Making a personal emergency plan
Recently there have been some emergency situations on college campuses that have garnered significant media attention. Two that come to mind are the evacuation of the schools in the New Orleans area for Hurricane Katrina and the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech. Columbia College takes the safety of our students, faculty and staff very seriously. One thing that is abundantly clear is the importance of being prepared should a situation occur that requires prompt action.
As part of the college's emergency preparedness plans, we are asking that our families and students develop a family and personal emergency plan. Taking the time as a family to prepare for an emergency situation can reduce the anxiety you experience. Suggestions adapted from recommendations by Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University and the American Red Cross are provided.
Discuss with your family the answers to the following questions.
- Disaster strikes and no one is at home. How do you find each other?
- Disaster strikes and confines you to one location. Basic services may not be available. What family and community resources do you need to be aware of at a time like this?
- Disaster strikes and you need to quickly leave. Where do you go? How do you get there? What do you take?
- Disaster strikes suddenly, like a tornado. What do you do? Where are the shelters near your home, work and school?
Learn about the hazards that are most likely to impact you and your family.
- Do you live in an area prone to severe weather?
- Do you live in an area that is difficult to reach? Consider the location of the nearest airports and bus and train stations, and whether you have access to your own vehicle.
- Do you live in an area where a man-made hazard could result, such as a hazardous material spill?
- Do you have family members who are ill or are facing serious medical issues?
- Do you have family members employed in a field where their life may be at risk or the services that they provide are in high demand during certain times?
- Do you know what to do in a fire? In a situation requiring evacuation?
Plan ahead as much as possible.
- Make sure all family members have critical emergency contact numbers (i.e., parents' work, neighbors, doctor, dentist, health insurance, home owner's insurance, young children's schools, police, fire, etc.).
- Make plans for how to escape from your home (and residence hall/ apartment). Determine where you should be in your home during the types of disasters most likely to impact your family.
- Make plans for evacuating. If you must leave your home/ residence hall/ apartment, where would you go, how would you get there and what items would you take?
- Determine how you will keep in contact with family members. Pick two locations in your hometown where family members can meet. Also, ask an out-of-state friend to be your family's "check-in contact." In a disaster, it is often easier to call long-distance than within a stricken area. Make sure all children know how to contact this person.
- Store a 2-week supply of basic things you might need if confined to your home. Things to have on hand include: flashlights, extra batteries, candles, matches, first aid kit, battery-powered radio and non-perishable food and water.
- Revisit the basic safety precautions that many emergency personnel strongly recommend: know the location of electrical, water and gas shut-offs for your home; maintain fresh batteries in all smoke detectors; learn how to use a fire extinguisher; keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children; learn basic first aid and CPR.
During the year, we will share many helpful hints that might help our families in an emergency situation. Please be aware that Columbia College has a wealth of resources to assist our students in many different situations, but two offices every parent and student should know how to contact are Campus Safety (24 hours/day) and Student Affairs (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.