This is one disaster practice exercise that will pay huge dividends. Calling your Out-of-Area Contact Person seems, at first thought, to require very little advance
knowledge. Upon reflection, however, one recognizes the value in allowing loved ones to learn essential skill, like reporting how and where they are in concise, precise language. Equal value is gained as the Out-of-Area Contact person learns to ask relevant questions, write down the answers, and relay accurate information quickly and clearly.
Each household member should have a completed Out-of-Area Contact Card in his/her wallet, purse, or backpack.
A major disaster has just occurred. Among other things, local communication systems have been disrupted. Nevertheless, long distance communication is still available. Those phone systems were 'hardened' in the 1950's in preparation for war, and they are very resilient.
Your thoughts immediately turn to your loved ones. Are they safe? Where are they? Are they scared? When will they be home?
You have tried calling them, but cannot get through. You remember you have an Out-of-Area Contact Card in your wallet.
Have each household member get their Out-of-Area Contact Card.
Review the above SCENARIO.
Discuss: The disaster has disrupted communication for the whole community. Therefore, it is important to keep phone calls during the disaster short so that everyone has the opportunity to call their Out-of-Area Contact.
Discuss: When calling your Contact, tell them: A. Who is calling. B. Your status (fine, hurt, scared, etc.) C. Where you are. D. When you think you will be home. E. Ask your Contact if other loved ones have checked in and how they are.
Have an adult call your Out-of-Area Contact to inform them you are having a practice. This is key! Remember to tell them this is just a PRACTICE. Explain that everyone is going to be calling.
Instruct your Out-of-Area Contact to: A. WRITE DOWN all the information from each caller. This includes: where they are, their status, and when they think they will be home. B. When each subsequent person calls, relay information about the status of all previous callers.
PRACTICE CALLING YOUR OUT-OF-AREA CONTACT. It is important that each person actually press the numbers to make this call. It is important that each person practice giving information about themselves. It is important that each person listen for updates on other loved ones.
Remember texting is a option. Texts may be able to get through even when phone calls cannot. Have older children practice texting their status to all family members. Remember to keep texts short. Obviously, this option only works if the Out-of-Area Contact has texting capabilities.
After everyone has called, discuss:
What have we learned?
Is everyone confident we can all call our Out-of-Area Contact in a real disaster?
Thank everyone for practicing. Have everyone put his/her Out-of-Area Contact Card back in her/his backpack, wallet, or purse.