2009 APHA Get Ready Scholarship Winning Essay

How can families take steps to prepare for emergencies?
By Alyssia Whitney, winner, Get Ready Scholarship

There have been several tornados in the South region of the United States that have destroyed homes and lives. In some cases, the people did not have an emergency plan in place in the event of an emergency. Some did not know what to do or how to find shelter. It is very important to have an emergency evacuation plan in place in the even there is an emergency. To help in preparing an emergency plan, the web site has many helpful tips in preparing a plan for residential areas. The emergency plan can be as simple as deciding where to go in the house and how to protect your body during an emergency or as elaborate as building a safe room for protection. It is up to you how involved you want to make your plan, but the main point is to always have an emergency plan before an emergency occurs. If you take the letters of the word “P-L-A-N” and use these simple steps as a guide to help you in the event of an emergency, you will be prepared or at least stand a chance of surviving through an emergency situation. Below is some helpful information to get you started on your emergency plan.

Plan ahead: Every family should have a plan in the event there is an emergency. Whether it is a tornado, flood or fire, you should have a plan in place on how your family can get to a safe place when there is an emergency. The plan should be shared with all family members and practiced to make sure everyone understands the plan. Role playing is a good way to make corrections to a plan that may not work in all cases. Sometimes we think we will act a certain way in an emergency situation, but when we are under pressure our reactions are not the same. Role playing also will give some insight as to how you will react in a real emergency situation.

Lay out steps for your emergency plan: Walk around your house and find places that you can use for shelter. A bathtub has saved lives during a tornado and some people have found shelter in a closet. Everyone’s home is different and you will need to find the safest location in your home. You also will need to decide where to meet everyone after the emergency. This part of the plan is very important. There needs to be a safe meeting place for all family members to meet in different type of emergencies. For example, if there is a flood in the city, what nearby city could you go to and where? If there is a fire and your home is destroyed, where can you stay overnight on short notice. Deciding specific steps to take before, during and after an emergency will help make the transition easier after an emergency has occurred.

Always have an emergency plan that everyone in your household, other family members and friends are aware.

Make sure all family members in your household know the emergency plan and take part in the role playing. Involve your extended families and friends with your plan to make sure they are aware of where to find you after an emergency has taken place. Sometimes, you may forget to contact extended family members or friends when there is an emergency. If they are aware of your emergency plan and places you will go after an emergency, it will be easier for them to locate you. Extended family members and friends can also help with shelter, food and other necessities after you have experienced an emergency situation.

Never assume that a call for an emergency evacuation is not real.

One of the most dangerous situations is to ignore an emergency warning. It is like playing Russian roulette with your life. You will never know when it is the “real thing.” Every emergency warning should be considered real. You should put your emergency plan in place every time you are given a warning to take cover during a possible tornado or if there is a fire in the house, you should evaluate immediately and not stay inside of a burning house to collect household goods. There have been many lives lost because the emergency warnings were ignored. Just because you have not had an emergency before does not mean it cannot happen to you or in your area of town.

In closing, you should always have an emergency plan in the event of an emergency. Practice the steps of P-L-A-N and involve family members and friends to make sure everyone is aware of your Emergency Plans after an emergency. We do not know how we will respond in an emergency situation; however, a plan in place will increase our chances of surviving a disaster. The familiar quotes that “we are creatures by habit” and “practice makes perfect” are good examples of how important a plan can be in an emergency situation. I believe if we practice our emergency plan on a regular basis, chances are we will get in a habit of reacting the same way every time there is an emergency.

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Photo by Jocelyn Augustino, courtesy FEMA. A Federal Emergency Management Agency team walks through neighborhoods in Sabine Pass, Texas, that were flooded by Hurricane Ike in September 2008.


Get Set: An Emergency Preparedness Project Kit
The APHA Get Ready Scholarship was created in conjunction with Get Set: An Emergency Preparedness Project Kit for high school students. The kit, released by APHA in October 2008, is a how-to guide for students interested in taking on preparedness activities at school or in their community.

Check out the full high school project kit (PDF) for ideas and start your activity today!