Three weeks ago, I realized how a crime committed close to home can drastically change the way we run our day-to-day affairs. Everyone in the neighborhood was filled with fear. It did not help that the crime was committed just a couple of steps away from our home and that we were the first ones to respond to the scene. The whole incident left all of us shaken that for a couple of days everyone in the household go out together for errands and that everyone had to be home before it gets dark.

This got me into thinking on how prepared my family is should an emergency happen in the house. Are we equipped to handle or defend ourselves at a time that we need to? And with the current news about the possibility of the “Big One” happening in our lifetime, is my family prepared for this eventuality? Do we have a concrete emergency plan to execute should the “Big One” happen?

Here are 7 practical tips on how your family can prepare for emergencies even before it happens.

1. Have a plan.

Whether it is a sick family member, a thief within the premises of your home, or an earthquake, have a plan on how your family should act during the crisis. Get everyone involved, even the househelp, by giving each one a responsibility. The objective of the plan is the safety of every member in the household. In our home, the role of the househelp is to be responsible for my daughter’s welfare so both the househelp and my daughter know that, should there be an emergency, they stick together. The last thing that I would like to do during an emergency is giving out instructions.

Here are some examples of what you can incorporate in your plan:

• In case of a burglary attempt, everyone is to lock their rooms and to stay inside the room. I have made it a point to orient family members on what they have inside their rooms that can work as a weapon for defense – an umbrella, a chair, and even a hairspray that they can be used to temporarily blind the assailant. You open all windows and you start blowing the whistle and shout for help.

• For larger families, it is best to have a buddy system so that it will be a lot easier to make a headcount once everyone is safely outside.

• After an earthquake, only one person is responsible to call every family member to check on their safety. This would be a better system rather than having everyone call on each other and it would also help decongest telecommunication traffic during the emergency.

• This advice is one of the most important should the “Big One” happen – make sure that your family has an evacuation plan. When we say evacuation plan, it should also include a plan on where to meet at a specific time frame. In our case, our family has three convergence points or places where we would all have to meet after a major earthquake. We assume that telecommunication would be down at that time so it is important that we all go to the convergence point in 24 hours. Hence, if one of us is missing after 24 hours that would mean something happened to that family member and that we need to help.

2. Always update emergency numbers.

Always make sure that emergency numbers are updated and posted in your refrigerator doors and in the visible areas in the rooms. Better yet, if everyone in the family has mobile phones, have it loaded into their directory for easy access during an emergency.

3. Have an Emergency Bag for EVERY family member.

The first 72 hours after an emergency is very crucial for survival so it is important that every family member has their own emergency bag that would contain 3-days worth of food, water, and clothing, and yes that would include your kids. Just what should be inside the bags?

• Clothes
• Small Blanket or Sweater
• Flashlight
• Ready-to-eat food that are also easy-to-open
• First Aid Kit with medication
• At least 3 liters of Water
• Whistle

4. Keep yourself updated with the news.

News agencies on TV, radio, and even on social media can provide you and your family with valuable information even before an emergency or a calamity strikes. Different government agencies give regular updates to help you decide on the precautionary measures that you need to take for the safety of your family. And please when local government agencies ask you to evacuate your area, it is best to heed their call.

5. Community Involvement.

Our response as a community can mean saving a life, a prevention of a crime, or a solution to a crime.

This was the biggest pick-up that I got from the crime that was committed in our area. There were a lot of lapses in the end of my own community in terms of addressing the concern and I still think that had everyone, from our neighbors to the local “tanods”, went beyond their duty – a life would have been saved that fateful night.

Nevertheless, getting involved in your community can help prevent crime and can help the community to respond effectively during an emergency. Participate in emergency drills so you can gauge how your community responds to emergency situations. This would also give you an idea on how responsive your local government with your needs.

Lastly, when you make a report with the police or with your barangay officers, do make sure that you meet them and discuss what you are reporting to them and it is also important that you make a follow-up. Be accountable because that small act of concern can save a life.

And before I forget, I would also encourage you to join the Metro Manila-wide earthquake drill on July 30, 2015 as this will make you aware on what to do should the “Big One” happen. The key is to get involve and participate.

6. Be vigilant.

Nothing beats everyday vigilance. This was also the same reminder that responding policemen told us during the incident that we should always be vigilant with our surrounding and to report anything that unusual to authorities.
Vigilance can hinder the commission of a crime.

7. Have a whistle.

A what?

That is probably your reaction to the last tip and, yes, I am dead serious with it. A whistle can actually save your life. The whistle is small and can be attached to a keychain or to a bag. You can keep it in your pocket or in the pocket of your bag. In case of emergency, blow your whistle and the shrill noise it makes will catch attention. Match it by shouting your emergency and the people around you will be able to help you with your emergency.

We all hope that we will not encounter emergencies but it is also best that we are prepared, just in case. Preparation is the key to getting through an emergency, especially at home, and the efforts that we put into now can actually spell out the difference should it happen. In the end, the response to any emergency or the crime prevention does not lie to the authorities alone, it is a community initiative.