Advice and Opinion

Disasters – make a plan and stay safe

The incidence of natural and man-made disasters seems to be increasing, and more and more households are putting together their own emergency response plans. However, it is important to review and update these plans regularly – and as soon as possible after any move to a new home, says Jan Davel, MD of the RealNet estate agency group.

When drawing up such a plan, he says, homeowners should try to take into account everything that could go wrong, from a genuine disaster such as a fire, flood, robbery or serious illness to a relatively minor disruption such as an electricity outage, burst water pipe or roof leak.

“Then you need to discuss the various possibilities with your entire household in a matter-of-fact manner that will not frighten anyone, and agree on the best possible responses and solutions. Knowing what steps to follow in various emergency situations will help keep everyone calm and safe.”

Next, he says, you should compile a list of contact information for the correct people to call in each type of emergency, including the police, armed response, fire and ambulance services and the local authority water and electricity departments, as well as daytime and after-hours numbers for your doctor, plumber, electrician, appliance repair service, a taxi service and if necessary an emergency veterinarian.

“And once again, you will need to check and update these details whenever you move to a new area, and ensure that all members of your household have the latest digital copy of the plan, which you can easily share as a Google document, for example, or a Dropbox folder that they can access via any computer or smart device.”

Your emergency response plan should also list the locations of the main switch to turn off the electricity supply in your home, the water mains cut-off valve, the manual overrides for electronic gates, garage doors and alarm systems and the first-aid kit, as well as details of any special medical care needed by family members and any chronic medication they may be taking.

Ideally, it should also include the addresses and digital map links or GPS co-ordinates for the nearest hospitals, churches, community centres and other safe locations such as the homes of relatives or friends where family members should plan to meet up if they are separated during an emergency. The locations of your children’s schools should also be on this list.

And finally, Davel says, you should also make sure everyone in your household knows where you keep a grab-bag or two containing emergency evacuation supplies such as torches, warm jackets, some sturdy footwear, a first-aid kit, some packaged food and bottled water, spare car keys, a spare phone and powerbank, some money, some identification and any really precious/ irreplaceable small items (like photos).