When Disaster Strikes – How will your Family Connect?

upset boy being held by dad

Most of us don’t give this question a second thought until it’s too late; we find ourselves standing alone with a disaster staring us in the face.  Panic overcomes us as we wonder how and where our family is.  During times of non-disaster, it’s usually just a simple message or call, but in many disasters using your cell phone may not be an option.  What happens then?  Will you be able to connect with your family? Do you and your family have a plan to connect after a disaster if cell phones are not working?

If you answered YES, you would be thankful you took the time to develop your Family Meeting Place(s).  They will be worth their weight in gold as you have a plan to connect no matter what the disaster.

If you answered NO, read on so you can confidently answer YES I have a plan to connect with my family!

A well-thought-out Family Disaster Plan will provide you and your family comfort knowing you have a way to connect, and once you know your family is safe, that takes a boatload of the stress of your shoulders.

Your Family Meeting Place is a pre-determined location where you and your family will meet when forced to flee your home. Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, so we need to ensure we are prepared for various disasters by having Family Meeting Places that will work for our own unique needs.

Family Meeting Place – Near your Home

Imagine tonight a fire in your home forces you to evacuate your home quickly to get to safety.  Depending on your home, you may all evacuate from different doors, and you may all safely be outside, but then what. How do you connect if you are all scattered in different areas once outside?  How will you connect to ensure everyone got out safely?  With a pre-determined Family Meeting Place, you and your family would know to meet at that location.

Responding to apartment and house fires to support those displaced,  I often arrive on the scene to find fire trucks with their bright flashing lights lining the street, firefighters rushing about to extinguish the raging fires – to say the least, it’s a chaotic scene.

Far too often, you see a frantic mom or dad standing in the middle of the street, with fear on their face as they look for their family members.   Desperately, they are trying to locate their family members amidst the chaos, making it almost impossible to connect without a Family Meeting Place quickly.

Apartment Escape PlanAt a recent Disaster Preparedness Presentation, a woman raised her hand. “I live in an apartment, and we have one door out into the hallway, and the other door leads to our balcony, which is on the 7th floor.  I sometimes leave my 9-year old in the apartment while I run down to the garbage or check the mail.  What would happen if the alarms go off and I can’t get back to my unit.  You could see the fear on her face as she waited for my reply.  I could see she had never considered how a fire could impact her and her family.  She was concerned as they had never had that conversation.

The first step is to make sure your child (at an age-appropriate level) knows what to do when the fire, smoke or CO2 alarms ring. As a parent, we need to make sure our kids know what to do and more importantly, would they do it?  Practicing how to evacuate from your home and go to your Family Meeting Place is a great place to start.  Remember the old saying Practice makes Perfect.  Well, that is certainly applicable to this situation.

The likelihood of that situation playing out is pretty low, but there is always a possibility, and we need to be prepared for that. You would never forgive yourself if something happened.  Could you imagine how you would feel if your child faced that situation and didn’t know what to do?  Your child MUST be familiar with the process.

I strongly encourage you to practice with the family wherever you live.  Practice evacuating from every room of your house or apartment and then meeting at your Family Meeting Place will reinforce the actions you are to take if facing a fire. This will most certainly speed up the time it takes to connect if you are not together.  You should also advise your kids to tell the fire department if they are alone, so they are protected should you not show up just as quickly – it will also reduce their fear as they will feel a lot safer with support than standing alone.

Fire in Building Saskatchewan

You are probably wondering what makes an excellent place for your Family Meeting Place.  It truly depends on where your home is situated.  You want this location to be close to your home but not in the way of the fire department. It could be across the street in front of the neighbours. It could be at the mailbox or bench across the street. You need to look at your location and determine what makes the best sense for you and your family.

Now that you have a Family Meeting Place outside of your home, does this mean your planning is complete?  Not at all.  In my next Blog Post, we will look at identifying Family Meeting Places for other types of disasters.

Stay SAfe!

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