Developing an Emergency Family Communication Plan
Today, we have more ways to speak to each other than ever before. We’ve grown accustomed to staying in touch with cell phones, internet, and email, but disasters can change things. These devices may not be available, or may become useless if power is out at your home. For the month of June, here are some recommendations for developing your family’s disaster communication plan and making sure you can reach each other in times of crisis:
- Fill in the Blanks: Our office developed a family communication plan template that you can use as a guide for your family’s plan. Hard copies were distributed throughout the Montgomery County Public School system, and you can get online versions in different languages by visiting https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs/resourcelibrary/index.html. If you need a hard copy, you can request one by calling 311.
Be sure to designate an “In-Case-of-Emergency” (ICE) contact, and program them into all family cell phones. If you are hurt and can’t talk, first responders and hospital staff may not know how to contact your family right away. Programming ICE numbers in your cell phone can provide the phone numbers to hospital staff and first responders.
Also, be sure to designate an “Out-of-Town” contact. This is important because local phone calls and long distance calls work on different circuits. When local circuits are overloaded, you may still be able to make long distance calls. Choose someone outside of the local calling area to be your “outside the area” contact. Make sure all family members carry this phone number with them. If something happens when your family is not together and you are not able to reach each other, each family member can call the “outside the area” contact and leave a message for the others.
- Decide on Emergency Meeting Places: Decide on safe, familiar places that your family can go for protection or to reunite. Make sure that they are accessible for family members with disabilities or access and functional needs. If you have pets or service animals, think about animal friendly locations. Consider a location in your neighborhood where you will meet up with family in case there is a fire or other emergency where you need to evacuate your home, and also a location outside your neighborhood where you will meet if a disaster happens when you’re not at home and you can’t get back to your home.
- Consider having an external battery charger and/or a car charger for your cell phone ready in case of a power failure. If the power is out in your home, you could still charge your cell phone in a vehicle or use an external battery to give your phone power.
Also consider having at least one landline phone with a cord in your home in case of a power outage, if possible. Traditional landline phones with cordless handsets won’t work during a power outage because they need more electricity than they can get from the phone jack. Old fashioned landline phones with a cord connecting the handset to the base should work even in a power outage. If you have a digital phone service as your home phone, consider discussing back-up power options with your telephone service provider. If you don’t have a landline and you use a cell phone as your home phone, remember that cell phone towers may be tied up with many calls in an emergency. However, a text message from your cell phone may get through when a phone call doesn’t.
- Also consider adding your Emergency Contacts to your Nextdoor profile. Since we’re all utilizing the Nextdoor platform, you should be aware that it allows you to add your emergency contacts to your profile, which can provide your neighbors with another way to help out in case of a safety concern. Information on this process, and frequently asked questions can be found at https://help.nextdoor.com/s/article/How-to-add-emergency-contacts
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD - HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT
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