life after shock: first steps

Ideally, a disaster will strike when one is at home, right? Everyone will be gathered together, playing games by candlelight and listening to music on the radio. That’s what happened during our first earthquake in September 2010, and as a result it was a much less traumatic experience. But the truth is it’s very likely that when a disaster strikes, one or more family members will not be home. Regardless of location, what you do in those first minutes is vital. Here are some tips based on our own family disaster plan…

Step One: Contact Your Family. You’ll likely only have a few minutes until cell phone towers are either swamped with calls or out of service. Have a plan for who will call whom so you don’t get voicemail (but leave a message if you can). Tip: As a back-up, agree on someone to call out of town/state with whom you can call to communicate with or leave a message for other family members, in case cell phones are completely unusable.

Step Two: Move to Your Designated Meeting Location. We now have three meeting locations, which we have informed our regular baby-sitters of, just in case: (1) Home; (2) the local park (in case we can’t stay/get home); and (3) the carpark of a well-known building on the other side of the city (in case of an evacuation or tsunami warning).

Step Three: Know where your supplies are so you can access them quickly and easily. You will need your radio to listen for updates/evacuations/warnings. Ideally, you want to be able to leave the house in about 5-10 minutes with everything that you need.

I used to believe (superstitiously, foolishly) that if I prepared for a disaster then we would have one. It’s similar to the egocentric fears I experience every time I get on a plane or think about preparing a will. So I didn’t have a plan. But disaster still struck. Not to people on tv, not to people I knew from childhood or from college…to me. Twice. Now I live by a different disaster theory, “Don’t be scared; be prepared.” I encourage you to do the same.