Week 1: Make a Plan for Yourself, Family and Friends
Determine which types of disasters could affect your area. West Virginia commonly experiences floods, landslides and house fires.
Start to put a plan together by discussing these 4 questions with your family, friends or household;
- How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
There are several different types of alerts and warnings that you can receive, including the Emergency Alert System that goes out through television and radio. Various organizations also have their own alerts and warnings systems that are publicly available, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which has a free downloadable app for smartphones, and the National Weather Service has forecasts and alerts for hazardous weather conditions that can be accessed online here. Local news stations will often have weather alerts that are free to sign up for as well.
2. What is my shelter plan?
Sheltering is appropriate when conditions require you to seek protection in your home, workplace or other locations when disaster strikes. If you need to shelter outside the hazard area, this could mean staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging, like hotels, etc., or staying in a mass care facility, such as an American Red Cross Shelter.
If you can, make a plan for both situations, keeping in mind the hazard and the needs that arise from it. For example, if a tornado occurs, the selected room should be on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Each type of hazard will have a different location that allows you to remain safe.
The length of time you need to stay in a shelter location can vary depending on the situation, but it is important to stay in the shelter until local authorities say it is safe to leave. You should also take turns listening to radio broadcasts and maintain a 24 hour safety watch.
If you are required to shelter for an extended period of time, it is important to manage your food and water supplies. Compile an emergency kit and keep it in your home and car to help avoid the stress of getting supplies last minute. There are different resources for creating an emergency kit but essentially they all have the same list of needed supplies.
ReadyWV!, West Virginia’s disaster preparedness site, has great information on preparing your home for a disaster, including guidelines on food, water, and other important necessary information.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also has instructions on creating an emergency supply kit.
Ready.gov, as well as having a list for the needed supplies, contains information about maintaining your kit and where to store it.
Content from ready.gov
3. What is my evacuation route?
What is the best way to leave your home in case of emergency? Is there a way to access the designated state evacuation routes if you have to leave the area? These are things to think about when you start to plan for disasters. Try and create multiple escape routes from your home if you can, as well as learn the hazards that could affect the roadways around your home. Is there a stretch of road that always has water laying on it when it rains? That might not be the best way to go if you have to leave during a flash flood.
Choose destinations, such as a friend’s house, or a motel, in different directions so that you have options during the emergency. Be sure to think about your pets when you create a plan. Most public shelters will only accept service animals, so try and find places that will accept pets.
Even the best plans can go wrong, so be prepared but also allow for flexibility and be ready to adapt to the situation as it happens. Always follow the instructions of local officials and remember that your evacuation route may be on foot, depending on the type of disaster.
4. What is my family/household communication plan? Content from ready.gov
- Keep charged batteries, a car phone charger and a solar charger available for backup power for your phone. Reduce the brightness of your mobile phone’s screen to conserve the battery life, as well as putting it in airplane mode and closing apps that you don’t need. Limit watching videos and playing games to help reduce network congestion.
- Make sure all of the collected phone numbers and designated meeting places are shared with all members of your household, and that each member carries a copy of them in their wallets, purses, backpacks, etc. Also post a central copy in your home where it is easily seen. You can also enter the phone numbers into mobile phones or devices.
- Write down the phone numbers for emergency services, utilities, service providers, medical providers, veterinarians, insurance companies and other important services.
- Decide on a few safe, familiar emergency meeting places that your household can go to for protection or to reunite. Try and designate a place inside of your home, in the neighborhood, outside of your neighborhood and outside of your town or city.
- Identify an out of town or out of state contact that can act as a central point of contact for your household to help with reconnection. Local phone lines may become jammed during a disaster, so it may be easier to make a long distance phone call.
- Usually, schools and work places have emergency response plans in place in case of a disaster, so it is a good idea to become familiar with those plans and discuss them with your children, in the case of them being at school. Select a few people who could pick your children up in an emergency.
- Collect the phone numbers and email addresses of everyone in your household. If you have a household member that is deaf, hard of hearing or has a speech disability and uses traditional or video relay service, include information on how to connect through relay services on a landline or mobile phone, or computer.
- It is important to be able to stay in touch with your family and household during a disaster, especially as a disaster could occur during the work day or school.
WV VOAD has different options for a family communication plan including a general one, and ones concerning parents and children.
Start to plan financially for the possibility of a disaster. If your evacuation plan consists of staying at a motel, you will need to have money available to pay for that stay. You may also need money to help repair your home or replace appliances after the disaster.
Content from ready.gov
There are several links on the WV VOAD page concerning insurance coverage, mortgages, and guides on financially preparing for a disaster.
Week 2, September 10-16: Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community
Learn skills you need to help yourself and others until emergency responders can arrive. FEMA offers a web based training on what to do in life threatening situations called Until Help Arrives that teaches simple actions that can be done.
Another way to help your community is by joining your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which is based off of the idea of training individuals to be able to become first responders if a disaster occurs.
Know how to shut off your utilities, such as electric, gas, and water during a disaster.
Check on your neighbors, if safe to do so, during a disaster. Your neighbors are often the ones who will be able to help you the most during the initial stages of the disaster.
Content from ready.gov
Week 3 September 17-23: Practice and Build Out Your Plans
Practice makes perfect, so try doing a practice evacuation drill with your family or household. Make sure to keep contact numbers up to date and make changes as needed.
Consider opening an emergency savings account that can be used in any crisis, but keep a small amount of cash at home in a safe place because there is the possibility that ATMs and credit cards may not work during a disaster when purchasing food, fuel and other necessary supplies.
Gather financial and critical personal, household and medical information. While there are resources to replace lost or damaged documents, it makes the recovery process smoother when you have everything already. You can store them in a sealable plastic bag, a dry storage bag, a safety deposit box, an external drive or on the cloud to make them easily accessible.
Obtain property, homeowners or renters, health and life insurance if you don’t have them already. If you do have them, review the policies to make sure that it is what you need. You may also need to purchase flood insurance, if your homeowners insurance does not cover flooding.
FEMA has created an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, to help prepare you financially for disasters and emergencies.
Know your local resources, such as shelters and food pantries.
Content from ready.gov
Week 4 September 24-30: Get Involved! Be a Part of Something Larger
There are a lot of different ways you can volunteer, whether it be through the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), different organizations in your area, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army, or sharing preparedness info with your friends, classmates, church congregation, and others in your community and encouraging them to become prepared. Some opportunities are listed below:
Sign up to volunteer with the American Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign through September 23 – October 15, 2017. The campaign focuses on educating people on home fire safety and installing free smoke alarms in homes that don’t have them.
Spanning across West Virginia are several local CERT groups that provide training to members to help them learn how to help themselves, their families and others nearby during an incident, and how to provide assistance to first responders.
The Medical Reserve Corps works to strengthen public health, reduce vulnerability, build resilience and improve preparedness, response and recovery capabilities in local communities. Activities that MRC volunteers do include increasing health literacy, supporting prevention efforts, eliminating health disparities and in emergencies they are able to increase local emergency planning and response capabilities
You can also check out the West Virginia VOAD website for volunteer opportunities under the How to Help page.