Having a plan for your family during emergencies and natural disasters removes worries and alleviates stress during extremely difficult times. If your family all knows your family emergency meeting places, you can focus your energies on recovering from a disaster instead of responding. Setting up a family emergency meeting place is easy and takes just a few minutes:
You’ll actually need a few different meeting places for your family depending on the emergency at hand. Once you and your family decide where you are meeting, make sure your children know which meeting place is appropriate for which disaster – you don’t want your children running to the basement during a fire for example. Run several practice rounds so that the information is ingrained into both your mental and muscle memories.
Meeting Place #1: Inside Your House
Where would you like your family to meet if there is an emergency such as a tornado or a shelter-in-place situation? Basements are usually the obvious choice, but if you don’t have a basement, then you’ll need to select another room. You’ll want to choose a room that no or few windows and are on the main or ground floor for safety and ease of sealing off windows.
Meeting Place #2: Directly Outside Your House
In the event of fire or other disasters that require immediate evacuation, pick a meeting place right outside your house that near the house but not next to it. The mailbox, a tree in the front yard, the sidewalk or the end of the driveway can all be a good location. It is crucial to practice evacuating to this meeting place especially with small children so that you do not have to be worried about them being trapped in the backyard.
Meeting Place #3: In your Neighborhood
If you are away from home when an emergency occurs and are not able to get back to your house – perhaps trees are down and are blocking you from your street – choose a meeting place that is in your neighborhood. It could be a friend’s house, a church, a community center, a hotel/motel or even a store that is open 24 hours. You can contact your local emergency management office to learn which buildings in your neighborhood are designated storm shelter sites, valuable especially in situations of flooding. You’ll have a safe place to go, and your family, if you are separated, will know where to call to make sure you arrived safely. A place that is within walking distance from your home is ideal.
Meeting Place #4: Out-of-Town
Hurricanes, flooding and other area-specific emergencies require an evacuation plan that asks you to leave your home and neighborhood far behind. If phone lines are down and you are separated from your family during an evacuation, you will be able to rest easy knowing that your family is headed for the same out-of-town evacuation location. Choosing this location will require some careful consideration of geographical factors: if you are evacuating from a hurricane, you’ll want to move inland. If you are evacuating from a flood or tsunami, you’ll be looking for a location at higher altitudes.
Once you’ve decided your out-of-town meeting place, make sure all family members have directions and discuss alternate transportation options in the event that you don’t have a car, you run out of gas, etc. Is there a public transportation option?
Once you’ve designated your four meeting places, make sure each family member has a printed copy of the locations, the addresses and the phone and email addresses to those locations. Ask that they put a copy in their emergency backpacks, send a copy to their email and download a copy to their portable flash drives.
Where are some locations you and your family have decided to meet?