I recently moved from a huge city in a drought-stricken state to what some people might call a rural swamp. Other people might call it the middle of f*cking nowhere, but I don’t have time for their rude opinions. I have to make a new disaster plan!
Making a new disaster plan after moving takes a lot of work. You take stock of how your risks have changed, collect new contact information, update your drills to reflect your new home, and choose new meeting places. It’s a gamble if you’re new to the area, but it’s better to have a plan in place than not.
Follow along with me while I choose my new spots!
Designated Meeting Place Basics
Having designated meeting places is especially important if phone communication is impossible, and you have to rely on reuniting physically to share information. Time to start those family hikes to make sure everyone can walk a couple of miles across town, if needed.
Think about safe meeting spaces within a circle emanating from the center of your house. Ideal safe space is inside the house, second best is outside (nearby), third best is in town (far away), and fourth best is out of town. Family members who can’t make contact, but are aware of the emergency, should go to the location they’re able to reach most safely, with home being preferred. Here’s hoping home isn’t ground zero!
Here are the 4 types of safe spaces that you need to identify. Note that you can designate multiple places for each level, but designating just one might reduce confusion.
- Within the house – In case of a tornado or hurricane, everyone should know the safest gathering place. This is important, especially for people who live in multi-story households.
- Outside the house – Familiar paces close to your home are good meeting points in case of house hazards like fire or flooding. This could be a neighborhood park, a neighbor’s home, or the nearest gas station. Make sure your neighbor knows if you designate their yard as a meeting place.
- Far away safe space – During disasters that strike larger areas (for example, an earthquake), you may need to meet at a safe space that’s further from home. Good candidates are a friend’s home in another neighborhood, a parent’s office, a subway station, the police station, the library, or the airport. Make sure you choose a location every family member is familiar with.
- Out-of-town safe space – If city is under attack and you have to rush to evacuate and can’t wait to reunite and can’t communicate, you will want to have a bug out spot. A familiar place out of town is a must. A relative’s or close friend’s home your family has previously visited is the best option for this location. It’s a good idea to choose a spot that will allow you to stay overnight.
After you determine all of your locations, make sure everyone is aware of where they should go if they can’t make contact during an emergency. Call your friends, neighbors, and relatives who have made it into your plan to make sure they’re cool with it. If they were your go-to picks for this, we have a feeling they love you to bits and will be more than happy to support your survival.
As a rural household, the car is pretty important to us, but I want to make a point of choosing some places that are accessible by bike or on foot, in case an emergency happens while the car’s not around.
My New Plan
Time to buckle down and make some thoughtful choices! First, I’ll need to consider how things have changed.
I’m living in a much bigger house than I was before, but there aren’t many neighbors, and I’m a few miles away from the nearest town. The yard is huge, and has a lot of debris. There are four adults, zero children, and two cats in my household. Three of us work from home, and one works ten minutes away. While I used to be most at risk for earthquake, wildfire, and heat wave, I’m now most at risk for hurricane, monsoon, tornado, and blizzard.
- Within the house – Windowless laundry room on ground floor for tornado and hurricane. Windowless walk-in closet on second floor for monsoon. Family room for blizzard.
- Outside the house – Field directly across the street from the house. Meeting there will keep us clear of hazards if yard debris makes being closer to the house unsafe.
- Far away safe space – Bike ride terminus. This is the stop sign where we usually turn around on our bike rides. It’s a location about halfway to the nearest town. It’s on a quiet residential street where a few of our friends live, and it’s on the way to the one workplace in our household.
- Out-of-town safe space – In a small disaster, we can go to my aunt’s house about ten minutes away. In a larger disaster like a hurricane, we will go to my good friend’s house in a city two hours inland. Both have agreed to host us and our cats if there is an emergency!
Putting the Plan on Paper
Designated meeting places: complete! Once I finish my new emergency communication plan, I’ll review them both with my household and make sure everyone is on board. I’ll be sure to turn each person’s plan into bullet points on wallet sized cards so they can carry them at all times, as well as giving them full size digital and physical copies.
While writing down your plan, remember to include details so you don’t have to rely on your memory in times of crisis. Avoid shorthand writing and using only nicknames in contact details. Be thorough! Those details might mean a lot to you after your phone, computer, and tablets have all been burned to a crisp.
I’m feeling much more prepared for an emergency now, but if I don’t get accustomed to the loneliness of the rural swamp soon, we may be moving again and making new designated meeting places sooner than later! You can take the girl out of the city, but I guess it’s yet to be proven that you can take the city out of the girl.