Determining How You Will Communicate During an Emergency is Part of a Smart Disaster Preparedness Plan
9/29/2015
Universal Services of America
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
by: Universal Services of America

Section: Association Business




Because a natural disaster can strike at any moment, we rarely have enough time to prepare for the situation after a warning is issued. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or even active shooter or terrorist events can make communicating with loved ones and employees very difficult and, sometimes, next to impossible. A well-rehearsed and organized response plan will assist in ensuring that families, community members and employees are safe during any major emergency.

Planning
When developing a response plan, consider what type of disaster is most likely to occur in the community where you live and work. For example, is a tornado more likely than a flood in your area? Take necessary safety measures for your region, and ensure that appropriate emergency/safety kits are updated and the contents reviewed regularly. At a minimum, kits should include basic first aid supplies, food bars, water, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and copies of important documents, such as insurance papers and identification cards. Companies should determine how they will maintain business continuity.

Communicating
Having all the equipment and knowledge necessary to respond to a disaster will not do if you cannot communicate effectively before, during and after a catastrophe. A communication plan requires sitting down with family members, employees or community leaders to strategically determine the most efficient and effective way to connect if local and statewide communication equipment is hampered or inoperable. Make sure you test and review your plan periodically. Here are some simple steps in the process:
  • Identify and designate two out-of-state contacts as point persons to gather and relay information back to family members. Stress the importance of keeping any important contact numbers stored in several places, such as in cellphones, vehicles, at home and in wallets and purses. In addition to this method, communicating through email, texting, Intranet, or social media sites are all options that families, businesses and communities may consider using to share information, updates and connect. During preparation drills, be sure to specify which methods will be used in an actual emergency.
  • Choose a meeting spot. Pick a designated safe place to meet. Determine who is responsible for retrieving your children from school or daycare and map out two routes in case a road is blocked or closed. Make sure employees heed evacuation procedures in an emergency and know where their refuge area is located so they can be accounted for. If phones or cell service is down, try waiting a few minutes to get a dial tone. Or send text or email messages.
  • Debrief and evaluate after a natural disaster. Did the plan work? If not, what went wrong? Were any factors easier to control than others? Review the plan and make changes as necessary, and practice the changes so that every individual knows what to expect the next time an emergency occurs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has designated the entire month of September to focus on disaster preparedness. Take the opportunity to ensure that you, your family, employees, businesses and communities are Ready to minimize the impacts of disasters and better recover from their devastating effects.
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