How to Prepare for Emergencies
The Metropolitan Boston area is exposed to a wide variety of hazards, both natural and man made. Severe storms, fires, hazardous materials spills, earthquakes, and acts of terrorism are just some of the potential emergencies we may encounter. The Town of Brookline does all it can to prepare for emergencies and protect its residents. However there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family in an emergency.
Consider the Possibilities
Imagine that you have no electricity, no gas, no water, and no telephone service. Imagine that all the businesses are closed and emergency services have not been able to get to you yet. What will you do until help arrives? In a large scale emergency, the initial availability of emergency services may be limited and it is best if you and your family are prepared for an emergency.
Find out how you can prepare yourself, your family, or your business for an emergency. You can also learn what to do in response to a specific disaster, just in case.
The following are some basic steps that businesses should take to prepare for an emergency:
- Develop and display an evacuation plan and test this plan regularly.
- Identify critical business functions that absolutely must continue and develop a process to ensure these will carry on.
- Identify employees that can serve as team leaders. Team leaders should be trained to assist fellow employees in an emergency.
- Maintain sufficient insurance coverage for your business.
- Prepare backups and store offsite all computer records, such as payroll, inventory, etc.
- Prepare employee rosters with emergency contact information.
What is a File of Life?
The File of Life is comprised of a card insert and a magnetic red pouch to put on your fridge or any appliance in your kitchen that is magnetized. If emergency responders are called to your home, they will go in the kitchen and look for one.
Why prepare a File of Life?
A File of Life will speak for you when you may not be able to speak for yourself. Preparing your vital information ahead of time will allow emergency responders to give you accurate care and bring all your information with you to the emergency room. Some of the important information on the file of life are your emergency contact, your doctor, your preferred hospital, your health insurance, where you keep your health care proxy if you have one, a list of all your medications.
If you have more medication than space on the card, you can ask your doctor to print a list that you can fold and add to the red pouch.
Remember to check your file of life regularly and make appropriate updates.
Where can I get a File of Life?
What happens if I have an emergency outside of home?
The File of Life also comes in a pocket size that can be kept in your wallet. It will hold exactly the same information but has the advantage of being with you at all times.
If you have a smartphone, you can fill out and activate your Medical ID. Both the iPhone and newer Samsung phones have a Medical ID integrated in the phone.
Make sure to enter all your relevant information and especially designate an emergency contact. The Medical ID can be accessed by anyone without a password. Your emergency contact can be accessed through the Medical ID and called from your OWN phone. This will maximize the chances of your contact answering the phone. Please make sure the person you designate as your emergency contact is aware!
Build a supply kit and go-bag
In addition to preparing a home disaster kit, place supplies needed for an evacuation in an easy to carry container. Remember to choose a container that is practical for you to carry such as a back pack, a rolling suitcase, or a tool kit. Whatever you choose, you should be able to independently carry it!
- Plan for 1 gallon per person per day (for drinking and food preparation / sanitation) in plastic containers. Don't forget to account some water for your pets if you have any.
- Stock at least a 7-day supply per person
- Food for infants or persons on special diets
- Pack a 7-day supply of non-perishable food that requires no cooking, refrigeration, or water such as:
- Canned meats
First Aid Kit
Assemble a basic kit for home and car. Include the following:
- Aspirin pain reliever,
- Antacid, anti-diarrhea, etc.
- Latex gloves
- Needle / tweezers
- Insect repellent
Clothing & Bedding
- Blankets or Sleeping Bags
- One complete change of clothing per person
- Rain gear, hats, gloves
- Sturdy shoes
- Thermal underwear
Tools & Supplies
- Basic tools such as hammer, pliers, wrench, etc.
- Battery-operated radio with spare batteries
- Cash / travelers checks
- Chlorine / disinfectant
- Compass / map
- Fire extinguisher
- Flashlight with spare batteries
- Manual can opener
- Masking tape / plastic sheeting
- Plastic plates, cups, utensils, garbage bags
- Signal flare and whistle
- Utility knife
- Contact lenses / eye glasses / dentures
- Extra set of car and house keys
- Important personal documents (in waterproof container, include passport / birth certificate, wills, account numbers, household inventory, File of Life)
- Infant diapers, bottles, formula, medication
- Make sure car gas tank is at least half full
- Matches (in waterproof container)
- Pet care items. If you go, they go!
