Is your family truly prepared for an unexpected emergency evacuation?
When disaster strikes, can you confidently say that your family is ready for anything?
As a parent, you do everything in your power to make sure your child is safe from harm. But some dangers can't be avoided, and because of this, emergency preparedness is truly important. Sometimes though, even the most rigorous parent can overlook crucial safety factors — like your building's emergency exit plans.
A dad of two, Hadi Wenas, recently realised the importance of having a "flawless emergency exit plan" in place for those who live in a high rise building like he does (and many of you reading this do).
"Emergency Exit Drama. No, I don't mean startup exit, I meant real emergency exit drama," he writes in a timely Facebook post.
"If you live in an apartment, have you checked if the emergency exit plan is ready and flawless?"
So, have you?
Emergency preparedness: "If you live in an apartment, have you checked if the emergency exit plan is ready and flawless?"
Hadi lives on the 31st floor of a high rise building. One morning, he decided to walk all the way down to the ground floor out of curiosity. To his surprise, he found that the emergency door was locked tight.
"I tried breaking it by kicking it, it's too strong. Then I called the receptionist, she offered me to talk to security," he recounts. "People who have worked with me would have guessed what would happen then. I followed through."
He recalls telling the receptionist, "Assume this is a real emergency, do you think I really care about talking to a security? Please get this door open, NOW."
After that, both security and engineering tried to pry the door open.
"It took them 15 minutes to get the door open. I believe this is too long and too dangerous. Putting it simply, NOT READY for real emergency plan," he continues, emphasising the scary possibilities of what could happen in the event of real catastrophes, like earthquakes (such as the recent one that rocked Jakarta) or fires.
"Imagine, how many people per floor, all going down the emergency door, walking down the emergency stairs, only to find out that it's blocked at the ground floor," he writes. "Real people could lose their lives. I have a family of four, this SMALL thing matters a lot to me. If you live in an apartment, have you checked your emergency exit plan?"
Emergency preparedness tips parents should know
As this first-hand recounting shows, even if you're the type of person who's prepared for anything, you have to be extra thorough, especially when it comes to the safety of your family.
Hadi's note is indeed an eye-opener for all parents who live or work in high rise buildings, or those whose kids go to school or daycare in one. It's a reminder to us all to speak to the management of these places about what kind of safety procedures they have in place for emergency situations.
Are the emergency exits easily accessible? More importantly, can they be opened when needed? Do the security personnel know what to do to ensure the safety of people in the building? What about your kids — do they have regular emergency drills? Do they know what to do should they find themselves in an emergency situation when they're away from you?
Do you know what to do in an emergency situation at home? Or what if something happens at your child's school?
Here's some valuable information that you and your loved ones should arm yourselves with for maximum emergency preparedness.
Before an evacuation:
1. Learn the types of disasters you are at risk of in your neighbourhood
If you live in an area that's prone to flooding or earthquakes, it's best to tell your children about them even at a young age. Do so in a calm, matter-of-fact tone, and answer their questions patiently.
For instance, teach them the basics of drop, cover, and hold in the event of an earthquake.
2. Plan how to leave and where to go in the event of an evacuation
In the event of an evacuation, will you head to a friend's house nearby or a hotel? Make sure to know your way around your neighbourhood. Familiarise yourself with alternate routes.
If you have pets, make sure your planned evacuation destination is pet-friendly. Remember to follow the instructions of local officials. Be prepared to evacuate on foot, in case it's not advisable to bring a vehicle.
3. Come up with a family reunification plan
This is very important, mums and dads. When disaster strikes, you should try your best to stay calm. But in case your family gets separated in the chaos, you should have a plan in place. This should include:
- contact details of everyone in the household
- emergency contact details within your community
- have an out-of-town contact in case no one is reachable; it can be a relative or friend
- safe, familiar places as emergency meeting places should you get separated
Remember to save copies of this on your phone or tablet, as printouts could easily be lost.
You can get a sample family reunification and communication plan here.
4. Have a go-bag ready beside your door
Aside from having a reunification plan, it's also important to assemble a family "go bag" that you can easily grab in a quick evacuation. The bag should contain:
- Water (around three litres per person)
- Food (at least three day's worth of non-perishable food)
- Battery powered radio
- First aid kit
- Extra sets of batteries
- Emergency whistle
- Face dust masks
- Tools to build makeshift shelter: plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags with plastic ties
- Wrench or pliers
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps and copy of reunification plan
- Cell phone with chargers and an extra battery or powerbank
- If you have an infant, make sure your go-bag is equipped with three day's worth of daily essentials: diapers, clothing, socks etc.
- Certified copies of important documents
5. Plan your means of transportation
If you have a car, make sure it is equipped with an emergency go-bag as well. Always make sure it has a half or full tank of gas. You never know, gas stations might be closed in the event of a natural disaster
However, if you don't have a car, you should make transportation arrangements. Get in touch with family, friends, or ask neighbours or local officials for help.
Emergency preparedness tips for when you're travelling with kids
Disaster can strike at anytime, even when you're abroad. What if you're enjoying a holiday with your family and you need to be evacuated because of a natural disaster?
1. Get to know your accommodations
The first step is to thoroughly research what evacuation plans your chosen hotel or place of accommodation has in place. You can call ahead or research what other travellers have said about them on review websites.
2. Make sure to know your exits once you get there
Once you're at your hotel, make sure you know all the nearest exits at all times. Most of all, ensure the emergency doors aren't locked or are too heavy to open.
3. Have a reunification plan
As mentioned above, each family member should always have a copy of the family reunification and communication plan at all times!
4. Disaster-proof your itinerary
Review all the places you will visit. Make sure to know the emergency exits. Familiarise yourself with the area, if you're going on a group tour. Decide on popular tourist spots to use as emergency meeting places.
5. Know the local emergency hotlines and policies
If travelling internationally, make sure you have updated local emergency hotlines ALWAYS on your person. Different countries have different ways to respond to emergencies, so make sure you're up to speed.
We hope you found this information helpful. What emergency plans does your family have in place?