September is National Preparedness Month. A part of being prepared is being able to maintain contact with family members in an emergency. Develop a family communication plan today.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another. Think about how you will communicate in different situations.
Complete a contact card for each adult family member. Have them keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse or briefcase, etc. Additionally, complete contact cards for each child in your family. Put the cards in their backpacks or book bags.
Check with your children’s day care or school. Facilities designed for children should include identification planning as part of their emergency plans.
Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress authorized the establishment of the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System (NEFRLS) to facilitate the reunification of families separated as a result of a presidentially-declared emergency or major disaster.
NEFRLS is a web-based system which, when activated, enables FEMA to provide a nationally accessible system that allows adults, displaced from their homes or pre-disaster location, to voluntarily register and share specific information on their post-disaster well-being or location with specified family members or friends.
For more information on developing communication plans or using the NEFRLS registry, go to fema.gov.