- Prescriptions / special medications
- Soap, toilet paper, personal hygiene items
Special considerations for seniors and people with access and/or functional needs
- Set Up a Personal Support Network: Designate someone to check on you in an emergency and to help with evacuation or sheltering-in-place.
- Personal Care Assistance: If you receive assistance from a home healthcare agency or in-home support provider, find out how the provider will respond in an emergency. Designate backup or alternative providers that you can contact in an emergency.
- If you use a wheelchair: Plan for how you will evacuate in an emergency and discuss it with your care providers. If you use a motorized wheelchair, have a manual wheelchair as a backup.
- If you are Blind or Visually Impaired: Keep an extra collapsible cane by your bed. Attach a whistle to the cane; use it if you need to attract attention. Exercise caution when moving around after an earthquake; items may fall and block paths that are normally unobstructed.
- If you are hearing impaired: Keep extra batteries for your hearing aids with emergency supplies. Consider storing your hearing aids in a container attached to your nightstand or bedpost, so you can locate them quickly after a disaster.
Don't delay... Make a plan today.
Where to start?
- Understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings. Sign up for Brookline's notification system AlertBrookline. AlertBrookline can be received in 6 languages - English, Spanish, Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. You can select to receive the alerts by phone, text messages, and/or email.
- Discuss disasters that may affect your area and where you would go if you needed to evacuate. Meet with family members and discuss the dangers of possible emergency events such as fire, severe weather, hazardous spills, medical emergencies, and terrorism and how you will respond to each emergency.
What goes in a communication plan?
- Household information: Make sure all members of your household know everyone's phone numbers and email addresses. If you do not remember this information by heart, make sure you have a back up method to retrieving this information other than your cellphone such as a laminated card with all important numbers. Post emergency numbers by every phone if you have a landline. Teach children how to make emergency calls as well as long- distance phone calls.
- School, childcare, caregiver, and workplace plans and information: Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans for your workplaces as well as your children schools/daycares. Know who to contact and where their evacuation place is. Make sure you know how information is relayed to parents in an emergency and keep the school up to date on emergency contact information. This will make reunification with your family members much easier.
- Emergency contacts: Plan how your family would stay in contact if separated or if you can't return home for some reason. You should identify an in-state AND out-of-state emergency contact. Local phone lines can become saturated during a large scale event but long-distance lines are freer. If calls are still not going through, TEXT. Decide on your emergency contacts and make sure all household members know the numbers to call.
- Emergency meeting places: Designate meeting places (indoor/outdoor) near your home if you can't return home, outside your neighborhood if you can't return to the area, and out of town. Make sure all family members are familiar and know how to get to these meeting places.
- Emergency contact for your pet- if you have pets, make sure you have an emergency contact willing to take care of them if you have to go to the hospital. If you need to evacuate your home, identify hotels or friends who will accept you with your pets.
- File of Life : Have a File of Life, one per person, with all important medical information. This is especially important if you have medical issues and/or live alone. You should also have your pets medical information handy. You can request a free File of Life from the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, or the Brookline Senior Center.
Build a community network
- Your neighbors will be able to reach you before first responders. Create a buddy system, and check on each others. This is particularly important if you live alone and are an elder or a person with a disability.
- Create a phone tree. If calls can’t be placed, text.
- Have point people for different tasks: child pick up from school, supplies, meeting spot, checking on the neighbor...
- Consider two way radios as an alternative to cellphones for communication.
- Don’t forget to include your pets/service animals in your plans.
- Make sure to consider how mobility issues affect your ability to get to the designated meeting spot. Do your emergency contacts and neighbors know where your meeting spot is? Is someone responsible for helping you get to the meeting spot?
REVIEW AND PRACTICE YOUR PLAN FREQUENTLY WITH YOUR FAMILY!
Go to www.ready.gov to help you create a communication plan.
Why are vital documents important?
Having extra copies of your important documents is an important aspect of emergency preparedness. These documents have important details about you and your loved ones that will make it easier to help you. And they will speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself.
Collecting them will help you see if there is documentation or information that you lack.
What are vital documents?
- Birth certificate, marriage, divorce, death
- Passport, driver’s license, social security
- Pet papers, ID tags, photos with family member
- Financial and Legal documents such as credit cards, checking/saving accounts, insurance policies, tax statements, will, trust, power of attorney
- Medical information: insurance, medications/immunizations/medical equipment, contact info for doctors.
