The 2021 winter storm in Texas was a harsh reminder that an emergency can strike anytime. The extreme weather shut down roadways and disrupted the power supply for more than 100,000 residents — many of whom had never experienced a loss of electricity and didn’t know what to do.
Whether it is a house fire, home invasion, natural disaster, or any other emergency, preparing for the unexpected is vital. The best way to ensure your family is safe during an emergency is to be ready for anything from minor inconveniences to major disasters.
Use a Home Security System
A home security system can provide you with an extra layer of protection during an emergency. Many systems are equipped with features to secure your property and alert your family against intruders, such as motion sensors and video surveillance.
They can also contact the police in case of a break-in or other dangerous situations, giving you peace of mind when you’re at home or away. When choosing a security system, make sure to select one that is customizable and notifies the police in case of an active emergency.
Teach Your Children Crime Prevention
One way to help children with crime prevention is to role-play with them. This helps them learn how to say “no,” and also teaches them about personal boundaries. Children need to understand that they have the power to stop a situation from escalating, and knowing when it’s time to call the police is crucial. Teaching kids these skills is an excellent way for parents to keep their children safe and teach them how to confidently navigate situations that could become dangerous.
Have a Disaster Preparedness Plan
An emergency can be chaotic. During these times, it will be vital to have a plan in place. A great way to overcome confusion during an emergency is to practice for it. This means setting up some type of evacuation plan with the family and also making checklists. Items and goals for your list should include:
- Emergency kit: This contains all necessary items to help you survive during a disaster. Some essentials include a flashlight and extra batteries, a radio, emergency rations (for pets as well) for at least 72 hours, and water purification measures that aren’t available for purchase after a disaster has occurred.
- Safe places in your home: This includes finding rooms that don’t have windows (or have space away from windows) and a fortified, locking door. These parts of your house would be safest during a natural disaster or home intrusion.
- First aid and CPR training: Having the required training will help you provide first aid before emergency services can arrive and can save a life. Even band-aids and gauze will be helpful for minor cuts and scrapes. First aid kits can be found at local stores and online, and CPR training can be learned at your local fire department or through a class from the American Red Cross.
- Turning off utilities: Water, gas, and electricity may continue to flow into your home after an emergency if you aren’t prepared. Electricity and gas can even cause fires or explosions during damage. Look for your home’s circuit breaker box. Within that box are switches to turn off electricity to the entire house. Water should be turned off via a valve near your water meter or similar in your basement. With gas, shut off the main valve in front of your house after turning off all appliances. If you notice any leak in the home, open a window and call for assistance. You will also need to know how to and plan for staying warm and living without power.
- Evacuation routes: Create multiple exit routes if possible. If you are in a high-risk area for wildfires, flooding, or earthquakes, these should be the routes you choose to take when exiting your house and getting out of your city if necessary. Your evacuation routes should be planned out in advance and known by everyone who lives with you. It will also be essential to have a meeting place designated in case family members become separated during an emergency.
- Headcount: It’s critical to account for everyone in your family, even if they are pets. Get a backpack or to-go bag for each person containing items like laptops, clothes, and wallets if possible so that people can stay as mobile as possible after an emergency. Everyone should carry their ID, such as a driver’s license, on them as well.
- Post-emergency contacts: After an emergency, it’s natural for people to panic and feel uncertain about the future. Keep a list of important contacts such as friends, family members, insurance information, and emergency contact numbers.
An emergency can be made worse by tripping downstairs if they are poorly lit, sliding on loose rugs, and even starting a fire or contributing to it because you’ve put off fixing that faulty electrical outlet. To prevent tripping hazards, always keep stairways well-lit and clean up any clutter that can cause a fall.
If you are concerned about the lighting in your house, it will help to know that you can prepay your electricity bill. This way, you know your electricity will not go out at the wrong time because you forgot to pay. However, not all power providers offer this luxury, so it will be essential to know the areas where prepaid electricity is provided.
Protect Important Documents, Photos, or Other Belongings
Floods and fires can destroy essential papers as well as beloved belongings — both physical and digital copies. If you anticipate a flood, keep your important documents in watertight plastic bags. This will help protect the documents from moisture damage. Making copies of these important documents and storing them in a safe deposit box, home safe, or online via the Cloud is an excellent way to protect your physical and digital files from fire damage.
Get Vehicles Ready
Your vehicle may be imperative in an emergency, and if it is not serviced and ready when you need it, you may find yourself in serious trouble. In a pinch, you can even charge your cellular devices in your car during a power outage if it is in working order.
To ensure that you are prepared for any situation, you should have your car serviced before winter hits and again at the beginning of spring. During both these times, oil change companies will typically offer discounts on their services as they gear up for a large influx of cars. This is a great opportunity to get your car tuned up and ready for the season so that you do not find yourself stranded during your time of need.
You should also make sure to pack an emergency kit for traveling since you never know when you may be stranded somewhere or how long it will take to reach a service station.
Provisions, first aid kits, and other emergency preparedness items are not free. Having the proper equipment to ensure safety and security should a disaster occur is important. It can be a burdensome expense for a family to bear, but it often saves lives. Consider putting some money aside regularly for an emergency fund to ensure that preparations are not impeded.
After a disaster strikes, it can be challenging to make ends meet with the cost of recovery efforts and sheltering supplies, sometimes costing more than what a person makes in a month. Having a fund set aside will help ensure that a family member does not have to forego needed purchases or incur debt to deal with unforeseen circumstances. This is especially important for those living in areas where disasters are common, and the cost to recover from one hits a family hard.
Have Multiple Modes of Communication
Especially if you get separated, having multiple ways to communicate will be essential in an emergency. Having the contact information of family member’s phones (including children) and having numerous channels of communication such as ham radios, two-way radio transceivers, and even social media accounts can help you all keep in touch, coordinate efforts, locate each other, and navigate your way through a tough situation together.
Connect With Your Community
Connecting with your community can help spread information about what is happening around you during an emergency. Even if cell phones are not available, if people know that an emergency has occurred, they may know where to go or who to get ahold of for more details.
Coordinating with your community in preparation for an emergency can give you better chances of staying safe by:
- Pooling resources such as firewood, human resources, and tools;
- Designating community members with specific skills such as knowing CPR or first aid to help assist others in the event of an emergency;
- Organizing an online or physical community board to keep everyone safe by spreading information.
- Coordinating a community response team to help with volunteering, supplying food and water, or offering assistance to those in need after an emergency.
It never hurts to be prepared for an emergency. Having the proper tools on hand can save you time, money, and even your life. All it takes is a little bit of work before a potential disaster to keep you and your family safe.