If you know me, you know I am all about preparing myself, my family, and my home for all of the possibilities life can throw at us. One of those possibilities that I’m hyper-vigilant about being prepared for is an emergency exit from our home. Maybe, it comes with the territory when being married to a Fire Captain. That’s why, we not only have a clear emergency exit plan from each room of our home, but we also communicate it with our children and practice it regularly.
My husband and I are using our combined 44 years of medical and emergency services experience to help others prepare their families and homes for the unexpected, too. Today, we’re talking all about creating and practicing emergency exit plans. But first, we tackle why you even need one in the first place.
Why Does My Family Need an Emergency Exit Plan?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared for any and all emergencies. Luck favors the prepared.
One specific type of emergency you should be prepared for is the type of emergency that will require exit from your home. The most common type of emergency that requires exit from your home is a house fire. But don’t forget about other common emergencies like gas leaks or evacuations. In any of these situations, you will have a very limited time to exit your home. Your life could depend on how quickly you do so.
If it becomes necessary to exit your home and you haven’t taken any steps to prepare yourself or your family for this possibility, lots could go wrong. There could be chaos and panic, kids could hide in dangerous places, and your family may become separated in the commotion and uncertainty. However, if your family has a clear exit plan that they’ve reviewed and practiced, the likelihood of all members of the family exiting the home safely increases tremendously.
How-to Create an Emergency Exit Plan
Creating an emergency exit plan for your home is likely easier than you’re thinking. Have you ever noticed that every room in a hotel has an emergency exit route posted clearly on the wall? Well, that got me thinking. And now we use the same idea in our own home!
The first step is to stand in each room of the house. Close your eyes and picture the fastest route out of your house from that room. Also consider alternate routes that can be used if the primary route is in some way blocked or obstructed. This will give you both a primary and a secondary exit plan for each room in your house.
If you’d like handy printable grids where you can draw out your exit plan from each room, grab our FREE family home emergency plan, right here.
Finally, be sure to establish a meeting place, outside, for your family. Whether it be a tree, a light post, or a neighbor’s house, it must be clear and known by all members of the family.
Why and How You Can Practice Your Exit Plan
There’s no use in having an emergency exit plan if you simply create it and then put it in a folder to never be seen again. You’ll need to share it with your family members, review it regularly, and have fun practicing it. You know the old saying, practice makes perfect?
Now I’m not sure “perfect” and emergency exit plan are two phrases you’d ever think of together, but, practicing your emergency exit plan can significantly cut down on the panic and confusion when there is an emergency and quick exit from the home is necessary.
In our family, we love to make a game out of practicing our emergency exit plan. We have each member of the family stand in their room. Then we blindfold them or ask them to close their eyes (this simulates trying to exit a dark or smoky house.) Next, we time how long it takes them to get out and make it to the meeting place. The winner gets all the bragging rights.
We’ll also make certain adjustments to make it more fun, interesting, and test our ability to be adaptable. We may say that they have to exit the home without the use of a certain door or without using a particular hallway. You can adapt things based on your own home, too! You also may have different types of emergencies in your area. Feel free to add your own scenarios into your practice. Just be sure to practice! The more your family is aware and prepared, the safer they will be.
For more information on getting your family and home prepared for any emergency, check out our FREE Family Home Emergency Plan. You can download it right here. Inside, you’ll also find tips for assembling emergency boxes, printable lists and trackers for assembling emergency information, and other important planning tools.
Most people know they should have emergency supplies ready to go, but you may not be sure where to start, what to gather, and then what to do with it all. That’s why we’ve come up with a system for gathering, organizing/packing, and storing our emergency supply boxes.
Yes, I said boxes. We believe that to be completely prepared for any emergency, you need to have three specific emergency boxes assembled. You can find lists of suggested items to include in your emergency kit at FEMA or the Red Cross, but we take things a little bit further. In our home, we’ve divided our emergency supplies into three specific kits or boxes: a Stay-Home Box, a Leave-Home Box, and a Food Box.
Having emergency supply boxes prepped and ready to go is a must, especially for those of us who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding.