- Proof of citizenship - Social Security Cards, driver's license, Green Card
- Birth certificates/ Death certificates
- Adoption papers
- Emergency contact information
- Doctor's contact information
- Immunization records
- Health information including list of medications
- Medical directives
- Will, power of attorney, etc...
- Marriage/divorce certificates
- Military papers
- Caregiver agency contract
- Disability documents
- Diplomas and transcripts
- Pet medical records, photo of pet and owner together, pet insurance documents.
- Copies of credit cards (both sides)
- Bank account information
- Retirement/social security information
- Apartment lease
- Deeds to properties
- Important tax documents
- Title to cars
- Vehicle registration
- Internet passwords
- Bill & loan information
- Medical insurance policy
- Life insurance policy
- Auto insurance policy
- Home insurance policy
- Home inventory (list and photos of valuable personal belongings)
How to make copies of your vital documents?
Once you have gathered all your important documents, make copies safely:
- You can scan your documents at home.
- Make paper copies at home or on a trusted copy machine.
Be aware that commercial copy machines/scanners have a hard drive, operating system, memory, and are connected to a network. They are basically very similar to a computer. Therefore, copy machines have security risks just like a computer and can be hacked.
Where to store your vital documents?
Once you have made copies of your important documents, you need to think how and where you want them to be stored. Having them at home only will not be helpful if you experience a flood or fire in your home.
- If you scanned your documents, you will be able to store them on a portable memory stick. The advantage of this method is that you can make multiple copies very easily and distribute them to trusted family members and friends. It is easy to review and update/add documents. Make sure to password protect your memory stick to ensure the data cannot be stolen in case of loss.
- If you have paper copies, think of having copies in multiple locations - a safe deposit box at your bank, a fire and water proof locked box at home, a Ziplock bag...
- Ask your trusted family member or friend if they accept to hold on to a copy of your important document. Make sure they understand they will need to find a safe place for them.
When You Go - THEY Go!
Be prepared to protect your pets in an emergency
FICTION: People believe that they cannot bring their pets with them if they had to evacuate, and that they will be able to quickly return to care for their pets
FACT: In an emergency, you may not be able or allowed to return in order to rescue your pets.
In An Emergency, Take Your Pets With You
Do not put your pets’ lives, your life, or other rescuers’ lives at risk
THINK AHEAD. HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE:
MAKE AN EMERGENCY KIT
- One kit per pet - see below for a pet emergency kit checklist
- Keep near an exit for easy Grab-and-Go
Take Photos of Your Pet With You and/or Your Family
- Photos can prove ownership and reunite you with your pet
- Keep copies in wallet, disaster kit, and stored on phones
- Give copies to loved ones who live outside your area
Microchip Your Pet
- Single most effective way to reunite pets with families
- Update microchip registration when:
- You move
- Change phone numbers
- Get a new emergency contact
Start a Buddy System
- Exchange keys and disaster plans with a trusted neighbor or local friend who can evacuate your pets if you are not home during a disaster
- Keep your buddy current regarding your pet’s information and your emergency contact info
Identify Evacuation Locations
- Identify shelters that will accommodate pets; consider pet-friendly hotels and loved ones
- Store phone numbers and addresses in your disaster kit and on your phone
- PRACTICE loading and unloading pets into the carriers and your vehicle.
Learn more at:
PET EMERGENCY KIT CHECKLIST
Food & Water
- At least 3-5 day supply of food in airtight container
- Manual can opener for canned foods
- 3-5 day supply of water
- Food and water bowls
- Feeding instructions
Medications & Medical Records
- Keep extra supply of medicines in waterproof container
- 3-5 day supply of medication (if applicable)
- Medication instructions (if applicable)
- Copies of registration information
- Adoption papers
- Vaccination documents
- Medical records
- Keep all records in a waterproof container/bag
- Recent photo of you and your pet
- Description of your pet (ex: breed, sex, color, weight)
- Microchip information
- Your contact information (and that of your pet’s emergency buddy)
Collar with ID tag, harness/leash
- Should wear rabies tag and ID tag at all times
- Include back-up collar, leash, and ID tag
- Large enough for pet to stand, turn around, lay down
- Blankets and towels for bedding
- Paper towels
- Litter, litterbox, and scoop (if applicable)
- Trash bags
- Household chlorine bleach, disinfectant
Familiar items – to reduce stress
Pet first aid book and kit
- Ask your vet what items would be appropriate, such as: bandage rolls, tape, scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea/tick prevention, gloves, isopropyl alcohol, saline solution.