It is common that when I raise the topic of disaster preparedness, I receive one of two physical reactions, either a deep, heavy sigh or a dramatic eye roll. But is there any prediction you will absolutely encounter a natural disaster? No. But is there a strong likelihood? Yes! And I, for one, would prefer to prepare. And most people will admit after a disaster that they wish they had prepared better. So, let’s do this! My first question is, “Who are you going to call when disaster strikes?”
Imagine for a moment that there is a natural disaster where you are. You still have online access, and your phone begins to vibrate incessantly with family and friends wanting to know if you and your loved ones are safe. You are spending your time and precious phone battery life texting the same thing over and over to different family members. And they continue to text, call, etc. But they don’t just message you, they message everyone with you too. You are so busy responding that you miss critical safety information provided by the authorities, your phone battery is draining, and you might not be able to recharge. You are putting yourself at risk.
Who Are You Going to Call?
Now, imagine that after a natural disaster strikes, you call one person – your Personal Public Information Officer (PPIO). That person will inform your family and friends how you and your immediate family are doing. Then you can focus on establishing order after the disaster. Doesn’t that sound much less stressful? Even if the natural disaster is over, the chaos will continue. Having a PPIO disseminate information to your loved ones removes at least one major task from your to-do list. Also, it saves your phone battery and doesn’t tie up vital communication lines needed by emergency workers.
It is essential to tell your family and friends who your PPIO is. They must understand that they need to follow the protocols you have created for post-disaster recovery.
Who should I choose as my PPIO?
Ideally, your PPIO should live outside your state or local area. That person should understand the criticality of their role and be willing and able to follow your instructions. It is common to choose a family member or close friend. But ask yourself the following questions first:
- Can they come to my family’s aid after a disaster?
- Can they assist me with and possibly temporarily care for my child or a vulnerable or elderly family member?
- Will they have access to the family member’s specific medication or know how to retrieve their medication?
After a disaster, authorities implement their disaster plans. They follow protocol regarding emergency contact lists. Suppose the person you need to help your family member is not on the emergency contact list. In that case, that person will not be able to collect your child or vulnerable family member.
Don’t assume you can contact authorities and request a different emergency contact person. Let’s be honest. After the disaster, it is too late to change who you listed on the emergency form. Phone lines may be down, and authorities will be flooded with calls from people requesting help.
Most agencies and organizations require at least two, if not three, individuals on an emergency contact form. Ensure each emergency contact knows about the health conditions of the child or vulnerable or elderly family member or knows where to find the information.
What does my PPIO need to know?
You need to give your PPIO a list of people to communicate with on your behalf. Give them a list including names, relationships, email addresses, and phone numbers. In most cases, they will be able to create a group email or text.
Although these conversations are hard to think about, creating a plan now will allow you to handle ‘the after‘ with confidence and the complete presence your immediate family will desperately need from you.
You can do this! Unclutter Me by Lisa Witzleben is here to assist you.