Family Life: Does your family have a disaster plan?

By CHELSEY BYERS

It's tornado season here in the Midwest, and no matter the age, we need to discuss with our families what we should do in the case of an emergency or natural disaster.

I was about 7 or 8 the first time I remember having to take cover in our basement because of a tornado. When the sirens went off, my mom told my brother and me to grab our sleeping bags and a toy to take into the basement. I remember not being able to choose a single toy, so I loaded up as many dolls and toys that I could get into my sleeping bag and dragged them with me; I couldn't just choose one!

We were probably only down in the basement for 15-20 minutes, but to this day, when I hear tornado sirens go off, I know that I need to grab pillows and blankets and seek immediate shelter as low as I can go — or in a well-supported interior place like a bathroom.

Preparation for any emergency is key. First, you need to look at what could affect your family home. Illinois is prone to many weather-induced disasters: tornadoes, floods, ice storms, lightning strikes, etc. You also should think about house fires and even the remote possibility of an earthquake.

When developing a plan for your family, consider all members of your family, including pets. For each type of emergency, identify the safe place — whether inside or out — where the family will go in the event of that type of emergency.

It is suggested to have enough food and water for up to three days for each family member along with some basic first-aid supplies.

Include in your plans anyone who might have special needs, such as a baby who needs formula or someone on vital medication.

Discuss and practice escape routes with children so they know how to get to that location. As a child, I knew that if there was a fire, we were to meet at the turnaround on the driveway — and we all headed to the basement with a blanket during possible tornadoes. Discussion and practice will help keep children calm and safe in scary moments.

When there is a chance for bad weather, it is always good to tune in to local radio, television or online information.

At times, you might be without power. A battery-powered NOAA weather radio might be a good item to keep in your home for such cases. (Since this item is not used regularly, change the batteries in your weather radio twice a year when you change your fire alarm batteries.)

Another good idea is to have a kit of vital records ready to grab and bring with you after the emergency. You will then have the names, numbers and information you need. It also is wise for families to have a small disaster supply kit.

I have just briefly touched on some things to think about with disaster preparedness. For more information, visit http://web.extension.illinois.edu/disaster/guide/g_facts.cfm.

Don't forget that families should review disaster plans annually and make necessary updates.

For more information on this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Chelsey Byers at the University of Illinois Extension office, 801 N. Country Fair Drive, C. She may also be reached at 333-7672 or at clbyers@illinois.edu.

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