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Creating an Emergency Plan

Emergency action plans keep you and your family calm and safe in case of a natural disaster, fire or terrorist attack. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that businesses have plans in place in case of an emergency. Planning for these events is just as important for families, in order to ensure everyone is prepared when a disaster occurs.

Earthquakes
Areas along fault lines are more prone to more powerful and frequent earthquakes than other areas, but earthquakes can occur almost anywhere. People in Alaska and California are well aware of the risk earthquakes pose, and most residents have survived previous quakes.

Those in the Pacific Northwest and along the New Madrid fault line in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, however, are at a much higher risk because they may not be aware they are in an earthquake prone area. The time between the quakes here is much longer, and there are not preparedness drills held in these areas.

Your earthquake emergency action plan should include a meeting spot for your family after the event, communication strategies for other loved ones, where you can seek shelter if your home is uninhabitable and access to clean water and food. The California Department of Transportation also offers tips and checklists for earthquake emergency plans.

Tornadoes
It is most important to know where you will seek shelter during a tornado. While a storm shelter underground is the safest place, many families do not have one. A basement level in the home is a good substitute, although families without a basement must select another small interior room without windows for shelter. This is often a bathroom.

Tornadoes typically only affect small areas of several square miles, so arranging for shelter with friends or family in case your home is uninhabitable after an event is often easier than with other natural disasters. You should plan for a lack of utilities including electricity and phone service for several days.

Having a weather radio on hand during a tornado will help you to follow your emergency action plan and remain safe. The Centers for Disease Control offers information on preparing a tornado emergency action plan. An action plan for schools is also a requirement in all states.

Floods
Most floods occur in floodplains, but can occur in many areas when extreme weather patterns bring several inches of rain in a short amount of time. The most important safety tip in a flood is to have an evacuation plan. Be aware, however, that some roads in low-lying areas may be closed due to flooding. You should never try to cross a flooded area in a vehicle. Try to route your evacuation through areas that are at a higher elevation or have multiple escape routes planned.

Insurance company FM Global hosts information on forming and following a flood emergency action plan. A template is available online for writing your own emergency action plan in the case of a flood.

Fires
A fire can quickly escalate from a small flame to a major disaster in only a few minutes. Seconds can mean the difference in life and death in a fire. For this reason, it is mandatory for all public buildings to post a map of emergency exits and evacuation routes. Businesses must also have a plan for employees in case of fire. The North Carolina Department of Labor provides a template for businesses.

Fire escape plans are among the most important emergency action plans for families, as well. Teaching children how to crawl in thick smoke, to evacuate the building and where to meet once outside can save lives in the event of an emergency. Having a properly maintained and functional fire extinguisher in a home or vehicle can also help keep your family remain safe.

Hurricanes
Affecting primarily coastal areas, hurricanes combine the dangers of high winds and flooding. Hurricane emergency plans often resemble flood emergency action plans. They do, however, typically include some specific hurricane preparedness actions such as covering the windows of your home with plywood.

The most important part of a hurricane emergency action plan is to know your evacuation plans. It is also important to have a back-up plan if there is heavy traffic, a gasoline shortage or other problems. The best way to stay safe in a hurricane is to remove your family from its path.

Terrorism
The U.S. government issues a color-coded threat level alert notifying residents of the chance of an impending attack by known terrorist organization. With an elevated threat risk, there are additional steps the government asks residents to take in order to remain safe.

In the event of a terrorist attack, the most important thing will be having access to information such as radio, as well as a safe food and water supply. Terrorism preparedness for families is highly recommended, including emergency communication plans and evacuation routes in case of a large-scale attack in your area. Other tips include how to minimize exposure to airborne pathogens in case of a biological attack.

Other
Emergency action plans can help you and your family remain safe in many situations, including some that are unlikely to affect others. A food allergy emergency action plan is often necessary for schools, daycares and even homes who have children with severe food allergies. Another example of a personal emergency action plan is the plan devised when you are travelling abroad, or those recommended by universities for students studying abroad.

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