Making a family communications plan is an emergency preparation step that is fast, free, and can help to reunite you with your family members in case of emergency. Here are the four steps you need, and why it matters:
What: Identify a local contact. Why? If a fire should occur at your home or a disaster affect your neighborhood when everyone is away for the day, you’ll want someone who can serve as a clearing house and share information with all of your family members.
What: Identify an out-of-town (and preferably out-of-state) contact. Why? In the event of a major disaster, local phone lines may be unavailable while it remains possible to phone out of state. Everyone can check-in with the out-of-area contact, who can relay information to other family members about your location and situation.
What: Identify a neighborhood meeting place. Why? In the event of a house fire, you’ll want an agreed meeting place, so that no one needlessly returns to the house to rescue a family member who is already safe somewhere else. Choose one end of the street where everyone could go.
What: Identify an alternative meeting place. Why? In case a more widespread disaster such as a fire, flood, earthquake, or tornado prevents everyone from returning to the neighborhood, family members can meet up at an agreed location. Think of public or semi-public locations such as an elementary school, shopping mall, or religious building a mile or so from home.
Write these two contacts and two meeting places on index cards. Keep a copy in each car, in each child’s backpack, in your wallet, at the office, and anywhere you may need it if you’re separated from family members.
Review your plans regularly – I like to use the weekends when the clocks change to make sure this gets done twice a year – so that everyone remembers what the plan is and when to use it.
Here’s more information about communicating in an emergency: