Off-the-Job Safety: Majority of Families Do Not Have Emergency Communications Plan

June 6, 2008
Your employees practice emergency preparedness drills at work, but have you encouraged them to do so at home?

Only 30 percent of families recently surveyed by the Home Safety Council have created and discussed an emergency communications plan. That is a cause for concern, given that many experts say a detailed communications plan plays one of the biggest roles in helping families stay connected to each other and emergency contacts during a natural disaster, such as hurricanes and floods.

Residents in states such as North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida recently received even more reasons to create and discuss emergency plans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting a 65 percent chance of an above average storm season this year, predicting there will be 12 to 16 named storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean, including up to five major hurricanes.

“When an emergency occurs, the first thing people often reach for is a phone to call their loved ones,” says Dan Alcazar, consumer marketing officer at EMBARQ.

To help families stay connected during severe weather, EMBARQ and the Home Safety Council created wallet-sized emergency communication cards that include space to list important phone numbers and medical information. The cards can be downloaded at http://www.embarq.com/severeweather.

“Creating an emergency communication plan is simple,” says Home Safety Council President Meri-K Appy. “First, families should discuss how they will communicate during an emergency and then record important plan information on their emergency communication cards. Making sure every family member has this information at his or her fingertips can be a lifesaver if you’re in different places when disaster strikes.”

Both Alcazar and Appy recommend having a corded landline phone in the home or workplace, which is a phone that has a handset connected to the base of the phone by a cord.

“Corded landline phones will continue to operate if the power goes out in your home,” Appy said. “It is often the most reliable source of communication in the case of an emergency.”

North Carolina residents have help preparing for severe weather: EMBARQ will provide free corded landline phones at its participating retail stores while supplies last to customers who come into its stores and request one.

“In addition, as disasters occur in EMBARQ’s service areas, our payphone services division will deploy and set up portable phone banks within 24 hours where residents can place calls,” Alcazar said. “Each person will have up to 15 minutes of calling time and the phone banks will be stationed in the affected areas for up to 30 days.”

Once a communications plan is created, Appy recommends these safety tips.

  • Compile a “Ready-to-Go Kit” in case your family needs to leave your home and a “Ready-to-Stay Kit” in case your family needs to stay inside your home for an extended time. Kits should contain water, canned food, a can opener, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, a change of clothes for each family member and first aid supplies.
  • Designate a safe meeting place outside your home and out of harm’s way.
  • Designate a safe place to stay in your home in case of severe weather.
  • Teach your children how to use the phone to call for help.
  • Update wireless phones with “in case of emergency” (ICE) contact information.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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