Here is a quick guide to how we assemble and organize our three emergency supply boxes/kits.
We recommend packing your boxes in three separate clear containers and clearly marking each: Home, Leave, or Food.
The Stay-Home Box
This is the box you will need if there is an emergency and you are stuck IN your home for an extended amount of time, possibly without electricity, heat, or other utilities. This box will consist of items that you might not typically have around your house for everyday use.
Here are 5 items we suggest you include in your Stay-Home box:
Flashlight with extra batteries
Hand Crank Radio
For a complete list of what you’ll want to have in your Stay-Home box, click here.
The Leave-Home Box
This box will have items you’ll need if you are forced to evacuate your home. If you evacuate, you will also want to take your Stay box and your Food box, plus water.
Here are 5 items we suggest you include in your Leave-Home box:
To view an extensive list of what to include in your leave box, click here.
The Food Box
This box will, obviously, be filled with food. You’ll want to store this box in your home, but also grab it in case of an evacuation.
Here are 5 food items we suggest you include in your Food box:
Canned Fruit and Vegetables
Canned soup, stews, and meat
MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat)
These are just our recommendations, please feel free to add and remove items based on your taste and dietary restrictions. Remember to have a variety of items and not to include things that can easily spoil without refrigeration. To view our full list, click here.
Don’t Just Store them and Forget Them!
You may think that creating emergency supply boxes is simply gathering the water, food, and supplies, putting them in a box, storing them in a closet, and then (hopefully) never thinking about them again.
The truth is, your emergency plans and supplies need to be checked and reviewed quarterly. Some items will have expiration dates and others will completely stop working as time passes. I suggest making it a habit to go through the items in your boxes to check dates and replace/update items 4 times a year. One way to make this a habit is to do it on the first day of each season.
If you’d like a full list of what we put in each of our boxes plus a handy checklist for keeping track of what’s in your boxes and each item’s expiration date, check out our FREE Family Home Emergency Plan. You can download itright here. Inside, you’ll also find tips for preparing your home, printable lists and trackers for assembling emergency information, and other important planning tools.
You may be thinking, why even have a rainy day fund?
Well, have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? If you haven’t, it states: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Let’s face it, the more you are unprepared for something, the more likely, it seems, it is to happen. There’s always something. Maybe your car breaks down, maybe something needs fixing in your home, or maybe your kid gets injured. The more you are prepared for emergencies with a rainy day fund, the better off you are.
The recommended amount to have in your emergency fund is three to six months worth of expenses. Some experts are even saying 12 months, which I get, especially with what’s going on in our world right now. The more you have saved up the more wiggle room you have to get through these trying times.
My husband and I have six months of expenses saved up. But, it wasn’t always that way for us. We used to have zero saved. But, we started out with small goals. Our first goal was to just save a thousand dollars. Once we hit that first goal, we bumped it up a bit because we knew we ultimately wanted to have at least three months. Once we got to three months, we felt secure and reassured and we were comfortable for a bit. But eventually we decided to try saving up six months worth of expenses. I’m the type of person who wants to be extra prepared and have that extra safety net for our family.
Now, don’t get overwhelmed, it didn’t happen overnight. It took years and years of saving, but we started off small and so can you! Just think, have you ever heard the phrase: How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time. It’s the same thing with building up an emergency fund or rainy day fund.
Here are some ideas that you can incorporate right now into your day-to-day life to build up your rainy day fund:
Automatically take a portion off of each paycheck.
Have a specific amount of money automatically deducted from your pay and put into a savings account. Out of sight, out of mind. The key here is to make it automatic, so you don’t even have to think about it. That way, you aren’t tempted to touch it.
Keep the Change Saving Programs.
Many banks, like Bank of America have programs where, when you spend, they will round up to the nearest dollar and automatically put the remainder into a savings account. If your bank offers this type of program, enroll in it! It’s another thing you can do to save without even thinking about it. It might seem small, but over time you’ll start to see it grow.
