- Learn & Plan
- Remain Calm
- Gather Information
- Talk About It
- Resume Normal Life
The old saying that “Practice makes perfect” applies to emergency preparedness as well. We practice our emergency plans for a number of reasons, first of which is so that when we need to use them we know HOW to use them. We practice so there is less time spent THINKING what we need to do and more time spent DOING what we need to do. In an emergency situation, seconds can be the difference between life and death.
“Table Top” Practice
Once we know what possible emergencies we could face, it is a good idea to sit down and have a “table top” practice where you verbally go through a scenario with your family. Talk through the steps you each take in the fictitious emergency. Discuss what could go wrong and what additional problems you may face, then what additional plans, actions or supplies could overcome the problems. Write them down and be sure everyone understands them.
When we are practicing, we are able to go through our plans, seeing what works and what doesn’t, without the stress of a real situation. We are able to think of possible obstructions or flaws in our plans and develop strategies to overcome them when we have the time and the rational thought of “peace time”. For example:
- How do we change our emergency plans if something happens during the day when few family members are home?
- What if phone lines don’t work?
- What if the 5 year old sleeps through the fire alarm?
- How do we evacuate with all of our children, or pets, or supplies if the roads are impassible?
It is also a good idea to physically walk through your different plans.
How often do we hear tragic stories of children or adults who didn’t know what to do in the event of a fire? Have a “fire drill night” with your family. Have everyone go into different rooms and then set off the smoke alarm so everyone knows what it sounds like. Make sure there are at least two exits from each room and go out both. Have all family members meet ACROSS THE STREET in an exact location. Do it once or twice, then time it. After everyone has it down, choose a day to do it unannounced. Even do it a few times in the middle of the night.
Practice your family emergency communication plans. Start the family calling tree and time how long it takes for it to come back. Also, have a day that everyone is supposed to call the family out of state emergency contact at a certain time.
Practice your family evacuation routes. Find different routes to and from work, school, church and your evacuation areas. Choose a day to hike with your family and your 72 hour kits to your out of neighborhood evacuation area.
Tools & Supplies
Practice using your emergency tools and supplies. Does everyone know how to use all the items in their 72 hour kits, car kits, work and school kits? Do you know how to siphon from your water storage or how to use the water filter? How about simple car repairs like changing a tire?
Practice living without the utilities. Have everyone practice shutting off the electricity and water – don’t shut off the gas during practice. Choose a weekend where live without running water and electricity. Also turn down the thermostat. How will you stay warm? How will you see at night? How will you prepare food? Do you have enough water stored? What in your plans work and what doesn’t? What changes will you make?
One of the best ways to practice emergency preparedness principles with your family is to go camping. You use many of the basics of survival in a fun and recreational atmosphere where if something DOES go wrong, you are not in a life threatening situation. Use each camping experience to try out a new technique or aspect of emergency preparedness.
As we practice our preparedness plans, we will not only perfect them and make them better, but we will be able to prove to ourselves and our family members that we CAN be prepared and we CAN have that peace of mind that comes from the knowledge that our plans DO work.