We should all know how to make a family evacuation plan; it could save lives. You may not be with your family when tragedy strikes, so make a plan today and put it in place. Having a plan is especially important with children in the house. They need to know what to do and where to go if there is an emergency in or around your home. Know what kind of natural disasters can affect your area, accidents that can affect your home, and how you’ll contact and reconnect with one another if you’re separated.

Have an Escape Route

A house fire can start at any time and engulf your house fast, especially if everyone is asleep and unaware. Try to prevent them in the first place by knowing the most common causes of house fires. In the event of a house fire, have an escape route so everyone can get out. The exit doors may not be accessible, so make sure the windows are not obstructed and everyone knows to use them. Never open an interior door without checking it first to see if it’s hot. A hot door means there is fire on the other side, so you should exit via the window.

Have a Supply Kit

Keep an emergency kit in the house and car, should you have to evacuate your home or immediate area. The kit should have some basic emergency medical supplies, a flashlight, some food, water, and whatever else you need to survive for 72 hours. An at-home kit can have more items in it than a bug-out bag. Your at-home kit should be kept in a secure location that you will go to in case of an emergency. Pack one or two bags that you can grab or store in the trunk.

Designate a Rally Point

Assign a spot outside the home that everyone knows to go to once they are safely out of the house. It can be a neighbor’s house or the corner at the end of the block. Make sure that it is far enough away from the house so that there is no danger of waiting for the others to arrive. In a natural disaster scenario, designate a spot that’s familiar to everyone and easily accessible, like a nearby church.

Create a Communication Plan

Communication is easy in the age of cell phones, but if there is no signal available, then what? Devise a plan so that you can stay in touch with your family. Leave messages in the mailbox or buy satellite phones to include in the emergency kits. Save emergency phone numbers in your phones and commit the more important ones to memory. A lot of people don’t remember phone numbers now because they are stored in phones.

Practice the Evacuation

Once you have a plan in place, practice it. Run through some drills to make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go for each instance. Having the plan isn’t good enough; practicing it is key. When an emergency or natural disaster happens, there won’t be time to fumble around and try to remember what to do.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.