Southern California was shaken by the earthquakes that rocked the region over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Two major quakes at 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude occurred near Ridgecrest, a small desert town about 110 miles from Los Angeles. While no one seems to have been injured or killed, most citizens are on edge as the braced for over 3,000 aftershocks. Many people are even sleeping outside and experiencing PTSD-like symptoms. According to news interviews, many people think the two large earthquakes are a warning for what they call “The Big One”, which is how they refer to the major devastating earthquake predicted to hit the San Andreas fault. This only reinforces the need for households to create family emergency plans that can give them access to vital resources in the event of a crisis. Many people admit they are not prepared for another major earthquake to hit, and while California does have emergency protocol in place for seismic activity, it is not 100% complete and up to date. As a specialist in emergency preparedness planning, it is painful to hear about the consequences of enormous decisions that individuals and parents found themselves having to make under life-threatening circumstances.
Issues that have risen after the recent earthquakes:
- People unsure of earthquake protocol, turning to social media for tips and how to handle the situation
- Business owners unsure of how to rebuild or fix damage after their stores were shaken
- Families sleeping outside the Red Cross shelter for peace of mind that nothing will fall on them if they sleep outdoors
- Parents not knowing how to explain or comfort their children, and having to create a plan while panicked
I spend several hundred hours every year helping families prevent these terrible situations by preparing in advance. We work very closely with senior executives and affluent families to anticipate crises – such as a natural disaster event like the California earthquakes, a travel-related incident, stalking and domestic violence, home intrusion or a medical family emergency for a family member – and put planning in place ahead of time in order mitigate risks and save lives. Every family is different. Every environment carries a different set of risks. Every individual makes different choices with respect to the key planning drivers: convenience, probability, cost and risk. The best way to capture all this planning for so many different potential scenarios is to develop a Family Emergency Plan.
Create a Family Emergency Plan: 4 Quick Tips to Get You Started
It is important to understand what disasters or hazards should be mitigated. To do this, consider likely events and their impacts. Through this exercise, mitigation can be tailored to each family. For instance, it may not make sense for a family in the Midwest to make structural changes to their home to defend against an earthquake.
After deciding what possible events may impact your family the most, it is time to develop your Family Emergency Plan. Much of this plan will require documentation — including that of emergency contacts and evacuation routes — and other parts require action. For example, we suggest establishing an emergency fund and setting aside cash that is quickly accessible. Keep key resources, such as water, food and medical supplies, in the home at all times. Much of these resources should be kept in “go bags” that family members can quickly access if emergency egress is necessary.
Training is an integral part of the plan development process. This could include specialized medical training, and tabletops or functional exercises to develop confidence and understanding in the family emergency plan. Documents and go bags can help, but training will be especially helpful to fall back on when you may not have considered an unplanned situation.
The response phase can be characterized simply: “This is not a drill.” In the unfortunate circumstance that the plan is used, we recommend reviewing its effectiveness after the fact. After all, disasters are fluid and even the best-made plans at times will change due to unforeseen circumstances that were not accounted for in the plan. A plan is a living document and should regularly be updated.
Recovery is the most overlooked phase of the emergency management process. During this phase, families return to normal life after transitioning from the response phase. This difficult time will become less burdensome if families lay out what recovery may look for them prior to any disaster. For example, set aside contact numbers for individuals who could assess the structural integrity of your home or even professional counseling services if any event is traumatizing.
Whether you reach out for assistance or do it yourself, creating a family emergency plan is critical. Your life and the right to live it in peace and security is unpredictable. Be prepared.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or advice.