NPM: Make a Disaster Plan

This week’s National Preparedness Month topic is “Make a Plan to Prepare for Disasters”.  When it comes to fire safety preparedness, the best thing you and your family can do is make a fire escape plan.  We covered the basics of a family and business fire escape plan in last year’s NPM series here.

This year we would like to offer some important do’s and don’t’s to follow when making your family’s disaster plan.  Every step intended to increase safety is only effective if used in the proper way.  These tips will help your planning reach its full potential.

DO Make a Group Chat for Emergencies, DON’T Use it Before Saving Yourself

A group chat between family members, or roommates if you live with peers, is a great way to quickly make everyone aware of an emergency.  Setting up this chat before any emergencies occur and occasionally using it just to keep it open, or even pinning it to the top of your messages, will ensure important information can be sent with the necessary speed.

However, in the case of a fire-related emergency, using the group chat should only happen after you are in a safe place.  If a fire occurs, do not waste time texting questions about how to handle it or letting others know about the fire.  Verbally yell “FIRE” for the benefit of those in the house and evacuate, then text.

DO Have Fire Safety Equipment, DON’T Neglect It

A fire extinguisher and smoke alarms are only as effective as the people using them.  Having a fire extinguisher in the home is a great way to prepare ahead for small fire concerns.  Yet, if no one remembers the right way to use it, it is pointless.  Find an online video that explains the “PASS” method and watch it regularly.  Pull the extinguisher out and hold it, look at it while you and the family watch the video.  You can even contact your local fire department or fire protection company to ask them to let you practice using one so you will know what to do when you need it.

Smoke alarms are also rendered pointless if not properly maintained.  Every month be sure to test them with your family.  Doing this makes everyone familiar with how they sound and if any of the alarms are defective, they can be replaced immediately.  Keep spare batteries on hand so you can replenish alarms that start beeping due to low power without delay.

DO Create a Fire Escape Plan, DON’T Put It Away and Forget It

A fire escape plan is life-saving when followed.  It removes the need to think or decide and enables you and your family to simply act when disaster strikes.  But this is only true if the plan is fresh in each person’s mind.  Create your plan.  Designate tasks, escape buddies, and a meeting place.  Write it down clearly so everyone understands.  Then, practice it!

If the plan stays in the notebook, which then goes back in the drawer and is forgotten, then it helps no one.  Instead you can make photocopies and print it.  Put one on your fridge or family bulletin board and another upstairs.  At least twice a year go over it again.  Practice it and update it as needed.

Fire safety preparedness is proven to help reduce losses when disaster threatens to strike.  However, these measures only work when used sensibly.  Make your disaster preparedness plan now, review it often, and you will be able to rest a little easier knowing you did your best to arm yourself and your family against the unpredictable.

Next week’s topic is “Teach the Youth to Prepare for Disasters”, so be sure to check back next Friday for the next installment in this year’s NPM series.  Stay safe!