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September 14th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Create a safety plan for your home

Your home may be your castle, but it is not immune from invaders. Few of us like to think about how our lives would be disrupted by natural or manmade events like fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, and earthquake. But taking time from our busy lives to prepare for such disruptions could make the difference between a positive outcome and tragedy.

There’s no lack of disaster-preparedness information online from government agencies such as FEMA, the California Emergency Management Agency, and organizations like the American Red Cross. The advice they have in common: Prepare an emergency plan for your household and practice it.

Because technology makes it easier than ever to know family members’ whereabouts, the plan is simple to implement.

Stay in touch

how to create a safety planWith everyone spread around geographically at any given time, it’s important that they have a means of staying in touch if separated by a natural or manmade disaster. Each parent, child, or other relative should have access to a cellphone, tablet, laptop, or computer. If those aren’t options, everyone should know where to find libraries, Internet cafes, hospitals, police stations, and other places where Internet access is available, assuming electricity or backup power is up and running. Use instant messaging, email, Twitter, and Facebook to track down family members and post your whereabouts, if necessary.

Arrange meeting places in advance, and make sure everyone has each other’s cellphone numbers, email addresses, and social media contact information on hand at all times. Some useful tips:

Even if cellphone service is available, networks are bound to be overwhelmed. Try sending texts or using Twitter if voice calls aren’t going through, as they use less bandwidth. Keep messages brief to avoid further network bottlenecks.

To the cloud!

In the “old days,” images of families fleeing wildfires showed them clutching photo albums and file boxes stuffed with mementos and important documents. That can still be the case, of course, but technology has made it easier to preserve those vital items.

Photos and scanned documents can now be easily backed up to the cloud for easy access via PC, tablet, and smartphone. Sites such as Dropbox and Elephant Drive offer free and paid storage, with various levels of gigabytes. Many other cloud-storage services are available, allowing all files you create to land in your account as soon as you click “save.”

Most mobile devices and some digital cameras can immediately upload all photos you take to Google Photos. You get unlimited storage if you set up your free account to accept Google’s maximum file size; pay extra and you can upload images that exceed Google’s maximum.

Play it safe

They may be old school, but portable AM/FM radios, flashlights, and first-aid kits are good to have around the house, in your cars, and at the office in an emergency. Here’s why:

Radios stations are likely to be the first source of information if a major disaster strikes. TV stations require more power to stay on the air, so they might be not broadcasting if power lines are down. The federal government partners with many radio stations to transmit official disaster information, so they are equipped with backup generators to keep them on air.

These items can be found at discount department stores, drugstores, convenience stores, and even gas stations. Garage sales are a good source for old portable radios at low prices. Bring along a variety of batteries to make sure they’re in working order. Solar-, hand crank-, and battery-powered combos are another option. They pack flashlights, radios, sirens, and warning lights into compact units that could be a big help in tough situations.

Remember: Before disaster strikes, practice your plan, know your escape options, and stock up on the supplies mentioned above. Download some of the documents we’ve linked to for more detailed instructions about storing food and water, shutting off gas and water lines, and setting up evacuation routes.

Technology might not solve all your problems in a disaster, but it’s good to have at your fingertips in your castle and on your carriages.

 

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