I grew up in a time when home phones and pay phones were everywhere. (I know - I'm older than you.)
There was no Internet and certainly no cell phones. If someone wanted to call you, they called from their home phone or pay phone and hoped you were home.
We had everyone's phone number memorized - everyone we called regularly, at least.
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Where do we keep our most-called phone numbers now? In our cell phones, of course. Even my home phone has programmable number keys.
So what would happen in a catastrophe if we needed to contact a loved one? Chances are — we couldn't. During some fairly recent disasters (9/11, Katrina, Sandy, Japan's tsunami), phone lines were so overloaded that local calls could not be completed. Interestingly, most long distance calls still went through.
The lesson here is to have contacts who are a long distance call away to be the point person where all family members report their whereabouts. Often in disaster situations, calls will not go through at all, but text messages will.
Write/type your important information and contact numbers on a business card. Carry it with you and memorize the information on it. Print it out on water resistant stock if possible or laminate it. Do this as quickly as you can. The numbers in your cell may not always be available to you.
Now is the time to plan how your family will stay in contact if separated because of some kind of disaster. Gather the family together to discuss and plan how you will all keep in touch, IF a crisis occurs.
These are the questions that should be asked, and then answered. Write down the answers in your emergency contact plan.
Do you have a Neighborhood Watch Program organized in your neighborhood? If you do, hold a meeting to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster. Know your neighbors' skills (medical, technical). Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans for child care in case parents can't get home.
Download this form, Family Emergency Contacts Plan (PDF format), to use for keeping all your emergency contacts in one place. Fill it out and put it in your family planner binder.
Or download this Excel version to fill in on your computer.
Family Emergency Contacts Plan (Excel format - zipped)
Your emergency contact plan and list is one of the MOST important tasks you can complete for your family's safety in a real disaster.
Your Family Documents Emergency Planner - Your family emergency planner should include emergency contacts, copies of insurance policies, deeds, licenses, credit cards — basically all your important paperwork, where the originals are located, and who to contact in case of a catastrophe or death.
It should also include all the necessary forms for keeping track of your food storage and other supplies.
Emergency Radios - When there is no electricity, no cell phone service, no Internet connection, an emergency radio would be a good thing to have to keep in contact with the outside world.
It should have more than one power source: electric, solar, wind up, and battery. There are radios with several bands: AM, FM, weather, and short wave. The prices range from reasonable to expensive depending on how many functions it may have.
I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments.