Develop your severe weather communication plan

Sonya McDaniel, Extension Educator, FCS/CED Pott. County OSU Extension Center

As we begin the peak of spring storm season, now is the time to prepare and discover some great resources at your fingertips.

Preparing for a potential emergency or disaster reduces the risk of harm to you and your family, said Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist Barbara Brown.

“Here in Oklahoma, we see everything from tornadoes and droughts to severe storms and earthquakes,” Brown said. “That means we have to be ready for anything.”

As part of its annual national Resolve to Be Prepared campaign, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) places special emphasis on how technology can help you prepare. Neilson’s reports show that nearly 98% of 18-24 year olds and 68% of people over 65 in the United States own smartphones. Making social media and smartphone apps invaluable tools to help people in times of crisis and emergency.

It’s important for family members to work with their older members to teach them some basics about using their smartphones for texting, downloading useful apps, and learning how to use them long before the storm hits.

Some of the agency’s suggestions: During a disaster, use “text messaging” rather than phone calls to communicate. Program “In Case of Emergency” contacts into your phone. Store important personal and financial documents in a “cloud” or on a USB drive, which should be kept in a safe place outside your home.

You can also download apps, read interesting blogs, and sign up to receive crucial alerts and helpful tips on your phone. For example, a FEMA app allows users to access preparedness tips, create an emergency kit, and identify disaster recovery centers and open shelters.

Many local emergency management offices offer notification systems that send messages directly to the phones of residents registered for the service. Meanwhile, bookmark major mobile sites such as the Centers for Disease Control (m.cdc.gov) and the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org/mobile) for easy reference.

“Social media has gone far beyond just allowing us to connect with long-lost friends and relatives,” Brown said. “You can also tap into critical, potentially life-saving resources using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and other platforms.”

Even as powerful a tool as technology can be to anticipate the worst, the most careful preparations require us to do more than swipe a finger across our phone’s touchscreen.

Brown stressed the importance of creating at least a basic emergency kit, which should include supplies such as enough non-perishable food and water for three days, a first aid kit, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio and a change of clothes. suitable for current weather conditions.

You can probably find most of the necessary items already in your home. Shop your home first, then fill in the gaps with items on sale or from yard sales. A complete list of recommended supplies is available at www. ready.gov.

When putting together your kit, consider the unique needs of family members, such as prescription medications or infant formula. It’s also a good idea to include copies of important documents such as passports, insurance and bank papers and a list of key contacts such as family members and doctors.

Also, develop a family communication plan.

“Family members may not be together in an emergency or disaster,” Brown said. “So take the time to plan ahead how you will come together. Also, don’t forget to ask about emergency plans at school and at work.

A free downloadable form at www. ready.gov provides step-by-step guidance on creating an effective communications plan. Or use the website’s family emergency plan template in Google Docs (accessed via Google Chrome).