The Yellow Point Fire is one of the fires burning in Oregon today. It’s about 25 miles from where I live. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is doing a good job keeping people affected by this comparatively small fire aware of what’s going on. It is also posting information on a blog , Facebook, and Twitter. The information helps people like me who want to know what’s going on. It also got my wife to finally see the value of using Twitter. Maybe more importantly, the ODF social network efforts help the families of the people fighting the fires know what their family members are doing.
None of this is remarkable. In less than a decade, social media is as integral a part of disaster response as, well…responders.
My family is in three different parts of the country this week. Since September is National Preparedness Month, the fire reminded me maybe it was time to review my family communication plan. I did that and discovered I actually did not have a family communication plan. I had one “in theory.” But not in reality.
I found this DHS website and advice basic, succinct and helpful.
Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Although I should have known about the other homeland security “ICE”, I didn’t. I do now, however. My family also has a written emergency communication plan.