This is a scary and awful scenario and hard to think about but Haiti reminds us that traditional ways to reach others may not be available.
Thankfully, people were able to send text messages and get to the internet to post messages online via Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites to let people know they were okay.
Link to WBTV 1.5 Minute Video: WBTV Report on Preparing a Disaster Plan
EVERY FAMILY SHOULD HAVE A DISASTER PLAN
The tragedy in Haiti continues and as families desperately search for their loved ones, it is reminder to us that we need to create a family plan in the event of a disaster.
The survivors in Haiti found themselves without landline phone service and many had trouble getting cell phone coverage immediately after the quake. For those that could get internet access, in the immediate aftermath of the Haiti quake, people were using Twitter to send messages such as their status, report damage, and to ask where others were.
A serious reminder that when disasters strike, it can knock out phones and other traditional means of getting in touch.
This reinforces the need to have alternate forms of communication planned out in advance so you and your loved ones can stay in touch.
4 TIPS TO CREATING YOUR FAMILY DISASTER PLAN
1. Create Your Own Virtual Checkpoints
2. Phone calls
3. Be Informed
4. Prepare, Plan & Practice
TIP 1: CREATE A VIRTUAL CHECKPOINT
Facebook.com: If you can get internet access, you can use Facebook to let your loved ones know that you are okay. This was used by several people in Haiti to get the word out about those that were okay and those that were missing.
Google Latitude at http://www.google.com/latitude/. If you are trapped or just want to report in, this allows you and your friends and family to track your actual location.
Ushahidi: matches up maps with input from others.
Twitter: If the internet is up, Twitter is a great way to track your loved ones, the scope of the disaster, and resources available to victims of a disaster.
Missing Persons Lists: During the disaster, determine how to check thes status of and how to post information regarding missing loved ones. During the Haiti crisis, Google, Facebook, the Red Cross, CNN, and the New York Times have lists
TIP 2: PHONE CALLS
Establish virtual phone calls and accounts in advance and test them with your loved ones. There are several options, a few that you can try include:
Consider having a bridge line set up to use in the case of an emergency. There are many services, a few include:
TIP 3: BE INFORMED
Subscribe to alert services. Most well tell you via text messages or email about bad weather, local emergencies, road closings, and more.
For NC based alerts, go to: http://www.ready.gov/america/local/nc.html
TIP 4: PREPARE, PLAN & PRACTICE
1. PREPARE: Have an out of town contact. Sometimes local lines get jammed while long distance
lines are open.
a. Text messages may work when cell phone coverage is spotty. Come up with an easy to remember
set of codes to use
b. Have a plan for whether you will stay in place or evacuate.
c. Make sure your plan includes what to do with your pets.
d. Ask about emergency plans at places where you family spends time: work, school, and daycare.
e. Have on hand a basic emergency kit with key essentials for your family.
f. Pick places to convene: near your home and away from your home and the disaster
g. Make digital copies via scanning or taking photos of key documents such as insurance, receipts,
cars, house, house contents. Upload digital files to a web page or download to thumbdrives and
keep one in your safe deposit box and one with an out of town family contact.
3. PRACTICE: Review and quiz your family members. Do an emergency drill once a year.
Ready.gov: This site has information regarding how to build you family disaster plan as well as checklists and other resources
American Red Cross: Great ideas for preparing for natural and man-made disasters
FEMA: Information regarding what the government will do in the event of an emergency. Also lists other helpful resources.