Ziggy (left) and Gizmo (right)
We’ve all heard the saying, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail!” at some point, usually in the context of work or school. Have you thought about it at home? I prepare grocery lists, meals, and any number of other tasks to keep my home life functioning smoothly, but am I prepared for an emergency? What do I do if I wake up in the middle of the night and smell smoke? How do I safely leave my house? If a tornado siren sounds, where’s the safest place in my home to take shelter? I never thought about personal preparedness before I started volunteering with the American Red Cross. Thankfully I haven’t needed to put any preparedness into action, but I’m not willing to press my luck and remain unprepared.
In Ohio I have two major disasters I should prepare for: a home fire and severe weather. The Red Cross has an essential nationwide campaign, “Sound the Alarm,” that brings home fire preparedness right to your door, installing smoke alarms and providing educational materials for you to make your plan! This is how I first created my home fire plan, as a volunteer at the community smoke alarm installation event. I served as an educator and talked to families all over the city about how to prevent home fires, and what to do if you find yourself in one. As I talked with families about the importance of this plan to their safety, I realized I don’t have a plan. I used one of the tools in the educational materials to map out my house and all the exits, so I know exactly how to escape from any room of the house. I live in a ranch home so my plan is pretty straight forward: Use one of the two doors that exit directly outside, and use a window if the doorways are blocked.
You have less than 2 minutes to evacuate your home safely. With most home fires occurring at night, we have to factor in time to wake up, realize something is wrong, and take action. That’s not much time, so I need more than just a plan to know the exits. What about my loved ones? Things can be replaced, but my husband and two dogs can’t be, so my plan also includes locating my husband and dogs if we aren’t already together. There’s a possibility my husband could be in the basement, so my plan would be to run to the basement door if the fire hasn’t overtaken that area and yell down to him. There’s no way to exit the basement other than coming upstairs and exiting through the main level of the house. If my dogs aren’t with me, they would be in the living room, which is my closest doorway exit from my bedroom, so I would exit out the front door and leave it open and call to them to come outside.
As soon as we were outside safely, I would call 9-1-1, and if I don’t have a phone I’ll run to a neighbor’s home. Also, don’t forget to arrange for everyone in the household to meet somewhere a safe distance from your home. Of course, you’ll need to individualize your plan based on your personal living arrangements.
Emergency weather preparedness is also made simple for me because of my ranch home. In the event of a tornado, we would grab the the dogs and head downstairs to the basement, where there are only block windows and no doorways to the outside. For snowstorms and extreme cold, we have canned food, a hand crank can opener, a bulk order of dog food, several blankets, and firewood in the event we lose power and need to stay safe and warm indoors. The Red Cross has a list of items for an emergency kit at Your Survival Kit.
We also need to think about safety plans when traveling. What emergency situations might I find myself in when visiting different areas of the country? I could face floods or wildfires which aren’t typical for my hometown and that I’m not ready to react to. To get your plans started, and for more tools and tips on safety for all types of events, visit at How To Prepare For Emergencies