Preparation and Planning
A disaster may strike at any time and at any place. When it does, you will be needed by the community that you serve to provide urgently needed rescue and relief. Because of this, it is important that you make sure your family is prepared for your absence in the event of a disaster. Here are some of the underlying reasons for the need to include all members of your household in planning and preparing:
- Being able to deploy knowing that your loved ones are prepared reduces stress and increases your ability to do your job and stay safe. Public safety personnel oftentimes live in or near the area in which they are employed. In the event of a disaster at or around the vicinity in which you work, your loved ones may be impacted by the very event to which you are responding. Taking steps toward readiness as a family will mediate this source of potentially debilitating stress at a time when you need to be at your best.
- You may have to be away from home for a while. This ties in with the previous point. Chances are quite high that you will be summoned almost immediately. Once you’re at the scene, opportunities for heading home to check on things will probably be scarce; the people in the community you protect and serve will be relying on you and your colleagues for help and trained personnel will probably be in short supply. If disaster strikes while you’re at work (an excellent possibility), you may have to respond immediately, without any chance to check on things at home.
- Being prepared will ease the long-term impact of the event. It will reduce the disaster’s psychological impact on everyone in your home if they know you’re prepared. Thorough preparation and planning can also reduce the degree of financial devastation your household faces. All these things will collectively contribute to a quicker recovery for all of you.
By enacting steps as a family to be ready in case disaster strikes, you can help your loved ones and the community you are sworn to serve, as well as yourself. The steps you will take are very much the same as those taken by the public. However, given the unique role that public safety personnel perform, there are some things that deserve additional emphasis:
- Communication: How will you communicate with one another? Plan for this now, because it may be an issue during a catastrophic event. Think about having a primary means of communication, as well as a backup in case the primary one fails. Also, discuss the fact that you may be temporarily unable to contact one another. As an example, during Hurricane Katrina, the internet, landline telephones, and cellular phones were all incapacitated.
- Evacuation: Establish beforehand some guidelines for when and how your family will evacuate. For help with this, you can take a look at FEMA's Evacuation Guidelines. You may also want to consider where everyone will go in the event that evacuation does become necessary. For help with this, there is an option at the bottom of this GEMA page to find and contact your local emergency management agencies by county. You may also use the American Red Cross Shelter Finder App.
- Location and Status: How will they know you’re okay? Does your agency have a plan for letting personnel’s families know that their people are okay? Be familiar with locator services like SATERN.
- Basic life support skills: Most of you have had at least some training on what to do if someone becomes critically ill or injured. Even if you haven’t, you have access to places that provide such training through your agency. Take advantage of this benefit! At a minimum, make sure everyone is certified in CPR and acquainted with basic trauma care.
- Talk to young children: It’s important to familiarize yourself with how children and adolescents at various levels experience and respond to disasters and to talk to them about it beforehand. In the event that you must respond to a disaster, your absence may intensify the fears they experience. Talk to them about your role during a disaster in a way that is appropriate to their age.