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Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes. That’s why having a preparedness plan in place is crucial. Emergency situations can be incredibly stressful as it is, let alone having to worry if your loved ones are safe. With a detailed communication plan, everyone in the family may be able to stay calm and feel in control in an otherwise terrifying situation. Knowing what to do, how to reach out to other loved ones and where to meet up can make all the difference in the aftermath of an emergency.

Teach your family how to respond during an emergency with these helpful tips from the professionals at ServiceMaster Tri-Cities.

What to include in your emergency communication plan

While your family’s emergency communication plan will be unique, there are specific items every communication plan should include. Use the following steps to help you draft your family’s plan:

Gather important contact information

Collect contact information so each of your family members will know how to reach out in case cell phones and the internet is unavailable. Include each person’s email addresses and phone numbers. You should also add important people and offices, including schools, doctors, medical facilities and insurance providers. Finally, identify someone outside of your community or state who can act as a central point of contact to help your family reconnect. Sometimes, local phone lines can be jammed during a disaster, making it easier to make a long-distance call with someone who can coordinate meeting points for you. After you’ve identified this person, add their contact information to your file.

Review school or workplace emergency response plans

If you have a child in school, review the school’s emergency response plan. Discuss each detail with your family members, and let your child know who might pick them up if an emergency occurs. Teach your kids about emergency preparedness to help them understand what might happen and what they may have to do during a disaster. Then, sign up for the school’s emergency alert system so you’ll be notified immediately if an emergency happens during school hours.

Designate emergency meeting areas

Let your family know where to meet if you’re separated during an emergency. Include the following places:

  • Inside: Educate your family about where to go for protection if a tornado, earthquake or other natural disaster strikes. This can include small, interior, windowless rooms like closets or bathrooms.
  • Outside: If a disaster forces you to leave your home, think about a place your family could meet outside. Fires and similar emergencies could have a meeting spot like a neighbor’s home or at the end of the driveway. If a disaster happens while you’re away from home and you’re unable to return, pick a friend’s house or a public building like a library or police station to meet.
  • Outside of your city: If an emergency evacuation has been ordered, your family should know where to go. Choose an out-of-town meeting place like the home of a family friend, and ensure everyone knows the address and ways to get to the meeting place safely if you aren’t together during the evacuation process.

Distribute copies of your emergency communication plan

Make paper copies of your contact list and the addresses of each of your designated emergency meeting areas. Then, distribute a copy to each family member. Share your contact list with a friend or family member who lives out of your area.

Practice your communication plan

Take your family to each emergency meeting area so they become familiar with the locations. Have regular conversations with them about who to contact during an emergency, and encourage them to memorize important phone numbers. While you practice, talk about how you all can communicate during and after the disaster, including which messages are ideal to send through text and which messages should be through a phone call.

Review your plan

Review your family’s communication plan at least once a year and make updates as necessary. If you know that certain information has changed, such as phone numbers or addresses, update your plan right away so your family is always prepared.

If you need help creating your family communication plan, use templates from trusted, reputable organizations. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a family emergency communication plan complete with checklists and spaces where you can provide helpful information to help keep your family safe and in touch throughout a disaster.

Once your family is safe and you’re able to return home, you may find damage to your property. Let ServiceMaster Restore get your home back to normal as quickly as possible. Our residential restoration services include fire, storm and weather, water damage and more clean-up and restoration services to help you get back on your feet. Available 24/7 every day of the year, our experts are always prepared to lead you from chaos back to the comfort of your home.