Home Emergency Procedures – Plan and Practice
Do you have the basic home emergency procedures in place? Does your family know what to do in case of fire, tornado, hurricane, or robbery? If not, you should put some thought into making some emergency preps. It is important to make a plan, set up procedures, and practice them with your family until everyone knows what to do — without panicking — in case of emergency.
Each emergency should have a checklist associated with it. Each person should know what they are supposed to do, what they are responsible for, and know the overall plan well enough to execute it without having to stop and think.
Fire Emergency Procedures
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you put a plan together and practice it twice a year with everyone in the house. There are comprehensive instructions about how to go about making your family’s escape plan on the NFPA website, but the basics are as follows:
- Confirm that there are smoke detectors placed appropriately throughout your home.
- Identify all potential escape routes and exits, doors and windows.
- Assign an escape buddy to very young children, handicapped, and elderly residents.
- Decide where you will all gather, outside, after making your escape. A neighbor’s house, a light pole, a stop sign–be specific.
- Each person should know how to call 9-1-1 from a cell phone or a neighbors house.
- Obtain and place escape ladders near windows of upper floors. Train all family on how to use them safely, and practice until proficient.
- Discuss alternate plans in case someone is unable to get out. “Sealing in” and how to signal from an open window.
The NFPA also recommends fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and home fire sprinklers for your home, depending upon your situation.
Tornado Emergency Procedures
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service offer a webpage published by their Storm Prediction Center which covers tornado safety. They advise that you develop a tornado emergency plan and practice it at least once a year. Your tornado plan should include the following considerations:
- Have a tornado plan in place, based on the type of dwelling you live in.
- Designate a specific place to take shelter BEFORE you find yourself in this emergency situation so you will know where to go and can get there in seconds.
- Decide where you will gather after the emergency, in case you get separated.
- Store protective coverings (eg: mattresses, thick blankets, motorcycle helmets) inside or near your shelter spot to protect yourself from flying debris.
- Know the signs of a tornado, and be able to recognize when it’s time to take shelter.
The tornado safety webpage lists many different types of dwellings and instructions about how what to do if a tornado occurs, whether you are inside or outside. They also offer the following advice, for after the tornado is over, because navigating the aftermath can be just as dangerous as the tornado itself!
“Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully render aid to those who are injured. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.”
Hurricane Emergency Procedures
Unlike tornadoes, with a hurricane you’re most likely to know that the storm is coming. That can be a very good thing, when it comes to making preparations. But it can also make you procrastinate, thinking that you have plenty of time and don’t need to rush. It’s best to be prepared and have a plan well before the clouds roll in. The Red Cross offers advice on their website about how to prepare for hurricanes.
- Prepare in advance. Have an emergency kit assembled and an evacuation plan — which includes your pets — in place.
- Talk with your family about what to expect. This reduces fear, especially among children.
- Monitor the weather with a hand-crank radio, if possible, since electricity is likely to lost at some point during the storm.
- Protect windows and secure outdoor furniture, and anything else likely to be blown about by high winds.
- Fill plastic bottles with water to drink, fills tubs and sinks with water for flushing toilets, fill your car’s gas tank and have fuel onhand if you own a generator.
- After the storm starts, stay indoors. Avoid contact with flood water. Do NOT use candles.
- After the storm is over, be careful to stay away from downed or dangling powerlines. Avoid buildings that have standing water around them.
- After the storm, register yourself as “safe” on the Red Cross’ Safe and Well website so your friends and family can know that you’re okay.
The Red Cross has advice about what to do to recover after a hurricane, advising that you take plenty of photos of any damage for insurance purposes, and offers tips about how to clean and repair your home. Spend some time exploring their website. It’s comprehensive and informative.
Robbery/Break In Emergency Procedures
It’s scary to think about, but a break-in is probably a more likely emergency than any other on this list. The people who make the home security system SimpliSafe have put together a great webpage about what to do if someone breaks into your home while you’re there. They advise you to:
- Make a plan before anything happens. Determine who is responsible for gathering any dependents, and where you will meet once you’re outside of the house.
- Get a security system. It can be as simple as an alarm that sounds when a door/window is opened, or as complex as online video surveillance and motion detectors.
- Keep your car remote handy, so that you can use it to activate the panic button once you and your family are hidden away.
- Call 9-1-1 as soon as possible. Tell the operator about the break-in, how many people are with you in the house, and what room you are hiding in.
- Keep everyone as silent as you can so that you don’t alert the intruder to your location in the house.
- If you can escape safely, without alerting the intruder, get out of the house and head straight for your pre-determined meeting place.
- If you can’t get out without being seen, then stay put in your pre-determined safe place. If possible, barricade the door (quietly) with furniture.
- Wait for the police. Stay on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator and check with them to confirm that the police have arrived before you come out of hiding.
In addition to SimpliSafe’s list, be sure to go over firearm procedure with your family. If your family is at risk prior to the police arriving, then it may be necessary to use a firearm for protection. Smart procedure and careful actions are important to ensure that there are no injuries to your loved ones. Familiarize yourself with the gun laws in your state — especially the use-of-force laws for gun owners. Once you are clear on the legal implications of using a gun in self-defense, think about these things:
- Are you willing to shoot (and possibly kill) someone? Be certain of your answer to this question ahead of time. Any hesitation can allow your gun to be taken and used against you.
- Do not go on the offensive! Avoid shooting if possible. Be calm and patient. Use your head. Let the police take care of the intruder. You’ll maximize your family’s safety, and save yourself a lot of headache and legal entanglement by hanging back.
- Clearly identify the intruder–and their intent–before firing. Last thing you want to do is shoot a family member that has made an unexpected noise in the middle of the night.
- I’ve said it before, but it deserves repeating. Avoid shooting unless your lives are actively in danger. Getting out of the house should be your first choice. Waiting for the police, your second choice. Shooting should only be your plan of action if all else fails.
- If you find yourself in a situation where waiting for police is not an option and you must shoot, then shoot center mass and double tap (two shots to same area). Make sure you shoot at the area of the body that is easy to hit while in close proximity to you. If you have to fire, it is imperative that you shoot to STOP the intruder. A wounded criminal quickly turns into an angry, desperate criminal; unpredictable and more dangerous. And keep in mind that every bullet that flies through the air could kill family members as easily as it could the intruder.
Robbery/Break In Reference Links
Each of these emergency situations is scary to think about, but think long and hard about them anyway. Think each through, carefully, and talk with your family about what to do, just in case. Preparation can make the difference between survival and tragedy. Don’t fail to make a plan and end up wishing that you had.