery as well, such as cleaning gloves, work gloves and work boots.
“You don’t think it will happen in your area, but look at Columbia in October,” Becker said. “You can’t play the guessing game with your family’s safety.”
Find out more
For a detailed supply checklist and tips on creating a family disaster plan, visit http://www.scemd.org.