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By Ike Pigott

One of the biggest frustrations many people had in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was the loss of communications. In many instances, victims were scattered among several states and it took weeks to reunite families.

Now the American Red Cross has teamed up with several other agencies to create the Safe and Well website, providing a central database for disaster victims to register and their loved ones to search. However, not every disaster rises to that level, and there are steps you can take in advance to organize your communication.
First, remember that it is often easier to call out of a disaster zone than it is to call in. Therefore, you should pick one family member who is a couple of states away to be your "Hub." In case of an emergency, you only need to reach your Hub just once to let them know you are okay. Then your Hub Buddy can send it on to a list or can field calls from worried friends.

  1. Organize your list. Figure out who needs to know that you are alright.
  2. Choose your Hub wisely. Don't pick the person who lets every call roll to voicemail. Pick someone who carries a Blackberry or is inclined to answer on the first ring.
  3. Forward your "In Case of Emergency" e-mail and phone list to your Hub.
  4. Once a year, practice your plan. Have your Hub sent out a message to your list. If you get e-mails that bounce back, you need to refresh your contacts. If you have relatives with phone only, make sure they have the number for your Hub.
  5. Consider an integrated contact solution, like Plaxo. Plaxo works in conjunction with your address book, and automatically registers updates throughout your network. The more people you know who use it, the better it works.

Posted April 30, 2008, filed in Emergency Preparedness

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