This is Our Emergency
July 19, 2013 9:40 AM   Subscribe

How to create a comprehensive and effective emergency plan? (NYC Edition)

Mr. Saurus and I live in Manhattan with our two dogs and have been discussing the need to make an emergency plan. We'd like to have a triaged list of Plan A, Plan B, etc based on the emergency/disaster and our circumstances. I've seen this previous question, but we're looking for more flood/explosion/toxin/blackout -type scenarios rather than zombie apocalypse. If cell service is working, great, but historically that has not been the case, so assume no ability to contact one another via phone. We have Zipcar and family just outside the city, but let's assume leaving the city is not a reliable option (though it will be on the list somewhere). We are not in a hurricane zone, but our offices are.

Our Plan A is "get home as soon as possible, if it is safe to do so." What should be next on the list? What are good, safe, calm ways to reunite your family (including pets) in the event of a disaster? Any other disaster readiness tips (like "store your spouse's number under 'Emergency Contact' in your phone)? What things should we take into consideration when formulating our plans?

Bunkers and stockpiling are not really options due to space limitations, though a tiny kit/go bag could work.

We've lived here for many years, and are not overly paranoid, but would like to have hammered out a plan just in case.
posted by melissasaurus to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Man, there have been a couple times where my phone battery has completely died and I've needed to get in touch with someone and I don't know their phone number because who remembers phone numbers anymore? This has happened to people I know countless times, too.

Have a list (written, on paper) kept somewhere of contact information for family/close friends so that you can get in touch with someone when you need to even if your cell phone is entirely out of commission.
posted by phunniemee at 9:45 AM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One thing that's valuable to know is that even if you don't appear to have cell service, you should be able to text. We found this out in the aftermath of Katrina. So plan to attempt texting, rather than voice calls.

Store your spouses number under ICE on your phone (In Case of Emergency).

Have a central contact with someone outside of the affected area. Your Aunt Tilly in Tulsa, for example. Relay all information through her.

Have a supply of pet food with you that you can motor with. Often shelters may not have this. You want at least a 3 day supply.

Know which shelters may take you and your pets.

Have all of your important papers in a Ziplock bag, ready to grab and go. This will be your insurance, marriage license, pet documents, birth certificates, passports, etc. If for some reason you couldn't return to your apartment, you'll have it all in one place. Also, scan and upload all of these things into the cloud.

Scan and upload all of your pictures into the cloud now!

Take pictures and video of all of your stuff, upload that into the cloud. If your insurance carrier has an app, download it now!

The Red Cross can help reunite folks after an emergency. FYI.

Here's a site where you can look up and know where your resources are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:52 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

FEMA's is a great place to get started on this -- they have a ton of useful resources for exactly this kind of planning. (Apologies if you're already aware of this one.)
posted by pie ninja at 9:53 AM on July 19, 2013

Best answer: Have a list (written, on paper) kept somewhere of contact information for family/close friends so that you can get in touch with someone when you need to even if your cell phone is entirely out of commission.

YES. Get a couple of sheets of those pre-perforated letter sized business card pages you can print yourself and make up a dozen or so cards of useful phone numbers. Keep in your wallet, between your cellphone and it's protective case, magneted to the fridge, in your desk drawer at the office, etc.

Advanced mode: print on both sides of cards.

Expert mode: laminate them.
posted by elizardbits at 10:01 AM on July 19, 2013

Best answer: I have thought about evacuating our pets probably more than I've thought about evacuating ourselves.

Depending on the size of your pets, an Evacsak in addition to your standard carriers is something I'd think about.

Secondly, the ASPCA makes emergency kits for cats and dogs.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:07 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have a supply of pet food with you that you can motor with. Often shelters may not have this. You want at least a 3 day supply.

This is a great piece of advice that people don't think of. What we do is have a gallon freezer bag that we actually feed the cat out of. It adds a step to the process each morning ("One scoop from the small bag into the bowl; one scoop from the big bag to the small bag"), but we know that food is reasonably fresh (we start a new small bag whenever we start a new big bag) and we can grab it immediately.

