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""This is a guest blog post from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Disasters can happen at any time. Over the last several years, Massachusetts has experienced tropical storms, tornadoes, blizzards, power outages, water system failures, and an act of terrorism.

To prepare for disasters, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) encourages all residents of the Commonwealth to:

  • Be Informed — Learn the types of disasters and emergencies that may occur in your area, how to receive emergency alerts, and your community’s emergency plans.
  • Make a Plan — Determine what you will do, how to find your family, and how you will communicate in an emergency.
  • Build a Kit — Assemble an emergency kit that includes essential items like bottled water, canned goods and nonperishable food items, and medical supplies.
  • Get Involved — Participate in activities or organizations that strengthen your community’s resilience and help it prepare for the next emergency.

Make an Emergency Plan

Working with your family, make a family emergency plan that says what you will need, how you will find and communicate with each other, and what actions you will take during an emergency. Be sure your plan addresses all special and/or medical needs, and make arrangements for your pets in emergencies. Specifically, you should:

  • Establish Meeting Locations
    • Select two family meeting locations — choose one location close to home and another farther away, in case you need to evacuate or can’t return to the area.
  • Develop an Emergency Contact Plan
    • Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to serve as your family’s emergency contact. After a disaster, it is sometimes easier to call long distance to unaffected areas.
    • Provide every family member with the name, address, and phone number of the emergency contact and make sure each family member has a cellphone or a prepaid phone card.
    • Inform your emergency contact of any family member’s special needs or medical issues.
    • List emergency contacts in cellphones as “ICE” (in case of emergency), which will make it easier for emergency management personnel to contact the right person.
    • Plan how you will use alternate communications methods:
      • Show all family members how to text message, as it may be easier to send a text than make a call during an emergency.
      • Learn how to use social media, which can be an effective tool to let friends and family know your location and status.
      • Keep the American Red Cross Safe and Well service in mind. You can use it to register yourself as “safe and well” or search for loved ones after a disaster.
  • Plan How to Evacuate
    • Create an evacuation plan and practice how you will exit your home.
    • Establish possible evacuation routes to ensure you are able to get to designated meeting locations. Talk to your local emergency management director to learn about evacuation routes.
    • Identify available modes of transportation.
      • Make arrangements with family, neighbors, friends, or local government if you don’t have personal transportation.
      • If you need assistance, contact local public safety officials to make them aware of your needs.
  • Plan What to Do if You Are Asked to Shelter in Place
    • Designate a safe room within your home. This room should have:
      • As few windows or doors as possible
      • Access to television, radio, and telephones
    • Ensure you have necessary supplies and can access your emergency kit.
    • If you receive medical treatment or home healthcare services, work with your medical provider to determine how to maintain care and service if you are unable to leave your home for a period of time.
    • Review tips to safely shelter in place.

Creating a family emergency plan can make a big difference in your level of preparedness and help ensure your safety in the event of an emergency. And don’t forget — practice and discuss your plan periodically to keep it fresh in your family’s minds.

Visit MEMA’s website to learn how to receive emergency alerts and information, follow @MassEMA for real-time emergency updates and preparedness tips, or comment below with questions.

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