Steps to set up a family emergency plan


During the recent Carlsbad fires, families were forced to quickly evacuate their homes. This disaster has caused families to rethink their emergency action plans. (Photo courtesy Emma Veidt)

During fire season, keeping family and friends nearby is the most important thing. These recent fires surprised every family in North County San Diego and most had no clue how to react to such a severe situation. Phone lines jammed and families had trouble reconnecting because they had no family plan. In a recent survey, only one out of seven families planned where to meet in an emergency such as these fires, calculating about 14 percent. In an emergency, six out of seven families will scramble around Carlsbad unsure of what to do or where to go. Here are some tips so your family can be a part of that safe 14 percent.

1. During school/work hours, decide on a specific meeting spot. If you decide to meet in a general location such as a street, chances are you will not be able to find your family through the crowds of frantic families. For example, choose a lifeguard tower at the beach. Sand does not burn and would not collapse in an earthquake. However, if a tsunami rips through the Southern California, obviously this would not be an ideal location.

2. Keep a checklist in your car. In order to keep a clear head and drive to your destination, keep a list in your car of where to go and what to bring. Also, avoid “living on the edge” and keep your gas half full at all times. The first thing SDG&E does during a fire emergency is turn off power, which shuts off gas pumps. Running out of gas during an emergency only adds to the stress.

3. Practice your plan before you get into any danger. Going through each step of the plan will simplify the meeting process during the actual emergency. We have school-wide earthquake drills for a reason.

4. For at-home safety, identify the possible escape routes for both upstairs and downstairs. Also, practice using an escape ladder to evacuate quickly during a real fire. One of the things people forget to do is replace their smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. Be sure to replace and check the detectors so they work in a real emergency. Fire departments recommend using a holiday such as Valentine’s Day as a replacement date so you remember easily.

5. Designate an out-of-state relative to connect your family. The phone lines in Southern California will be clogged, but not the phone lines out of state. Call this relative to reassure your safety and location and ask him to relay the message to your family in California.

6. Keep a pet carrier assembled and ready for evacuation. Putting together a crate can take up to five minutes, which is time you should be spending gathering prized possessions. If the carrier is ready to go at all times, you can spend those extra five minutes packing your critical documents and photographs.

7. If you need to evacuate, putting together a 72-hour kit in advance is necessary. Online instructions on how to create a 72-hour kit vary in ingredients, but the basics include protein bars, water (4 quarts per person), important documents and blankets. As time passes between emergencies, be sure to replace the food and water every few months.

8. Register your entire family for AlertSanDiego, San Diego County’s mass notification system. Enter your address and phone number to receive a text or a phone call if your house comes close to danger. Sites such as this help you track your safety and are crucial during fire seasons when breakouts can spread rapidly and unexpectedly.

9. Review how to respond to emergencies. We all know to stop, drop and roll, but do we always remember what to do during an earthquake? Keep track of what to do in every situation to prevent any freak outs.

10. Add your suggestions from the recent fires to the Carlsbad Unified School District’s emergency operation plan. Send an email to [email protected] and the administration will apply community feedback in re-evaluating district plans in case of another disaster.

Use these steps to stay as safe as possible during any event. Want more information? Visit these websites: