Monday, September 05, 2005

Before An Emergency

Althought this article is a little out of the ordinary for a law office blog, personal data protection and a business succession plans are vital to small business owners in a time of catastrophe. I have a accumulated a number of suggestions for personal disaster preparedness. A later article will address business succession plans in times of disaster.

Steps to Building A Personal Emergency Plan

Before you begin, take a few moments to consider the possible emergency situations or potential disasters you could face. These are situations and events that could impact you, your family or your neighborhood or community. Talk to your family members to get their views and assistance in building an action plan you and your family can follow to help reduce the possible effects of any emergency or disaster. You may want to consider helping your neighbours do the same, especially those who are elderly or disabled.

The following steps will help you develop a personal or family emergency plan:


Choose an out-of-town contact whom your family or household will call or e-mail to check in with should an emergency occur. Choose someone who lives far enough away that the individual is unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and be sure to tell that person that he or she is your designated contact. Make a list of your designated contact's telephone numbers (home, work, cellular or pager) and e-mail addresses for everyone in the family or household. Make sure everyone, including the designated contact, has a copy of this list. If you have children, provide the emergency contact numbers to your children's schools. Provide this same information to your workplace.

You should limit telephone use and keep conversations short during an emergency to help free-up lines for those that need help. Your family should be advised that if telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or they can try to e-mail a message. People overload the telephone lines when emergencies happen but e-mail can sometimes get through.


Having a predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be affected or if your neighborhood or community is evacuated. You may even want to make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency.

Be sure to include arrangements for any pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.


If you are asked to evacuate your home or to seal yourself inside for a period of time (more about "sheltering-in-place" later in this brochure), having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable.

Prepare an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to carry container such as a duffel bag or small plastic trash can and store it in an easily accessible location, such as a closet shelf on the main floor. Aim to have an emergency supplies kit that will keep you and your family self-sufficient in your home for at least three days. You probably have most of the items for the kit handy.

The kit should include the following items:

  • "Special needs" items for any member of your household (infant formula or items for people with disabilities or older people);
  • First aid supplies (bandages, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic towelettes, assorted safety pins, cleansing agent or soap, cold pack, eyewash solution, cotton swabs, disposable gloves and face shield, gauze pads, hydrogen peroxide, lip balm, and prescription medications);
  • A change of clothing for each household member (footwear as well);
  • Candles and matches or lighter;
  • A sleeping bag or bedroll for each member;
  • Flashlight and batteries;
  • Battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries;
  • Duct tape;
  • Non-perishable food (this should be replaced every year);
  • Bottled water;
  • Whistle;
  • Playing cards or games;
  • Toilet paper and other personal care supplies;
  • Basic tools (hammer, pliers/wrench, screwdriver set, assortment of fasteners, work gloves);
  • Extra car and house keys; and
  • Some cash/traveller's cheques and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licenses).
  • Copies of essential documentsĂ‚—such as powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your willĂ‚—should also be kept in a safe location outside your home. Keeping these in a safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good idea.


In virtually every emergency situation, you will need to know who to call and what you might be asked to do.

Contact your local community offices to learn about their emergency plans. Find out where emergency shelters are located and whether there are designated emergency routes.
Identify the closest emergency services offices (fire, police, ambulance, gas and electrical utilities, public works), record the telephone numbers and post them near the telephone.
If you live in an apartment building or residence, they should have an emergency plan.
Your workplace may also have an emergency plan.
Determine what your role is in the plan, what to do if an alarm sounds and how to safely evacuate the building.


You need to know if your children will be kept at school until you or a designated adult can pick them up or whether they will be sent home on their own.

Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pick up. Keep in mind that during times of emergency the school telephones may be overwhelmed with calls.

Find out ahead of time what type of authorization the school requires to release a child to a designate should you not be able to collect your child yourself.


Knowing some basic first aid is another useful preparedness measure. In an emergency, remember that you should always tend to your own well being first. First aid training will help you to help yourself and those around you, and help you assist injured people evacuate a building as required.


Know the evacuation plan for your building and what to do in the event of an alarm. This means understanding the various levels of alarm in your building and the proper response for each.

Know the location of each exit stairwell on your floor, and identify them as primary (closest) and secondary exits.

Keep the corridors and aisles leading to these exits free and clear of obstruction and never use the elevator to evacuate a high-rise during an alarm.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.


gail said...

Thanks for providing such detailed information. I have taken the liberty of printing it out from my computer. Thanks! :)

Jeff said...

What to do, what to do. If I print this info out I won't need it. If I don't print it out, I will. What to do, what to do...

Emergency Passports said...

Its a great post..well done..i really like it.