Finding Each Other After a Disaster
One of the most difficult things to plan for is what to do if you lose contact or get separated from loved ones.People get separated from one another on a regular basis during the course of an otherwise “normal” day, and this can be stressful enough. Now imagine how difficult it would be during a crisis.
Believe it or not, there is a surprising lack of information out there despite the fact that this topic is so important. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers considering some of the variables that can play into how a disaster or emergency unfolds. Maybe a pre-arranged rendezvous point is unavailable or inaccessible. Maybe communications are not working and “phone trees” are not effective.
At best, you will need a combination of options to choose from in order to reduce the amount of confusion, stress and time that it takes to get reunited. Let’s look at a couple of ideas that may make things easier if you are ever faced with this type of situation.
Have a first point of contact with someone who can act as a liaison and coordinate options. This should be someone who is not affected by the situation. You should also have a backup if that person is not available. These will be the people that you and your family contacts after the dust settles. They will provide information, resources and serve as an important resources to get everyone on the same page and headed in the same direction as quickly as possible.
It’s also not that complicated. Just talk things over with someone you trust who would be willing to do this. Then pass the contact information along and make it clear that this is who to notify if separated our out of touch.
Be very clear when it comes to giving instructions in order to make sure that everyone knows what to do and who to turn to. Make sure that emergency call sheets are up to date and that schools, employers and family members know who to contact. You should also have specific instructions for those who will be coordinating communications so that they know who to contact if they can’t contact you as well.
For example, if you got caught up in a tornado, and the contact person didn’t hear from you within 12 hours afterwards, then they should know what to do. Maybe they should call the local emergency management agency or a family member in another town or state. It’s up to you to decide how to develop this plan, but make sure that they have important details that can be useful in helping to locate you. Make sure they know your work or home address. Tell them what hospital you may go to or where you may bug-out. Give them as many pertinent details so they can focus and organize efforts on their end.
Be Aware and Prepared
When’s the last time you really noticed the hairstyle of your spouse or child? Do you know what they are wearing today? Do you know what time they leave work or school and how they get home? Do you have a real and updated picture in your wallet or purse? These details are essential for helping to locate someone, whether through being separated at the mall or after a riot. The more you know and the more you can show others can help tremendously.
Use social media whenever possible as well. Know the passwords on the accounts of your spouse and child. Get word out as soon as possible and send messages or post information. As long access to the Internet is available, it can be one of the most effective tools in locating and reuniting people.
Sometimes it takes a little bit of time for the dust to settle and people to start reconnecting. While the impact of each situation will be felt differently, sometimes you may need to wait a while before getting back in touch. Expect this, and accept it as a possibility. This will help you to avoid panicking or overreacting, because this approach gives you time to assess the situation and make appropriate decisions.
On the other hand, you should also have a sense as to when to start reaching out for help as well. It will take some serious thought and contingency planning in order to get a feel for what to do if and when the need arises. Just remember that your communications plan and response will be specific to the situation, so you need some time to digest and process information in order to make good decisions.
There are no easy answers or guarantees that you can get reunited at a specific place or time. This is why it’s so important to have clear instructions, pay attention to the appearance and know the travels of people that you get separated from. You will also need more than one plan in place.
But the most important thing is to always keep this topic in the front of your mind and talk about it regularly. This will help to improve situational awareness while reducing the chances of being separated and out of touch in the first place. It will also help to direct resources as necessary as efficiently as possible.
This is one of the most important things to think about in terms of survival preparedness, but it doesn’t get discussed nearly enough. Take the time to really think about how to develop a solid communication plan today. You may end up needing to use it tomorrow.