What's Your Emergency Communication Plan?

Advice from the Community Disaster Education trenches, by Courtney Zielinski

The questions I’m asked most frequently at preparedness presentations have to do with keeping in contact with family and loved ones during a disaster or emergency. Knowing that loved ones are safe is a major concern when disasters happen and not all disasters and emergencies will occur while family members are in the same location. Creating a family communication plan is a very important component of your overall emergency preparedness plan.

Some pointers:

-Designate an “Out-of-town” contact for an emergency. Why? Making a long-distance phone call during an emergency may be easier than making phone call across town since local towers might be overloaded. The out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.

-If you have a cell phone, designate specific people for emergency personnel to call In Case of Emergency, by typing ICE next to their name in your contact list. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel can use your ICE contacts to get a hold of the best person possible to assist you.

-Complete an Emergency Contact Card, with the contact information for your ICE listings and your out-of-town contact and keep it handy in your wallet, purse, or a child’s back pack.

-Tell people you’ve listed them as emergency contacts! This seems like a silly step, but if a family member doesn’t know they are your emergency contact, then they’ll be surprised when everyone starts calling them. It will let your friends and families do their job.

-Make sure everyone knows how to send text messages (also known as SMS or Short Message Service)! Text messages can often get through network disruptions when a phone call might not be enough.

The first step is always to take the time and sit and talk with your family and friends. A few moments spent writing down contact information, and actually discussing a communication plan with your family will help you in a stressful situation. For more information on preparing your family for an emergency visit redcross.orgEnter to win the National Preparedness Month 2012 Family Disaster Plan Prize Drawing – you could win a new Apple iPad!

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