I love Spring and Summer in Colorado! The green is returning along with the warm sunshine, wildflowers, and the afternoon rains. There is so much to enjoy this time of year in the Rocky Mountains. At the same time it is also the season for wildfires, flash floods, severe hail, and tornadoes, plus the risks of outdoor adventures.
Do you have an emergency plan for your family? In particular, flash floods have become a very real concern for Colorado Springs & Manitou Springs residents since our wildfires a few years ago, and the risk of a wildfire in Colorado is always there during the Summer. Knowing that there is an increased risk of flooding in our area and that we are always at risk for wildfires, it is wise that we take a moment to make sure we are prepared for a disaster or emergency – no matter what kind it is.
Most of us likely don’t think about Emergency Preparedness but it really is such an important subject. A few supplies and an investment of a little time can make all the difference if something should ever happen to your family. We’d like to offer you some tips and resources to keep your family safe and organized.
Where Do You Begin?
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear “Emergency Preparedness” is a stockpile of canned food and jugs of water – with a dose of panic. Food and water is definitely needed but a well-thought out plan can eliminate much of the panic and anxiety that can come with an unexpected emergency. Since in an emergency situation, you might not have time to make a plan, thinking through the possible scenarios, making plans ahead of time and practicing them, will help you in losing a lot of this anxiety.
The first thing you will want to do is ask yourself some questions:
- What could happen to you? Maybe you are afraid of separation from your loved ones? Your loved ones not knowing where to go, what to do , who to call?
- What type of disasters are most likely to happen based on where you live? We’ve had wildfires, flash floods, high winds, landslides….Depending where you live you maybe affected by one, all or more…
- How should you prepare for each possibility? It is important to go through each possible scenario and determine preparation for each.
- What are the existing disaster plans at your work and your kid’s schools?
- Are there any elderly or disabled persons in your care or in your neighborhood?
Think through these questions and write them out. Include your family in the discussions. They may think of something that you didn’t. In Colorado Springs, flash floods, hail and wildfires are the biggest environmental threats during this time of year. Make plans for those specific possibilities, but don’t count out tornados or a home fire.
Prepare A Communication Plan
Every person in your home needs to keep critical information written down and in a purse or wallet. Do not rely on electronic devices in case of an emergency. The very first thought that will come up during an emergency is “where is everyone?”. Make sure you have a list of phone numbers and addresses. Discuss how you will communicate with your family members or where you will meet. If you have children, who will get them from the school? If you can not return to your home, where will you go? Meet together as a family and answer these questions and go over your family emergency plan. Talk about different scenerios that you may face. Walk through the steps you will take and what will happen if you can’t reach someone by phone. Talking through the “what if’s” and rehearsing various possibilities may help you all stay calm if an emergency ever arises. Even though your preparations will never go as you planned – it will establish a foundation for clear thinking when you need it most. Be sure to include your kids as well! Also, consider involving family who live nearby in your discussions.
- Keep critical information written on a card and in a purse or wallet.
- Know your child’s school emergency plan so you can find your children.
- Determine emergency meeting places that are safe and familiar: if it’s an indoor emergency where should everyone gather; if it’s an emergency in your neighborhood and you can’t get home – choose a nearby meeting place; or if a city-wide emergency who will be your out-of-town contact?
- If you share custody of your children, make a communication plan with the other parent. Where will you meet? Who will keep the child(ren) during the emergency? Exchange all contact and emergency info so each parent knows the location and welfare of your children. Exchange emergency plans with each other to keep abreast of exactly what each family will do in case of a disaster.
- Set up a group list on your phone for emergencies. Texting is usually better during a disaster and more reliable. Also, having a land line in your home may be more reliable.
- Memorize important phone numbers.
- Plan home escape routes. In case of a fire what options do you have for escape? Where will you go for a tornado? If there is a large hail storm explain to your children to stay away from the windows and stay inside.
- Make sure everyone knows where the fire hydrants are and how to use them. Check hydrants and smoke detectors regularly.
- Do your children know how to handle an emergency if mom or dad is not around or injured? Teach them about 911 or if there is a neighbor that is safe to go to.
- Sign up for emergency notifications directly on your cell phone at www.elpasoteller911.org (Reverse 911)
Gather Important Documents
Make at least 2 copies of essential documents and keep them in separate locations. Some possibilities are: a safe deposit box, fire-proof safe in your home, with a friend or family member, and definitely with someone who lives out of town. Some documents you will need copies of are:
- Insurance policies
- Contracts/Divorce or custody papers
- Passports, Social Security Cards
- Immunization records
- Bank Account numbers / Credit Card accounts
- Household inventory / Property inventory
- Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
Prepare An Emergency Kit
There are dozens of websites that provide wonderful suggestions for creating an emergency kit or you can purchase ready-made kits at www.redcross.org. Take the time to go through all the links we provide below as there are fabulous resources and products that we recommend for your kit.
Creating an emergency kit can be a family activity. Make a list of all the items you want/need and spend a day gathering all your supplies. Find a fun container or duffle bag to store all the supplies. When you get home, put together your kits and as you do so it will be the perfect time to make sure that every one in the family knows what each item is and how to use it. It’s a family fun day with a purpose!
- Create a kit for your home and smaller kits for each vehicle.
- Don’t forget about your pets!! Make sure to include supplies they will need.
- Consider any special needs for your family: disabilities, medications, very young children, elderly persons.
- Include fun and special items. Going through an emergency is stressful and having a familiar stuffed animal, blanket, book, games, candy, etc. will ease some of the stress.
- Add a journal to your kit. Disasters and emergencies are short lived but are times of hard lessons. Journal what you and your family are going through then reflect on those entries later in life. It is also a good way to process tough emotions without taking them out on the ones you love.
RESOURCES / LINKS
I’ve put together links that have valuable information as you prepare your family for an emergency. We always hope that bad events will never happen and we all have a tendency to think it won’t happen to us. My hope and prayer is that you will never have to face an emergency, however I want to encourage you and your family to be prepared “just in case”.
- Sign up for local emergency alerts/reverse 911: www.elpasoteller911.org
- FEMA Communication Plan (printable pdf file)
- Emergency Communication Plan: www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
- Emergency Kit List (Red Cross)
- Emergency Supply List: readycolorado.com
- Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management
- Determining your flood risk: FEMA Flood Map, search by address
- LuminAID solar inflatable lights
- 10 Best Water Filtration Bottles (Mashable article)
- NOAA Weather Radio and Smart Phone Charger
- Emergency Apps: An excellent post about various emergency apps for your phone. (Prepared-Housewives.com)
- Berkey Water Bottle with Filter (they have complete systems for all your water needs. I used their water bottle and loved it.)
Please also prepare for emergencies in the mountains. The mountains are part of our lives. Always bring layers of clothing, and plenty of water can be detrimental and extra provisions, of course, a first-aid kit is a necessity! Please, always be careful and aware of your surroundings.
Are you at risk for flooding? Explore this map and find your address. Find out more about floods and how much a flood can cost you on this link (excuse the annoying FEMA app running). All flood insurance is purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program. Get all the information you need at their website, www.FloodSmart.gov .
Prevent accidents and dangers in your home: downloadable checklist
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