• Bethany Smeltzer

Do You Have an Emergency Plan?

The year of 2017 seemed to be filled with so many natural #disasters that have affected the school year. Some of these disasters not only caused #evacuations but changes to the semesters.


When I was attending Vanguard University, we had two or three days off because of a fire nearby in a canyon. The air quality was so bad that we had “smoke days”.


As we watched the path of hurricane #Harvey, #Irma and #Maria head towards land, one of the things I thought about was whether or not people had their disaster plans in place. Did their families know what it was incase they were separated or in other states?


My aunt and uncles live in #Florida and we kept checking in on them. As well as my many friends that were in the path of Harvey. I think one of the hardest parts was not knowing what was their different emergency plans.


No part of the world is without its own #naturaldisaster.


#California suffered fire after fire this last year. Schools had been shut down due to being in the fire zones. Then there were the schools that had to hunker down during the hurricanes a few months ago.




Different areas have different risks:

And more. Those are just the big ones.

If you are going away to school, have you thought about what you might be affected by? Have you and your family talked about what the school’s and your personal evacuation plans are?


As all of this was going on, I thought of my own families’ plans incase of an #emergency. My family and I are spread out across Orange County, California. Due to our location, we are right next to the big fault line down here, San Andres. If there was a large enough earthquake, we wouldn’t be able to go north or east only south.


So, I created a step by step plan for my family so that we all know where we will all be and for how long and what is the final destination.


If your cell and internet was down, how would your family know you are ok? Would they know what your next steps are incase your current location is not longer safe?

When you are talking to your family about creating an emergency action plan for while you are away at school, make sure they have:

  • Your school’s social media information

  • Your school’s phone number

  • Roommates' or close friends' phone numbers

  • Nearby friends’ family that you may go to



This may seem excessive but think of your worst case scenario and you not only have to leave school but the area.

The second thing you want to consider are the destinations:

  • Phase 1 - in what situations will you stay at school

  • Phase 2 - where will you go at first

  • Phase 3 - if that place isn’t safe, at what point will you leave

  • Phase 4 - where is your ultimate goal

So for my families’ emergency plan, we have two phases and our goal. When I created our plan, I considered lack of driving, road conditions, and no communication.


Our family is to meet at my parents’ house and we have 48 hours to get there after an event happens if their house is not safe to stay. If you don’t make it within the 48 hours, there is a map with directions, step by step on how to get to our second destination (one of my best friend’s houses) in #Phoenix.


Depending on the roads, it could take anywhere from 7 hours to 6 days to get there. If you don’t get there within that time frame, we are onto our final destination of my aunt and uncle’s in #Texas. Since Phoenix is not in the path of the San Andres fault line, it would be easier to get a flight or car to get to #Dallas, Texas. So there is not deadline to get to the goal.


Because of these timeline, we all know when to press forward to stay safe and we also know that if we get somewhere late, that our family just moved on without us.


When creating your own plan, think of making one with a group of close friends especially if one of them has family closer than your own. Ask your school about the potential natural disasters in your area and then figure where you will go next based on #safety.


Not only do you want to have an emergency plan, you want to know where your important documents are and what you will bring with you. In California, we talk about needing to have a go-bag ready for when “the big one” (a huge earthquake) hits. The average Californian does not have a go-bag and will probably tell you that they don’t know what to grab if they need to be out of their house in less than 5 minutes.


If you had asked me this question six months ago, I wouldn’t have known what to grab. But after Canyon Fire 2 (the name of the fire) got close enough to where my neighborhood got alerted about evacuations and we were on the border of the evacuation zone, I decided to leave. The air quality was horrendous and there was no reason to stay.


Since I had all the time in the world, I packed up anything that had meaning to me. Memories can’t be replaced like actual items can be. As I packed, I took photos of everything I owned in case anything were to happen, you need to know how to replace it.


After the smoke died down, I came back to my house and realized two things:

  1. I know exactly where my #passport and birth certificate are kept;

  2. There are only really two or three things that I have to take with me based on sentimental value and they are all next to each other.

Many people who have had to evacuate within minutes will tell you that it’s just stuff but also that they wish they had a plan before so they wouldn’t have lost their #memories.


So as part of your plan, think about it. You have less than 5 minutes to get out of your #dorm - what do you take. Be strategic with how you plan and where you put things. Maybe you have an extra empty backpack that you can quickly pack. Or maybe your like me and all of my special #memorabilia are in small shoe boxes that I can easily grab.


My plan of action:

Step 1 - Empty backpack is next to closet at all times.

Step 2 - Pair of tennis shoes in closet at all times.

Step 3 - Two shoe boxes of memories in closet.

Step 4 - Important documents - I know where they are always and are easily accessible.

Step 5 - 3 #keepsakes next to bedroom door.


Those five steps get me out of my house in under 5 minutes.


My last and final points - don’t stop to take #selfies, record #videos, #Facebook live, video chat, etc. Get to #safety. If you are safe, then feel free to let everyone know through different means. Remember, Facebook and #Google both have ways to mark yourself as safe during a disaster. If you are in a safe place and you are no longer in danger, mark yourself as safe. Pay attention to what emergency numbers to use if you need help.




911 gets too many phone calls and sometimes there are alternative numbers that they ask you to use if you need to be #rescued.



Be prepared! Be safe! Be smart!

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