Hurricane Rita: American Red Cross Encourages Every Household To Develop A "Family Communication Plan"

American Red Cross
Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Dangerous Hurricane Rita Threatens Gulf Coast

As thousands of Floridians hunker down during Hurricane Rita and residents of the western Gulf Coast and southwest Louisiana begin preparations in anticipation of the hurricane possibly slamming into those areas later this week, it is important for families to have a plan in place to keep in touch with loved ones. One simple call or e-mail message will give those who care peace of mind about your well-being and safety. The need to create a family communication plan is critical, and now is the time to do so.

The necessity for such a plan was underscored three weeks ago, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After that storm hit, the American Red Cross received thousands of phone calls from people seeking loved ones. Although many families have since been reunited, the Red Cross urges those in potentially affected areas to create a family communication plan.

If you are in the path of a hurricane, reach out to those that care about you before it strikes and let them know what your plans are, where you expect to be going, when you are leaving and how they can stay in contact with you. By designating one person outside the affected area that you will stay in contact with, others can call this person to check on your well-being.

Due to widespread power and telecommunication outages, service may not be restored for several days. During this critical time, your family and friends may not be able to reach you. Your initiative to establish contact quickly with a designated person will save your loved ones from making multiple calls to reach you or you needing to make multiple calls to reach out to those that care about you. This one simple act can help to alleviate their anxiety. It also helps to reduce the overwhelming number of phone calls that can often overload the system following a disaster.

The following information will assist families in staying connected following a disaster, and the Red Cross recommends having the plan in place beforehand.

Evacuees maintaining contact with loved ones inside the affected area:

  • Plan ahead for the possibility of becoming separated from your family and friends.

  • Because local phone lines may be out of service or overloaded after a disaster, it's often easier to call out of the area.

  • Designate a single out-of-town contact that each family or household member can call or email should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event. They should be aware that they are the chosen contact.

  • All of your loved ones should have the phone number for the contact as well as each other's phone numbers and email addresses. Loved ones should agree to call the out-of-town contact to report their whereabouts and welfare. Consider having a laminated wallet-sized card made to carry with you at all times.

  • Many people overwhelm telephone lines when emergencies happen. Your family and friends should know that if telephone lines are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try email, or text messaging if your cell phone has that option. Sometimes e-mails, or text messaging are able to go through when calls cannot.

  • Regular contact with your designated person will help to keep them informed of your well-being.

  • As calls or e-mails are placed to the out-of-town contact from family members affected by the disaster, there will be peace of mind that comes from knowing that everyone is safe.

Evacuees maintaining contact with loved ones outside the affected area:

  • Make an emergency contact list.

  • Write contact information including name, home, work and cell phone numbers and e-mail address. Be sure to include the out-of-town contact on the card as well.

  • Make a card and copy the card for each loved one to carry with them in the event of a disaster or other emergency when you will want to contact each other.

  • Place a call to family and friends before a disaster strikes to let them know your plans and as soon as possible after disaster strikes to let them know your whereabouts and your well-being.

Preparing for a disaster, such as a hurricane, ahead of time can help alleviate the stress you may face during the storm, and ease the burden on your family and loved ones. For more information regarding how individuals and families can prepare for disasters, visit www.redcross.org.

The American Red Cross is where people mobilize to help their neighbors—across the street, across the country and across the world—in emergencies. Each year, in communities large and small, victims of some 70,000 disasters turn to neighbors familiar and new—the nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross. Through almost 900 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world. Some 4 million people give blood—the gift of life—through the Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The Red Cross helps thousands of U.S. service members separated from their families by military duty stay connected. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a global network of 181 national societies, the Red Cross helps restore hope and dignity to the world's most vulnerable people. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work. Marsha J. Evans is the President and CEO of the American Red Cross.

For more information, or to contact American Red Cross, see their website at: www.redcross.org

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