It’s Day 7 of our Let’s Get Prepared! Challenge, and we’re in Phase 2: “Create Your Plan”. Today, we’re focusing on Communication Plans.
A communication plan is an important tool to help everyone in your family know how to get and stay connected when an emergency occurs. Thinking through what the different scenarios might mean to communication can help flush out the information you need and the process you’d take to stay in touch.
Crafting your plan starts with asking some simple questions to imagine how you’ll connect with your family in the event of an emergency;
- How will I know my family is okay?
- How will my family know *I* am okay?
- What if it’s during the work day? During a commute? During the school day (if you have kids)?
- What if you or someone in your family is traveling?
Then, take those answers and make it a little more complicated:
- What happens if the phone networks are so congested I can’t make or receive calls?
- What will I do if my phone is lost, damaged or dead?
- What if there is no electricity, and therefore, no wifi or limited computer connectivity?
(I heard a story out of the Baton Rouge flooding last week, where someone hadn’t heard from a family member in the floods and was worried. When they finally reconnected, the answer was a simple one: “I was going to call you, but my phone slipped out of my hands and landed in the water.” Phone unusable. Contact numbers inaccessible. All in a moment. (Here’s a peek ahead: When we talk about preparations during the next phase, you’ll recall this story when I mention “If you’re in an emergency that involves water, put your phone in a Ziploc bag.” )
How do you approach CREATING your plan?
- Collect the information you need
- Share it — (both on paper and electronically)
- Practice it and keep it updated
- Household contacts — every phone number and email address for the people in your household (if anyone has a hearing or speech disability and requires a relay machine, include information about this)
- Outside-the-home contacts – workplace, school, childcare, caregiver contacts for those places or people with whom your family spends time outside the home. For the workplace, capture the main phone number in addition to the direct line for your family member. Discuss with one another what you would do if you were separated during an emergency, and how you would reconnect and ideally rendezvous. UNDERSTAND the evacuation policies and the emergency management policies in each of these locations, as you may not have the freedom to just leave a place while the workplace or school is conducting its own procedures.
- Out-of-town family or contacts – Designate (at least) one person who does not live in your area who is a central point of contact. People can get in touch with THAT person to let them know they are okay, if they can’t communicate easily with each other.
- Important phone numbers for services – doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians, utility emergencies, insurance company, which you may need to contact.
- Meeting Places:
- Indoor: If you’re told to seek shelter (home, school, workplace) where will you go?
- Near your home: If you are evacuating your home (house fire, for instance) where will you meet? Be specific. “Outside” is not specific. “On the corner” is not specific, if there are 4 options to “on the corner”. Is everyone expected to meet at the mailbox across the street? The big elm tree at your neighbor’s house? (Don’t say “meet at the fire hydrant; if your home is on fire, your fire hydrant is going to be a busy spot for firefighters.)
- Outside your immediate neighborhood: If you’re not home, or you can’t get to your home, this is where you will meet up. This could be a building like a church, library, a friend’s house, etc.
- Outside of your town: Establish an “if we can’t get to our town, where will we go” spot. This comes into play if your town has been evacuated or you can’t get to it at all. When my husband and I used to both work downtown, we had a meeting place arranged for how we would connect in the city, rather than travel back to our town to meet.
- Share both paper and electronic copies of this complete set of information
- Create wallet cards for your family, and ensure everyone has one in their wallet, purse, or backpack.
- Share it with the out-of-town contact, and make sure that person knows the procedures you want to follow.
Practice and Maintain:
- On a quarterly basis, review the information on the plan. Set up a reminder in your calendar to check it and determine if any information has changed.
- Annually, reconnect with your out-of-town contact to be sure that person is still capable and willing to be your point of contact.
- Make sure everyone knows how to send and reply to texts. When the phone lines are congested, texts are going to have a better shot of getting through. For children, make sure you discuss what you want them to say back to your text, or how you want them to reach you. Prompt for simple and clear answers like status and location: “I’m ok. I’m at Suzie’s house.”
- Create your Family Communication Plan.
- Take on the COLLECT and SHARE actions. COLLECT today, and commit to SHARE by the end of this week.
Join in the conversation over at the Clever Girl Organizing Challenge Facebook Group to learn from and to teach others as we all take on the Let’s Get Prepared! Challenge!
Reminder: Our goal here is to take steps towards improvement. The content in these posts is designed to inspire thinking, not fear.