There is nothing more challenging in this world than trying to find a flashlight or book of matches in the dark when the power goes out.
As frustrating as that can be, try finding your loved ones after a 9.0 mega earthquake.
From simple storms, to flood, to house fires, to the Big One, it’s not enough to have a plan; if you don’t practice, you won’t know what works, what needs tweaking, and more importantly, you won’t be ready when an actual emergency comes.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Practicing your disaster plan improves your skills, increases your speed, and puts you in control of your preparedness.
Start with the basics:
Discuss your disaster plan with your family. Is there something you missed or haven’t thought of?
Are there contact numbers that need updating?
Have you actually tried to turn off your water at the mains, or located your circuit breaker panel?
Does everybody know where their Go Kit is, and have you refreshed/restocked your stores? Rotated food and water?
Stale food and water tastes awful, and batteries have a shelf life.
Sure, check your fire detectors semi annually, and test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but it’s also a good idea to test flashlights, rotate food, water, and batteries, and check to make sure any “oh, I’ll just use this now and replace it later” items in your emergency or first aid kits have actually been replaced.
The big thing is water.
More than anything else, having enough fresh water is critical to surviving a disaster, at least 1 gallon of water per person or pet, per day. You’ll need more if you plan on bathing or washing dishes or clothing. Regularly checking your water stores, and rotating frequently is one of the most important habits to get into to keep you prepared. You can live for a long time without food, but you can never have enough water.
Practice Can Be Fun!
Sheltering-in-place can be a fun family activity on a rainy day in the Pacific Northwest. On a sunny day backyard camping can be fun!
Try living off of emergency stores and your preparedness kit for a weekend – it’s a great way to see what works, and what doesn’t before an actual emergency. (Remember to restock what you use!)
It’s much easier to evacuate when there isn’t an emergency, so making it a safe and fun game for your family is a terrific opportunity to build resiliency, teach children about preparedness, and more importantly, figure out the most efficient and effective way to get out when you need to clear out.
Ask yourself where you will meet if bridges, or overpasses are out. Visit your meeting places, see how easy or difficult it might be to get there, determine the best places to reconnect with loved ones; the more that can be done when nothing is wrong, the easier it will be when disaster strikes.
Walk with your children from their schools to your emergency meeting place. Practice evacuating from work as well as your home.
The more your can do to know before you go, the better!
Calling relatives over the holidays can be a challenge. Not only is it hard enough to get a hold of people to send season’s Greetings, but there can be jammed phone lines, busy signals, not to mention people might not be home when you have time to call.
Now, imagine the entire population of Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Southern British Columbia all trying to call someone at the same time, immediately after an earthquake.
Do you carry your contact numbers, written down, with you at all times? Do your loved ones/family? Have your children memorized the emergency contact number and can recite it on cue?
Try playing the “Telegraph Game”
Remember that childhood game where you sit in a circle and whisper a message from person to person to see if the original message reaches the sender or gets warped on the way?
Have a simple message like – “All safe, we are meeting at the Community Center on State Street. Will try to update at 8 a.m. tomorrow” sent to everyone on your emergency contact list. Then check to see if everyone received the same message you sent.
Break out the radios and send messages to each other. See how far away you can be and still receive a signal.
and finally, make sure the emergency contact is the right person to have – do they travel often? Are they technologically savvy? If they can’t be reached, its best to know before an emergency, than during.