Patricia Skinner, Merrill, Thomas A.
The chaos that came in the wake of some of last year’s hurricanes demonstrated the need for families to have basic plans for what to do in case of a storm or any other emergency.
LSU AgCenter experts say making the plans isn’t complicated, but making them now ensures everyone has a better chance of knowing what to do if disaster strikes.
"After Katrina, the nation saw families separated and people who didn’t know where they’d go next or what to do," says LSU AgCenter disaster preparedness specialist Pat Skinner. "Then Rita came in and wiped out even more communities."
Skinner and other LSU AgCenter experts say a family emergency plan certainly can’t stop the devastation wrought by a hurricane or other disaster – although they point out the plans may help people reduce losses and cope better with the aftermath.
"Your plans won’t fend off a storm," Skinner says. "But they may help you and your family save what you can, and they may help you stay together through it all."
Experts say emergency plans should address basic issues such as these:
–Know the emergency broadcast station frequency for your area, so you can keep up with the latest news bulletins.
–Map out where you would meet and who you would call if you were separated from other family members in an emergency.
–Think about measures you need to take to protect your home and property. Are there things you can do well in advance, such as trimming trees to prepare for a storm? And what will you need to do at the last minute, such as turning off utilities, securing loose items or covering windows?
–Make sure you have basic emergency supplies, such as a battery-powered radio, flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit and so forth.
–Keep at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food on hand and devise a means of storing ample water for that time frame, in case you need it.
–Consider if there is someone you would tell if you decided to leave home in an emergency (neighbors, out-of-town relatives or others)? Doing this also gives family members someone else to contact about your status if they can’t get in touch with you.
–Where would you go if you needed to evacuate? Would you go to a shelter? Do you have out-of-town friends or relatives who could house you? Remember, hotel rooms are difficult to find during an emergency.
–What route would you take during an evacuation? Do you have a car, and would you drive? Would you need to depend on public transportation, and if so, will it be available. Check with your area’s emergency manager for information on your community’s evacuation plans.
–What would you take with you if you had to evacuate? You’ll definitely need to have identification, some cash, copies of important papers, medications you take regularly, clothing for at least a few days and other necessities for daily living. You also might want to take copies of a few family photos or other sentimental items you could reasonably transport.
–How will you provide for your pets’ care and safety? Will you take them with you if you evacuate? Can you provide them with plenty of food and shelter if they must be left behind?
"You need to make sure everyone in the family knows the basic parts of your plan, so it’s definitely a good idea to write it down and share it with those in your household and others who may be concerned about you," Skinner says.
"A written plan also can serve as a checklist for you, so you’ll want to keep it some place where you can find it in a hurry," she says. "After all, emergencies tend to be a time when people get excited and may forget what needs to be done. If you have a plan, it helps smooth things out a little."
For more information on preparing for emergencies, visit www.lsuagcenter.com and click the links for disaster information publications, storm preparation news or disaster recovery listed under "Features" on that page.