Emergencies are unpredictable by nature. You never know when one will strike, how long it will last, and what the outcome will be. While we hope to never experience one, it’s important to consider: if faced with an emergency or natural disaster right now, would you be prepared?
At Guardian Protection, we design, install, service, and monitor our security systems ourselves. Our security team is on watch 24/7 so they can quickly alert homeowners and first responders to emergencies. That extra layer of protection gives customers peace of mind, and that means a lot to us.
But our work doesn’t end there. September is National Preparedness Month, FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) nationwide campaign to create awareness about disaster and emergency readiness. This time of year, it always hits home that part of serving our customers is sharing critical safety information and encouraging them to plan and prepare for the unexpected.
The theme of this year’s campaign is, “Be Prepared, Not Scared” — how perfect is that?
The message is simple, and it goes hand-in-hand with our beliefs at Guardian: Don’t just worry about what might happen. Whether it’s the threat of a burglary, house fire, flood, or hurricane, there are precautions you can take to be ready and protect what matters most to you.
In honor of National Preparedness Month, here are some planning tips to stay ahead of the unexpected.
Have a plan and practice it
The best way to alleviate the stress of what may happen is to create a plan and then practice it until it becomes a natural response. Your plan should include strategy for both communication and evacuation.
And it’s not enough for one family member or just parents to know the plan. When emergency strikes, it’s all-hands-on-deck. Find a way to get everyone involved in the planning process so that they are more likely to remember the plan and excited to practice it.
Depending on the emergency, you may have days to evacuate your home, or you may need to leave immediately. In the latter situation, it’s critical to know ahead of time how you will leave and where you will go so you and your family can evacuate quickly and safely.
Key elements of your evacuation plan should include:
- Map out a primary evacuation route, as well as alternates if your route is blocked.
- Choose emergency meeting places out of harm’s way — both inside and outside your neighborhood. A familiar area may become inaccessible in a disaster, so give yourself options in different directions.
- Pack a disaster kit (or Go-Bag) for everyone in your household, tailored to their needs. Aim to have enough supplies to be self-sufficient for at least three days. Check out FEMA’s Recommended Supplies List.
Families should keep a supply of essentials somewhere in the residence. Every household should have flashlights, back-up batteries, candles, a cell phone and a portable charger, and bottled water readily available. If you’re forced to remain inside your residence for days, access to clean water is your most important provision. The basic contents of your pantry or cupboard should sustain your food needs, but running out of water can be detrimental.Detective Michael Chlystek
City of Pittsburgh-Bureau of Police
Major Crimes-Auto Squad
- If you have pets, ensure you’re prepared to get them out quickly with necessary supplies. Also, verify that your meeting places allow pets. Many public shelters only allow service animals.
- Know how to shut off your utilities in case you need to leave your house for days. Unplug major appliances, too, if there’s time.
Visit FEMA’s website for more detailed information on what to do before, during, and after an evacuation.
Your family’s emergency communication plan should answer these questions: “What if something happens and I’m not with my family? How will we tell each other that we’re OK?”
Use this free Family Emergency Communication plan template to help you get started. The template is broken down into three basic steps: Collect, Share, and Practice.
You’ll be collecting contact info for everyone in your household as well as schools, childcare centers, and workplaces. You should also identify an out-of-town family member or friend who can act as a central point of contact if you get separated.
FEMA’s guide also includes important reminders for communicating in disasters, such as:
- Unless you’re in danger, send a text instead of calling. Texts may have an easier time getting through than phone calls. Also, group texts allow for quick communication and ensure everyone is on the same page.
- If you charge your phone in your car, be sure the car is in a well-ventilated area (e.g., not in a closed garage) to avoid life-threatening carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you don’t need.
Share a copy of your plan with everyone in your family and post it in a central location at home. FEMA also offers a Family Communication Plan Fillable Card to print and save.
Now you’re ready for the “Practice” stage. Let’s run some drills!
Why emergency drills are important
Practicing emergency drills takes something that requires thought and concentration and makes it instinctive and easy. In an emergency, tensions are high, and it can become difficult to think clearly. It’s easy for anyone — especially children — to forget something important in this state.
By running the drills repeatedly, responses will become second nature and require less thought in the moment. Think of your family like a basketball team with a familiar play. They’ve run this same play so many times they could do it in their sleep. This is the play they will run when the team is too tired to think, because the steps have become muscle memory.
An emergency may still be frightening, but because you practiced, everyone will know what to do.
More tips for disaster preparedness
Disaster preparedness plans aren’t always one-size-fits-all. Factor in any special needs you and your loved ones may have, including expectant mothers, small children, and the elderly.
Circumstances, families, and technologies change, so consider emergency planning a constant learning process. While you can’t be totally ready for every disaster or emergency event, being prepared, having a plan, and staying connected can help prevent property damage and save lives.
Here are just a few more best practices for disaster preparedness:
- Sign up for alerts with FEMA, local emergency management agencies, and your home security provider. Early warning allows for more time to evacuate and protect yourself. The Guardian app features a panic signal button which allows customers to instantly send an emergency signal to the monitoring center from their smartphone so that first responders can be alerted that help is needed at their home.
- If told to evacuate, do so immediately. If you wait to see if conditions improve, you risk getting trapped by severe weather.
- Keep digital copies of your insurance documents and insurance carrier contact info on your phone or computer in case paper copies are lost in a fire or other disaster.
FEMA has even more preparedness information on Ready.gov. You can also follow #BeReady and #PreparedNotScared on social media. For home security tips and safety info year-round, follow Guardian on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
To learn more about the benefits of monitored security, visit www.guardianprotection.com, or give us a call at 1.800.PROTECT (1.800.776.8328).