Most children are familiar with going through a fire safety drill at school. Depending on the city and state where you live, you may have more than just a fire drill as we do in California. Here our children have an earthquake-natural disaster drill. In light of some unfortunate incidents at schools such as Columbine, and many natural disasters such as the Joplin, Missouri tornado, many schools also go through a "code red" drill, especially on college campuses.
Every year, my children's schools go through these drills. All families should prepare their own home at least once a year, as well. As a former flight attendant, I have learned how practicing routine drills keep you alert and calm during the most harrowing of times. In addition to having supplies on hand in the event of a disaster, it is also about knowing how to prepare your family and practicing how each member will respond to an emergency.
At homeAt least a third or more of people's lives are spent at home. But have you ever practiced having a fire drill with your family? Take the time to map out several routes with your family to get out safely in case of a fire, tornado, earthquake or other disaster. Here are some things you can do with your family to be prepared and start the drill:
Just like a hotel, each bedroom should have an escape plan. At my home, each child knows how to open their window and drop from the sill to the outside. You can establish an escape route for each bedroom and teach each child how to go from their bedroom door and then closest exit, and any window that has ground floor access. It's even realistic to practice in the middle of the night when it's dark and people are a little disoriented.
Clear all exitsBe sure all exits are unblocked from obstructions. For instance, if your garage or laundry room has an exit, be sure you have a safe path to allow access away from the house.
Fire escapeIf you don't have a fire escape and live in a multi-story house or apartment, purchase a window ladder long enough that allows you to drape the ladder from a window to escape to the ground. Have someone below and someone above help little ones down the ladder. This should not be used on more than a two-story house. Otherwise, an fire escape should be mandatory.
Pet safetyIf you have pets, figure out how you will get them out safely. Dogs can be trained to follow you to an exit, but cats and other pets will need another route and means to escape. Wood ramps may be required to get them safely out of a window.
Handicap planIf anyone in your family is handicapped, be sure they know how to escape. If they require assistance, be sure everyone knows how to help them evacuate. Ensure there is adequate room for wheel chairs or other medical devices they may need in order to get out.
In this day and age of cell phones and portable phones, it is still important to have at least one phone line plugged directly to a phone jack that is not electrical.
Fire extinguisherHave fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage, two places most likely to have a fire. Be sure you know how to operate it. We have taught our three daughters to put out a fire we created outside in an outdoor fire pit.
Meeting placeDesignate a meeting place away from the home in the event that structural damage has occurred. We have a two spots outside the house to meet.
Single point of contactIt's often a good idea to designate a relative or friend as a central point of contact. The single point of contact can get in touch with everyone else in the family, coordinate help remotely and just help offload some of the burden in the event of a disaster. Everyone in your family should know who the point of contact is and have their email and cell phone number.
Car suppliesTypically, you will be near your car in the event of a disaster. It's a good idea to have disaster supplies in your car such as a flashlight, blanket, Leatherman, first aid kit, road repair kit including jumper cables, flares, and enough cash for a ¼ tank of gas. You don't want to weigh the car down with loads of supplies, just the bare minimum.
Other ways to prepare
Depending on the natural disasters that may occur in your area, read through the following links to review safety tips.
Starter emergency listFire extinguisher (especially in the garage and kitchen)
Flashlights (one that does not require batteries such as a crank flashlight)
Smoke & Fire alarms
Carbon Monoxide detectors
Cell phone (also optional but handy, solar powered charger)
Cash (about $500)
Matches and candles
Food supplies (camping supplies work great)
Water (keep a week's supply, 1 gallon per person)
Start the conversation with your family about preparing for a natural disaster. Ask them what they do to prepare at school and how some of those drills can help at home.
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