3 steps to creating a family communication emergency plan

Chaos can quickly set in when natural disasters strike. People who are in the eye of the storm or those with loved ones who are potentially in danger may spend hours, if not days, trying to get in touch with friends and family to determine if everyone is alright. However temporary it may be, the period between a storm touching down and speaking with loved ones can be agonizing. But there is a way to facilitate communication with loved ones during a natural disaster, and all it takes is some simple planning.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, often referred to as FEMA, notes that people need to send and receive information from their families during disasters. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that communication networks like mobile phones and computers will be reliable during disasters, when electricity may be interrupted and mobile towers might be compromised. As a result, it’s imperative that people develop communication plans with their families so they can reach one another in the wake of natural disasters. Three simple steps can help families as they begin devising their emergency communication plans.

1. Collect all necessary information.
Gather and jot down the names and contact information of all family members, making sure to create a paper copy that will be accessible whether the electricity or mobile tower goes out or not. Include names, phone numbers and addresses of nearby friends and family members, as well as anyone who lives close enough to potentially offer temporary shelter should your home be damaged or pose a threat. Include the names, phone numbers and addresses of medical facilities, doctors, schools, or service providers on the list as well. Elderly men and women can include the names of all medications they take next to the names of the doctors who prescribed them.

2. Distribute the copies.
Make copies of your list and distribute them to everyone in your family, including people who do not live close. Faraway relatives can use the list to try to find you should they be unable to communicate with you in the wake of a disaster. Make sure everyone in your home keeps a printed copy of the list on them at all times, whether it’s in a backpack, purse or wallet. FEMA notes that those who complete their family communication plan online can print their plans onto wallet-sized cards by visiting ready.gov/make-a-plan. Keep a copy of the list in a central location in your home as well, such as on the refrigerator.

3. Practice your plan.
FEMA advises holding regular household meetings where families can go over their contact information and practice what to do should they need to communicate with one another during an emergency.
Planning is an essential component of disaster preparedness that can save lives and help families find one another in the wake of emergencies.