Devastating acts, such as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, have left many concerned about the possibility of future incidents in the United States. What might be their potential impact? Terrorist acts have raised uncertainties and stress levels about what might happen next. Nevertheless, there are actions you can take to prepare for the unexpected and reduce the stress that you may feel now as well as later should another emergency arise. Taking preparatory steps now can reassure you and your children that you can exert a measure of control—even in the face of such events.
Finding out what can happen is the first step. Once you have determined the events possible and their potential in your community, it is important that you discuss them with your family or household. Develop a disaster plan together.
1. Create an emergency communications plan.
Choose an out-of-town contact your family or household will call or e-mail to check on each other should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that contact's, and each other's, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers (home, work, pager and cell). Leave these contact numbers at your children's schools, if you have children, and at your workplace. Your family should know that if telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try e-mail. Many people flood the telephone lines when emergencies happen but e-mail can sometimes get through when calls don't.
2. Establish a meeting place.
Having a predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be affected or the area 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 any pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.
3. Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
If you need to evacuate your home or are asked to "shelter in place," having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable. Prepare a disaster supplies kit in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or small plastic trash can. Include "special needs" items for any member of your household (infant formula or items for people with disabilities or older people), first aid supplies (including prescription medications), a change of clothing for each household member, a sleeping bag or bedroll for each, a battery powered radio or television and extra batteries, food, bottled water and tools. It is also a good idea to include some cash and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licenses) in your kit.
Copies of essential documents-like powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will-should also be kept in a safe location outside your home. A safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good choice.
4. Check on the school emergency plan of any school-age children you may have.
You need to know if they will they keep children at school until a parent or designated adult can pick them up or send them home on their own. Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pickup. And, ask what type of authorization the school may require to release a child to someone you designate, if you are not able to pick up your child. During times of emergency the school telephones may be overwhelmed with calls.
For more information on putting together a disaster plan, request a copy of the brochure titled Your Family Disaster Plan (A4466) from your local American Red Cross chapter. You may also want to request a copy of Before Disaster Strikes . . . How to Make Sure You're Financially Prepared (A5075) for specific information on what you can do now to protect your assets.
A Word on What Could Happen As we learned from the events of September 11, 2001, the following things can happen after a terrorist attack:
If local authorities ask you to leave your home, they have a good reason to make this request, and you should heed the advice immediately. Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of local emergency officials and keep these simple tips in mind-
Listen to local authorities.
Your local authorities will provide you with the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. Staying tuned to local radio and television, and following their instructions is your safest choice.
If you're sure you have time:
Shelter-in-place Fact Sheet [PDF] Spanish [PDF]
If you are advised by local officials to "shelter in place," what they mean is for you to remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. Close and lock all windows and exterior doors. Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Close the fireplace damper. Get your disaster supplies kit, and make sure the radio is working. Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed. Using duct tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room. Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.
Another useful preparation includes learning some basic first aid. To enroll in a first aid and AED/CPR course, contact your local American Red Cross chapter. In an emergency situation, you need to tend to your own well-being first and then consider first aid for others immediately around you, including possibly assisting injured people to evacuate a building if necessary.
People who may have come into contact with a biological or chemical agent may need to go through a decontamination procedure and receive medical attention. Listen to the advice of local officials on the radio or television to determine what steps you will need to take to protect yourself and your family. As emergency services will likely be overwhelmed, only call 9-1-1 about life-threatening emergencies.
First Aid Primer
If you encounter someone who is injured, apply the emergency action steps: Check-Call-Care. Check the scene to make sure it is safe for you to approach. Then check the victim for unconsciousness and life-threatening conditions. Someone who has a life-threatening condition, such as not breathing or severe bleeding, requires immediate care by trained responders and may require treatment by medical professionals. Call out for help. There are some steps that you can take, however, to care for someone who is hurt, but whose injuries are not life threatening.
Care for Shock
Care for Injuries to Muscles, Bones and Joints
Be Aware of Biological/Radiological Exposure
Reduce Any Care Risks
The risk of getting a disease while giving first aid is extremely rare. However, to reduce the risk even further:
It is important to be prepared for an emergency and to know how to give emergency care.
Helpful Links for Homeland Security:
Helpful Links for Bioterror and other agents: