We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” If you want to get better at fishing, playing the violin, knitting, or emergency preparedness . . . you need to practice. If you have a Family Evacuation and Emergency Plan, you’re ahead of the game, but how often have you practiced it? Just like with learning a new hobby or skill, we have to practice our Family Evacuation and Emergency Plans so that we know what to do and where to go if an emergency hits.
But how should you practice? Where should you start? What should you do?
Consider mapping out your Evacuation and Emergency plans over a series of family nights/meetings. Since discussions about the various supplies you’ll need and situations you may encounter during an emergency may be overwhelming, talking about it all in one day may kill the enthusiasm your family has (or you’re trying to build) for prepping . . . Try to get everyone involved in the discussion in some way.
As a family discuss what your meeting place will be, what types of items to include in your emergency kits, who your emergency contacts will be, and what methods of evacuation you could use (bike, foot, scooter, car). Our Family evacuation plan provides a comprehensive chart on how to create and record info for your emergency plan if you are unsure of where to start.
Once your family has mapped out your emergency evacuation plan, it’s time to practice. To build excitement and motivation for your drill, you may want to make it into a friendly competition. The ultimate “winner” could choose a treat or favorite dinner if they win. And since you are practicing consistently, everyone will hopefully get a chance to win while also becoming prepared in the process!
Begin your practice with a goal:
- Get all family members to the in-city meeting place by a specific time
- Get all members out of the house and on the lawn in _________ minutes
- Time the amount of time it takes to get all family members to the out of city contact on _________mode of transportation
- Have each person pick one important or special item and get out of the house in ________ minutes (items could be a computer drive, diary, photos, a favorite book or doll, medicine) How long will it take them to decide what’s most important and get out of the house?
Try to make your practice drills feel like real situations.
- Have everyone practice carrying their emergency kits with them as they go to the meeting place
- Have them pretend to be asleep in bed and have to get out of the house—have shoes, a flashlight, or glow stick by the bed for easy access
- Have them practice using the secondary exits of the house, if the primary exits are inaccessible
- Have them practice contacting your emergency out-of-city/state contact to let other family members know where you are (warn your out of city/state contact to expect several calls if you choose to practice this skill)
Another fun idea for practice is to do an emergency preparedness scavenger hunt/choose your own adventure. This could be both fun and challenging for teens. For instance, leave them notes at pivotal spots on their evacuation route with situations that need solutions:
- If they go to get their bike to evacuate you could leave note that says “oh no, there’s a flat tire and not enough time to fix it to meet the family in time. What do you do?”
- Or if they get to the emergency spot, you could leave a note that says “everyone’s late. Who do you call to find out what’s happened?—the emergency contact” and have them call the contact (warn your contact beforehand though that this is just a drill . . . )
The depth of your practice can range from quick and short basic skills to more intense survival situations. It’s up to you and your family to determine what types of practice will work best. Perhaps start out with the basic skills like just getting out of the house and onto the lawn with an emergency kit. As your family masters the basics, you can then move up to more complex tasks.
After each drill, evaluate how you did or where you need to improve upon your plan. Additionally, having a good fitness regime will also help you and your family to evaluate how they can improve physically to execute the emergency plan.
Try to make your practices a consistent part of your family’s life. Consider picking one day every three months to practice with your family. How often you practice really just depends on what works for your schedule. But practicing consistently is key to helping your family become familiar and comfortable with what to do during an emergency.