Sometimes, you might be trying to change a habit. Maybe it’s a swear jar, but you can do this for any habit you or your kids might want to change. Whenever you do that thing, you add a specific amount of money to your jar. You can get the kids involved and they will really stay on top of you to let you know when you need to add money to the jar. It almost becomes like a game.
When eating out or buying a treat, put a certain amount aside.
So, every time you go out for ice cream, a coffee, or out to dinner, add a set or predetermined amount to that fund or money jar. Make sure to do it every time. If you have the money to go out for a treat, you have an extra dollar to put into your fund.
Take a portion of a bonus or refund check and put it aside.
I know a lot of people get so excited when they get their bonus or refund check. That’s fine, but before you spend it all, take a portion off the top and put it into your rainy day fund. You can still splurge or treat yourself, but be sure to save some, too.
Whatever you come up with to do to save for your rainy day fund, get the whole family involved. Write it out and make it a family affair. Include your kids and make it fun. Remember to be consistent. It might seem small at the start but over time things will add up. Be careful not to dip into your fund until there is an actual emergency (and buying a cute pair of shoes on sale is definitely not an emergency).
Can you use help getting your rainy day fund set up? Book a FREE 15 min call with me to find out how I can help you with your budget plan. To schedule your call, click here!
It’s hard to let yourself imagine the gut wrenching feeling you’d experience if you turned around in a crowded store, then turned back and saw your child was gone. Your face would get hot, you’d begin breathing rapidly, and panic would quickly set in. This is a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Our children are so precious, the thought of one of them being lost, missing, or having wandered off is unbearable.
Kids can go missing from almost anywhere and it can happen in a matter of seconds. Crowded public places, a playground or park, or even your own front yard are all common places from which children are reported missing. According to the US Bureau of National Crime Information Center, a child becomes missing or abducted every 40 seconds. Let that sink in. Every 40 seconds.
I can’t imagine having come up with a plan for this type of situation or any amount of preparation would ease the panic you’d feel if your child were missing. There are some steps you can take that will help to ensure the best possible outcome for your child.
Here are 4 simple tips to follow to increase your chances of locating a missing child:
Speak openly with your children about dangers.
Communicate regularly, and in an age appropriate manner, with your children about the dangers of wandering off, getting lost, or being abducted.
Be sure they know what you would and wouldn’t ask them to do. For instance, run through hypothetical situations with them. Go over what you want them to do if someone offered them a ride, asked them for directions or help around their car, or made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Make sure they know who safe people are and where to find them. In stores, this might be security guards or store employees. Outside it could be police, firefighters, or park rangers.
Encouraging them to memorize their address and your cell phone number at an early age. You can begin to prepare your child for a worse case scenario in a non-intimidating way by making it like a game.
Always keep a current image of your child on you.
If your child goes missing, it is incredibly important to have an up-to-date image of them. You can share this image with security and/or authorities right away. This simple tip has become so much easier now that we all keep a phone with a camera on us basically 24/7. If you’re like me, you’ve got new photos of your kids on your phone just about every day.
Whenever there is a significant change to your child’s appearance, like a hair cut, be sure to snap a photo of them with a clear view of their face. Also make sure your images are being backed up somewhere so that you can access the images even if you don’t have your phone on you at the time.
Know what your child is wearing.
As best as you can, each day, make a mental note of what your child is wearing. Particularly take note of any distinguishing features like a character, colors, or design on the clothing. Try to remember brand names and sizes, if possible.
Also be aware of the things your child carries on them at all times. If they are younger, this might be a favorite toy. As they get older, this might be a piece of jewelry, a wallet, or cell phone.
Have a comprehensive record containing your child’s DNA and fingerprints.
Collect all of your child’s important information and samples and keep them together in a safe place. You’ll want to include things like their full name, medical and dental records, identifying marks like scars and birthmarks, and finally their school information. Have a list of your child’s closest friends and numbers where you can contact them.
Additionally it’s important to have DNA samples and fingerprints for each of your children. If you want to gather all of this information and have it in one safe space, consider putting together a child identification record for each of your children.
A child can go missing in the blink of an eye. If that happens, I know you want to be as calm and as prepared as possible. That way you can locate and reunite with your missing child.