As Hurricane Isaac relief efforts continue, American Red Cross chapters nationwide are uniting to help every family create a disaster plan.
Whether it's a hurricane, earthquake or house fire that threatens, families need a disaster plan first to make sure they are ready when emergencies happen.
"Just like no coach would bring a team onto a field without a game plan, every family needs their own game plan for emergencies," executive director of Community Preparedness and Resilience at the Red Cross Russ Paulsen said. "When disaster strikes, it's too late."
Disaster plans should include designating a meeting place right outside the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, a location where everyone should meet if they can't go home and an out-of-area contact who can help connect separated family members. All members of the household should work together on the emergency plan and each person should know how to reach other family members.
The Red Cross has tools to make it easier for people to make or update their plan. The American Red Cross Hurricane App for iPhone and Android smart phones helps people create a plan and share it with household members and over social networks. In addition, a template to build a plan is available at redcross.org/npm.
"Being prepared is a family's best defense," chair of American Red Cross Preparedness Sub-Council and member of its Scientific Advisory Council Richard Bissell, Ph.D., said. "Having a plan is vital to making sure all household members know what to do in an emergency."
The Red Cross has several programs to help people, businesses, schools and communities be better prepared.
Be Red Cross Ready is a web-based, interactive tutorial that teaches people how to be ready for emergencies.
Red Cross Ready Rating is a free, web-based membership program that measures how ready businesses, organizations and schools are to deal with emergencies and helps them improve their readiness level.
The Ready When the Time Comes program trains employees from businesses so they can be used as a community-based volunteer force when disaster strikes.
Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED training courses provide participants with the knowledge and skills to respond to emergencies in case advanced medical help is delayed.
People can visit redcross.org for information on what to do before, during and after emergencies and disasters.
"We can't control Mother Nature, but we can control what we do," Paulsen said, "And having a plan can make all the difference."
The American Red Cross of Southwestern New York is a United Way agency.