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Emergency Preparedness Checklist with pencil.

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Many people avoid answering questions that start with “what if.” This is why too few individuals have life insurance, wills or disaster plans. Having a disaster plan in place, will bring piece of mind and give people the best chance of staying safe during a disaster.

“Being prepared in case of unfortunate circumstances is not only responsible, but it enables individuals and families to protect their quality of life after an unexpected life event occurs,” said Ciji Griffin, an Alabama Extension Disaster Education Network representative. “This is especially true when it comes to natural or man-made disasters.”

Preparing for Disasters

The hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, on average a hurricane season produces 12 named storms. For the 2019 season, the forecast projected 10 to 17 named storms, with two to four of those expected to become major hurricanes such as Hurricane Dorian.

What To Do if a Hurricane Strikes?

Communication is urgent and immediate when a disaster occurs. Unfortunately, families may or may not be together and normal communication channels may be interrupted. But how do you minimize the impact of a disaster? A communication plan will help to answer these questions and to develop a clear course of action. A communication plan is a disaster or emergency action plan between family members that includes evacuation plans, emergency contacts, and alternative forms of communication.

There are many great online resources to aid you in creating your family communication plan through organizations such as the FEMA and the American Red Cross. However, individuals and families can also create a plan by following these three easy steps: collect emergency contacts, save your plan, and share your plan.

Collect Emergency Contacts

Collect emergency contact numbers for family members, friends and any office numbers you may need. Along with numbers, a meeting place should be established in the event you have to evacuate your home, or you are not at home when a disaster strikes. Consider multiple possibilities and layout your plan of action. For example, if you have school-aged children and an emergency happens during school hours, do you know the school’s emergency communication plan and procedures? Does your communication plan include who will get to the kids at school at a moment’s notice? These are questions families should consider when developing a complete and effective communication plan.

Save Your Plan

Be sure to save your communication plan as a hard copy and as a digital document. Depending on the nature of a disaster, you may lose a paper copy and technology is not always reliable during severe weather. So, be sure that you reproduce the document in multiple formats.

Share Your Plan

Share your communication plan with family members and other individuals that are part of your plan whether they live near you, or in another state or country. Once everyone has the information and knows the plan, be sure to practice carrying out the plan. People react to stressful situations differently. When a family practices a plan, people are being trained how to respond even under stressful conditions. Practicing also allows families to identify parts of their plan that may need adjusting. Discuss the steps that went well and what needs to be improved about your plan. Then practice more as you update your plan.

“Remember, what you do today determines what happens tomorrow. Get prepared and remain aware in order to keep your family safe,” said Griffin.

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