Events prove family emergency plans needed
Although U.S. Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff seemed unconnected with reality when he gave a dry recitation last Thursday of the importance of family emergency plans as thousands of New Orleans residents suffered, their very presence in impromptu emergency shelters underscored the message. The "inadequate" performance of federal agencies was a very strong message that survival may depend on taking control of our own response to emergencies.
There is no conceivable natural disaster that would cause such multi-state destruction and disruption of emergency services as that still being experienced on the Gulf Coast. But there are myriad circumstances from tornadoes to train derailments that would require quick responses from families and individuals.
Planning should start with mitigation, actions that if they couldn't prevent consequences could make them more survivable and reduce destruction of property.
Different escape routes should be mapped out that can get family members out of the home, city or even the region. Kits of such things like flashlights, portable radios and cutting tools, prepared and placed in convenient places, with supplies of water and canned goods should be stocked. Finally, the kit should include a list of special medical needs.
Lessons can be learned from the fate families struggling to re-unite with little or no communications. A number of a friend or family member in another part of the country unlikely to be affected by local conditions could serve as an agreed-upon phone contact. Family members could also agree to post on a common Web site.
Frantic seconds spent searching for needed items with a tornado siren wailing in the background is not a recipe for clear decisions. Time taken to plan actions in advance could literally be the difference between life and death.