Is your family prepared for unexpected emergencies?

Families should have plans for unexpected emergencies that begin with discussions about what could happen and how to respond, experts recommend. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/designer491)
Families should have plans for unexpected emergencies that begin with discussions about what could happen and how to respond, experts recommend. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/designer491)

(Getty Images)
Families should choose a person to contact out of town who can let everyone know who has checked in and if everyone is OK. During an emergency, text messages may go through when phone calls cannot. (Getty Images)

The Environmental Working Group’s survey of more than 250 brands reveals that 110 brands still line their metal cans with bisphenol A, or BPA. (Thinkstock)
Experts recommend stocking up on foods that don’t require cooking or refrigeration as part of your emergency kit. Have at least a three-day supply. (Thinkstock)

For the first time ever, U.S. consumers are drinking more bottled water than soda. (Getty Images)
Bottled water is another thing experts recommend people have on hand as part of their emergency kits. Have one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation. (Getty Images)

The study's co-author says that only a small number of medications account for the majority of drug interactions, but they are among the most commonly prescribed meds in this country. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/DimaSobko)
If you take prescription medicines, fill any you may need ahead of time and add them to your emergency kit, experts say. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/DimaSobko)

Batteries size AA
Extra batteries for important devices like flashlights are another item experts recommend families keep in their emergency kits. (Thinkstock)

This June 11, 2016 photo shows the open trunk of a car packed with luggage and supplies for a week at a vacation rental house in Rehoboth, Del. What you need to bring to a vacation rental home may seem obvious, but think through your checklist and make sure to include kitchen items like tongs and a good knife, and even a bar of soap for the shower. (Linda Lombardi via AP)
Keeping an emergency kit of items in your car is also a good idea, experts say. Some items AAA recommends for your car kit include jumper cables, towels, a first-aid kit and a tool-kit. (Linda Lombardi via AP)

(1/7)
Families should have plans for unexpected emergencies that begin with discussions about what could happen and how to respond, experts recommend. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/designer491)
(Getty Images)
The Environmental Working Group’s survey of more than 250 brands reveals that 110 brands still line their metal cans with bisphenol A, or BPA. (Thinkstock)
For the first time ever, U.S. consumers are drinking more bottled water than soda. (Getty Images)
The study's co-author says that only a small number of medications account for the majority of drug interactions, but they are among the most commonly prescribed meds in this country. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/DimaSobko)
Batteries size AA
This June 11, 2016 photo shows the open trunk of a car packed with luggage and supplies for a week at a vacation rental house in Rehoboth, Del. What you need to bring to a vacation rental home may seem obvious, but think through your checklist and make sure to include kitchen items like tongs and a good knife, and even a bar of soap for the shower. (Linda Lombardi via AP)
November 29, 2021 | Emergency specialist David Snyder discusses safety and security progress since the terror attacks of Sept. 11. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — Families should have plans for unexpected emergencies that begin with discussions about what could happen and how to respond, experts recommend.

September is National Preparedness Month, and this year’s goal is for everyone to know how to respond to scenarios such as a house fire, earthquake, hurricane, active shooter or terrorist attack.

“You never can be over prepared,” said Alexandria Fire Department spokesman Rick Muse Jr., who also works with emergency management. “You need to talk to your kids and say, ‘If this happens, this is what we should do, or this is what we’re going to do, this is who we’re going to call, this is what we’re going to grab and this is where we’re going to meet.’”

Families should choose a person to contact out of town who can let everyone know who has checked in and if everyone is OK. During an emergency, text messages may go through when phone calls cannot.

Family members should know when to go to a predesignated friend’s house, meet at a designated place outside the neighborhood or shelter in place.

If an emergency should happen during the school day, for example, parents should be confident children are safe at school.

“Schools are capable of holding kids. The parents don’t have to put themselves at risk and end up in a traffic jam that goes nowhere,” said David Snyder of the National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council.

To respond to or prevent man-made emergencies, Snyder offered “See Something, Say Something” tips and advice for responding in an active-shooter situation in a statement posted to the Fairfax County emergency information website in June.

In the event of infrastructure or natural disasters or issues, such as snows storms, experts said people should create emergency kits.

Supplies to have on hand

  • Portable radio: If power goes out, radio will be your lifeline. Preset radios to 103.5 FM. In Virginia south of the Beltway, preset 107.7 FM. In Frederick, Maryland, preset your radio to 103.9 FM. The frequency 103.5 FM works fine just about everywhere else. You also can listen to WTOP on the telephone at 202-380-9977 or at WTOP.com.
  • Extra food: Stock foods that don’t require cooking or refrigeration. Have at least a three-day supply.
  • Bottled water: Have one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation.
  • Prescription medicines: Fill any you may need ahead of time.
  • Extra baby supplies — diapers, formula, etc.
  • First-aid supplies
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Manual can opener
  • Extra blankets
  • Cash
  • Whistle, in case you need to signal for help

Around the house

  • Keep your cellphone charged.
  • Make a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • Check batteries in your smoke detectors and flashlights.
  • Have extra batteries on hand.
  • Refrain from calling 911 or other emergency services unless it is a true emergency or life-threatening situation.
  • Make sure to check on neighbors who are older or may need help.
  • Verify your account information on file with your electric utility.
  • Have your utility phone number handy in case the power goes out.

Other home tips

  • Don’t try to remove tree branches from a power line.
  • Treat fallen wires as if they are energized.
  • If the power goes out and you use a portable generator, always keep it outside — away from doors and windows — to prevent carbon monoxide fumes from coming inside.

Car emergency kit supplies

Make sure your car has an emergency kit. Here’s what AAA recommends:

  • Keep a reasonably full gas tank.
  • Cellphone
  • Blankets/sleeping bags
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Drinking water
  • Jumper cables
  • Tool kit
  • Flares or orange triangles
  • Knife
  • Towels
  • High calorie, nonperishable food

Road condition information

Follow @WTOPTraffic on Twitter for up-to-the-minute traffic conditions, or check local road conditions and traffic cameras.

“Particularly this month, people should focus on, ‘Do they have a plan?'” Snyder said. “We really need the cooperation of the public.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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