In the last few years in Jefferson County, we’ve seen emergencies ranging from wildfires to paralyzing blizzards to a school shooting. Events like these can plunge families into chaos, panic and confusion.
Having an emergency plan ahead of time can help you communicate with, reconnect with, and protect your family. Every situation is different, but if you prepare for a wide range of possibilities, you’ll be better equipped to deal with a crisis.
Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated. Pick two meeting places: one a safe distance from your home (in case of a house fire), and another outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return to your neighborhood. Make sure everyone knows the actual phone numbers they need, in case they don’t have access to the data stored in their mobile phones.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” (After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long-distance than to place calls within the disaster zone.) Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.
Teach very young children to memorize their parents’ first and last names. If they are separated from their family, it will be difficult for emergency responders to identify “Mommy” and “Daddy.”
Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster. Know your neighbors’ skills (medical, technical). Consider how you could help neighbors with special needs, such as elderly or disabled people. Make plans for child care in case parents can’t get home. If you live alone, coordinate with neighbors and create a plan to check on one another’s welfare.
Familiarize yourself with the school district’s standard response protocol. Jeffco Public Schools have extensive security plans in place and regularly conduct drills and exercises, both with and without the students. Make sure your children know what to do in a lockdown, lockout or evacuation.
Emergencies like earthquakes and blizzards can result in your being stuck at your house with no way to access necessities. In some cases you may lose power for an extended period. We recommend that you:
• Stock supplies to last up to a week for each person in the household.
• Be prepared to relocate to a shelter during a prolonged power outage.
• Have extra cash on hand in case electronic transactions cannot be processed.
• Store a supply of drinking water in clean plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers.
• Create a 72-hour kit that includes food, first-aid supplies, a battery-operated radio and flashlight, medications and more.
Why we’re calling you in an emergency
In the case of an emergency that presents imminent danger to a particular neighborhood, the Sheriff’s Office may launch the “reverse 911” system to warn you by phone. If you lack a land line phone, or if you use a VOIP service, you will not receive these calls. You can register your mobile phones to receive e911 calls by visiting our website.
Be sure to include pets in your emergency plan. License your dog through Jefferson County Animal Control, make sure your dog or cat has your contact information on its collar, and consider microchipping your dog or cat at your veterinarian’s office. All of these methods will help to ensure your pet’s safe return if you become separated. If you must evacuate, do all that you can to take your pets with you. In a disaster, household pets can stay either in human shelters or in temporary animal shelters.
The sheriff’s department of emergency management has extensive information and resources on emergency preparedness available to you. Learn more by visiting emergency management’s site, or check out www.FEMA.org.
Ted Mink is the Jefferson County sheriff.