Also, in emergency situations, people tend to miss each other because they're both wandering around looking for the other. My spouse and I have designated meeting points 1 mile from each of our offices and at 1, 3 and 10 miles from our house. I have all the scouting* and military training, so I'm the one who looks; my spouse will stay at the nearest rally point and wait for me until the situation stabilizes, then look at each of the other designated meeting points once, then return to the safest place among our designated meeting points.

* -- Speaking of which, always keep in mind the words of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting and author of its motto, "Be Prepared." When once asked "Prepared for what?" he is reported to have replied, "Oh, any old thing."
posted by Etrigan at 10:13 AM on July 19, 2013

Best answer: San Francisco's Department of Emergency Management put together, which is what the good doctor and I based our survival plan/kit on. Creating a Smart911 profile will also help emergency responders.
posted by evoque at 10:17 AM on July 19, 2013

As an aside...the 'one phonecall' is hard to make if you aren't allowed your cellphone to look up contacts. I heard that somewhere.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:19 AM on July 19, 2013

If you're separated... depending on the situation, it might be easier to get a message out than to the other person. Agree to use the Red Cross's peoplefinder program, and also have a person or two outside of the immediate area who can be a point of contact for you both. Include their info on the already-mentioned list of useful phone numbers.

It's great to have things near where you'll need them, if possible. As an example: I have a house with a basement, and I've got a flashlight mounted in a wall-mounted flashlight holder in the stairway down to the basement. I also have a package of spare batteries hanging next to it.

If you've got camera phones, take pictures of your drivers license and passport and other useful info. So you may be out without your identifying documents, but the pics will have the info from the documents (DL number, passport number, etc), and in extremis some people may take it as a reasonable facsimile of ID.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:25 AM on July 19, 2013

Another thing to consider might be looking into CERT training. They're usually offered for free.

Even if you're not terribly interested in actually doing CERT stuff, they provide you with a lot of useful information for a variety of emergency situations.
posted by SugarAndSass at 10:26 AM on July 19, 2013

The National Hurricane Survival Initiative has some great Hurricane Safety Checklists as PDFs.

There are lists for each category, so you can chunk out your preparation efforts. The categories are as follows:

* Food and Water
* First Aid and Non-Prescription Drugs
* Tools and Supplies
* Sanitation, Clothing and Bedding
* Special Items
* Possessions and Documents
posted by oceanjesse at 11:16 AM on July 19, 2013

Best answer: My husband and I live in Manhattan and our emergency plan looks roughly like this.

1. If it is safe to return home and shelter in place, do so. (Our home has shelter in place materials/food/water for up to 5 days.)

2. If home is unsafe/inaccessible but neighborhood is fine, meet at {neighborhood bar, phone xxx-xxx-xxxx}.

3. If neighborhood is unsafe/inaccessible, meet at {Columbus Circle location, phone xxx-xxx-xxxx} and check-in with {out of state contact, phone xxx-xxx-xxxx}

4. If city is unsafe, meet at {location in NJ near water transit, phone xxx-xxx-xxxx} and check-in with out of state contact, phone xxx-xxx-xxxx}.

5. If we cannot find each other and our out-of-state contact cannot offer assistance, our last-ditch place of refuge is {a friend's property in the Hudson valley.}

The above is detailed on a small laminated card that lives in our wallets. We each have a small go-bag at home. (Notable things in the bag, aside from what people say above, are change for pay phones and extra cell chargers.) Clothing/shoes in the bags gets switched out in spring and fall. I'm currently working on a office go-bag for each of us. Our best friends and families also have a copy of our plan. Our important docs are in the cloud.

ALSO, I urge you to conduct family fire drills. Knowing how you will get out of your apartment / apartment building in a fire is much likelier to save your life than any of the above.
posted by minervous at 11:49 AM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Phone cards! Super useful if you can't use a cell. You can recharge them on the phone so a $10 is fine. And cash for purchases when the networks are down.
posted by fshgrl at 4:45 PM on July 19, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

We've decided on a minervous-style plan, with laminated info/plan cards, and small go-bag/rations.

Also, the Daily Kos 5-part series is awesome!
posted by melissasaurus at 7:41 PM on July 19, 2013

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