When an emergency occurs, it’s important that everyone in your household knows how they will get in touch with each other. Whether it be a fire in your home, or a large disaster affecting your community, it’s vital that you have a plan on how to reunite with household members, and that everyone is familiar with the plan.
For instance, disasters don’t always occur when everyone is at home. You may be at work, your children in school, others may be at home, or the family pets are there. Being able to reunite with loved ones is critical after a disaster. Many times, a separated or missing family member, a lost pet, service or support Animal, can cause someone to skip securing their own shelter, food and other immediate needs in order to reconnect with their loved ones, not to mention the emotional toll it can take.
Individual family plans on how to reunite with loved ones might include using texts, emails, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others. Local governments, school systems and non-government organizations may also have plans to help find a missing or lost family member.
MAKE A PLAN With your family or household members, discuss how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play. Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and how you will work together as a team. Practice your plan. There are Red Cross plan templates available here to help.
Make sure your plan includes the following:
- Download the free Red Cross Emergency app which features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts or send an email to a pre-determined list, letting people know they are safe and out of harm’s way. The app is available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.
- Choose two places to meet up: right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire, and outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
- Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should carry emergency contact information in writing and saved on their cell phones. Make sure places where your children spend time also have these contact numbers, like at school or daycare. You can use this emergency contact card template.
- Your plan should account for family members who may live elsewhere during the year, such as members of the military on deployment, students away at school, or those who travel frequently. How will you need to adapt your plan if they are at home? What will you need to do differently if they are away?
TIPS FOR CONTACTING LOVED ONES
- Call during off-peak hours for the best chance of getting through.
- Send a text message, which may go through when phone calls cannot.
- Check your loved one’s social media pages (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.), as they may have already gone online to tell their story.
- Send an email.
- Call friends and relatives who may have already been in contact with your loved one.
- Call people and places where your loved one is well-known; neighbors, employer, school, place of worship, senior center, social club/center, union, or fraternal organization.
- Try sending a letter. Your loved one’s mail may be getting forwarded to his or her new location.
RESTORING FAMILY LINKS The American Red Cross can also help your family members reconnect, whether the separation was caused by a recent emergency here at home, war or natural disaster overseas, or events as far back as the Holocaust. Our Restoring Family Links program can leverage the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network to reach across borders to find family members who have been separated due to war, disaster, migration or other emergency. Learn more here.
ASSISTANCE FOR MILITARY FAMILIES The American Red Cross Hero Care Center is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with two options for requesting assistance: online and by phone. You can initiate a request for Red Cross emergency assistance for members of the military currently serving on active duty by using the online self-service tool. Using a computer, smart phone or tablet, you can start a request for services and track its progress from anywhere in the world. To speak to a Red Cross Emergency Communications Specialist call: 877-272-7337.