Drills and Rally Plans

As a commercial pilot, we are taught to identify possible threats and then discuss how we plan on mitigating those threats. This module is no different. No matter where you live, you are always going to be faced with some threats, be it earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, tsunami's, etc, there will always be something. Some threats might be preceded by a warning, such as a hurricane, while others provide no warning at all, such as earthquakes. Once you're aware of your threat(s), you can start taking the necessary steps toward mitigating them.

I have discussed with my family many of the threats we face here in Salt Lake City, but there are 3 specific threats that we drill often. Each of these 3 threats are of the "no warning" variety, which is all the more reason why I require my kids to be very familiar with each of them. No matter where you live, you and your family are at risk for at least two of these, and if you live in the western US, you are at risk for all 3. These 3 threats are: Earthquakes, House Fires, and Home Invasions. These will be the topic of this module. For more information on these three topics, please reference the following modules:

Earthquake Planning

Fire Safety

Safety, Security, and Protection

I encourage you to take this month and identify the threats that you and your family are most likely to be faced with and talk with your family about these threats. Discuss some of the ways in which you can prepare beforehand, what you should do during, and what you are supposed to do afterward. Let's start with earthquake drills.

Earthquake Drills

Make sure you run earthquake drills at least twice a year. While it's hard to mimic an earthquake, you can at least talk with your kids about what they are going to do during and after an earthquake. What are they going to do if it is the middle of the night? What about during the day? Make sure they understand the importance of shoes. Take them to different rooms in your house and ask them where the 'safe places' are as well as where the potential hazards are, such as areas around the windows, mirrors, any glass, dishes, shelves and cabinets, etc. Help them visualize what will most likely fall and create egress problems. Make sure there are at least two ways of getting out of every room. This may require an escape ladder if you have a second floor.

Fire Drills

Make sure you run fire drills at least twice a year. And practice 'Day' drills as well as 'Night' drills. And for effect, use the actual smoke alarm to signal a fire. Maybe tell them beforehand the first few times you do this. I know it would upset the younger ones, but if you do it enough, they will get used to that sound triggering their routine. As your kids get better at it, start introducing surprise fire drills. After all, that is what the real one is going to be...a surprise. At the very least, make sure they are familiar with the sound of your smoke detector. The last thing you want is for the smoke detectors to go off and have your kids ask, "What's that?" Mine have done this before. It was a wakeup call for me. If you feel overwhelmed with everything, consider assigning tasks to older family members. Maybe someone is responsible for calling 9-1-1. Maybe someone else is responsible for the initial headcount at the rally point. Maybe you will need help with an infant, younger children, or special needs persons. Up to you, but make sure it is drilled often, so everyone knows what they are supposed to do. Set a goal for everyone to be out in two minutes or less.

Drill your meeting or rally point as well. Make sure everyone knows which point is going to be used. For more information on this, please reference Rally Plans later in this module.

Home Invasion Drills

I'm going to keep this part vague as to not advertise our own family security plan, but suffice it to say, I have talked to my family (including my kids) about home invasions and in particular, alarm activation protocol, and everyone knows what they are to do in the event that this happens. Make sure your kids know what they are supposed to do. Do they have a place to hide? Do they know when to come out? Or are they expecting you to come get them when everything has been determined to be safe? The last thing you want is your kids to panic and run through the house looking for you. Make sure someone is calling the police. Make sure your kids know they are to remain silent, as noise will identify their location. Decide what defensive measures you are willing and prepared to take. Decide what your position is on having a firearm. And if you do have a firearm, please please please identify all potential targets first (using a light at night). There is nothing more sad than hearing about a homeowner shooting their own child who was a little too noisy sneaking in or had accidentally tripped the alarm. Once you (or the police) have decided that all is clear, first ensure the safety of your family. Relocate them to somewhere else if necessary. File a police report and document the damage. Work all of these scenarios into your plan.

There is a great article that covers all these home invasion considerations. If you are concerned about home invasions and want some great insight, please take the time to read over this: Home Invasion Defense Planning by ThreatScenarios.com.

While these are just a few scenarios that pose a threat to me and my family, please identify what your greatest threats are, and start working out your own mitigation plan. Include your kids and drill these plans often. Just a little bit of preparation and discussion could literally be the difference between life and death.

Rally (or meeting) Point

Do you have a predetermined meeting or rally point? You don't want your kids running through the house or all over the neighborhood looking for you while you're running all over looking for them. That is extra chaos you just don't need. Schools designate a meeting place for each grade. Your kids are already used to this, so adopt the same practice. If everyone knows where the meeting point is, accounting for everyone will go much smoother. This spot should be in an open area, away from buildings, street lights, power or utility lines, and other structures that might be compromised during an earthquake. Also, consider a location that may be a little further away from your house, in the case of a house fire. Also, consider not using a location near the street, such as the mailbox. Why? You do not want your kids near the street if emergency vehicles are expected to be racing up, such as in the event of a house fire. Think of something close by, but away from your home. Maybe you live across the street from a park. Or maybe you pick a spot on your neighbor's lawn. But wherever you choose, make sure everyone in your family knows about this location. Remind them often.

You also need to consider rally plans for when everyone is at school? If they are within walking distance, keep your same meeting point. If they rely on transportation to get to and from school, consider the reliability of that transportation. For example, the buses may or may not be running. If you're kids drive themselves, or have friends who drive, then that transportation may be more reliable. Your kids need to know if they are going to try to get home themselves or if you are coming to get them, and if the latter, where will they meet you? Communications will play a critical role in this as well. Remember, if cell towers are jammed, a text message will be much easier to get through. Do you have an out of state contact? While this sounds like an antiquated practice, it makes a lot of sense. Again, if cell towers are jammed, much like a text message, out of state calls will be much easier to get through. You will only have to access the local 'jammed' tower once to get out, as opposed to twice, to get out and then back in again.

And finally, discuss this with your kids periodically. Keep it fresh in their minds. Make sure they can recite back to you what they are supposed to do.

Page updated: 2/4/21