LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- When it comes to family disaster preparation, a little goes a long way - especially if you do it well.
Although planning for disasters and holding drills is one of the best time investments a family can make, many do not do it, said officials with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"Even a little planning can help prevent panic when disaster strikes," said State Coordinating Officer David Maxwell. "We hope Arkansans who haven't prepared an emergency plan will take a few minutes to do so. That time investment can pay big dividends."
To get started, families should establish places inside and outside the home for everyone to meet in case of an emergency. For instance, a family might designate the bedroom of a child or a family member with a disability to reassure them that their needs will be met. Exterior gathering spots might include the next-door neighbor's driveway or a nearby street corner.
From there, establish at least two escape routes and practice using them. Fires and debris can result in blocked hallways and stairwells, and if you've already rehearsed a back-up plan, family members are less likely to panic. And involve children as you plan - they may see possibilities you do not.
Remember to designate a family contact person in case you get separated. Each family member should memorize that person's number or email. The advent of social media, such as Twitter, gives families new ways to connect in emergencies. Consider the most effective ways to use the technology you have.
Consider carefully what necessary items you could collect if you had to evacuate. Increasingly, people keep important documents on computers, so back up your data often on a flash drive and keep it handy. Other items include wallets, medications and items for infants. In the case of threatening weather, pack what you need and keep it in a safe part of your home or by the exit.
"People can accomplish all these actions in the time it takes to watch a rerun on TV," said Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer W. Michael Moore. "We urge Arkansans to take time now to create or review emergency plans. Your family's future may depend on it."
Visit www.fema.gov, www.ready.gov or www.adem.arkansas.gov for more information. Follow FEMA tweets about the Arkansas disaster at www.twitter.com/femaregion6. Other online resources include blog.fema.gov, www.facebook.com/fema and www.youtube.com/fema.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.