Protecting your family

Disasters can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighbourhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services such as water, electricity or telephones were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. Families can, and do, cope with disasters by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed below to create your family’s disaster plan. Knowing what to do in any eventuality is your best protection and your responsibility.

Step 1:

  • Meet with your family and discuss the importance of preparing for any type of disaster that affects your family unit such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires. Take especial care to explain the dangers of these disaster events to children.
  • Explain what to do in each case.
  • Pick two places to meet:
  1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
  2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the address, how to get there, and the phone number.
  • Ask a friend or family member to be your “family contact.” Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Every member of the family must know your contact's phone number.
  • Discuss what to do and where to go if you have to evacuate.
  • Plan how to take care of your pets. Animals are not allowed inside emergency shelters due to health regulations so make advance plans for relocating pets outside the home.

Step 2: Complete this checklist:

  • Post emergency telephone numbers—fire, police, ambulance, etc.—by phones.
  • Teach children how and when to call 119 or 110 for emergency help.
  • Show each family member how and when to turn off the utilities—water, gas, and electricity—at the main.
  • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage for each hazard.
  • Install a fire extinguisher in your home and get training from the fire department or a safety team for each family member on how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type).  Make sure each family member knows where the fire extinguisher is kept.
  • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
  • Conduct a home hazard hunt.
  • Stock emergency supplies and assemble an emergency kit.
  • Take a first aid and CPR class.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find at least two ways out of each room.
  • Find the safe places in your home for each type of disaster.

Step 3: Practice and maintain your plan.

  • Quiz your kids every six months or so.
  • Conduct fire and emergency evacuations.
  • Replace stored water and stored food every six months.
  • Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.

Step 4: Conduct a home hazard hunt. In a disaster, ordinary items in the home can cause injury and damage. Anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire is a potential hazard. Here are a few things to check for:

  1. Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections.
  2. Fasten shelves securely.
  3. Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves.
  4. Hang pictures and mirrors away from beds.
  5. Brace overhead light fixtures.
  6. Secure water heaters by strapping them to the wall.
  7. Repair cracks in ceilings or foundations.
  8. Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products away from heat sources.

Here's an outline of a Family Emergency Plan you can use to create your own family disaster plan.