Preparing for the Worst: How to Protect Your Family from a Possible Terrorist Attack

In response to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s repeated warnings of possible terrorist attacks on American soil—an all-too-credible concern given the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon—the American Red Cross strongly urges every household to devise and review a disaster plan. Here’s what you should do:

  • Create an emergency communication plan. Choose an out-of-town contact your family or household will call or e-mail to check on each other should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that contact’s information, along with your other telephone numbers (work, cell and pager). Give this information to your child’s school, too.

  • Establish a meeting place. Have a predetermined meeting place away from your home in case your house is affected or located in the evacuated area. Be sure to include pets in this these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.

  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit. Stow essential supplies in an easy-to-carry container or duffle bag, so you can evacuate your home quickly if necessary. Consider the needs of each family member when packing your supplies kit (infant formula, for instance, or medication for older people.) Other items to pack are first aid supplies (bandages, gauze, acetaminophen, antiseptic soap, etc.); three days’ worth of canned food and bottled water; a change of clothing for each person; a sleeping bag for each; a battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries; assorted tools; and cash.

  • Store copies of essential documents in a safe location outside your home. Copies of essential documents—such as powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, licenses and passports, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will—should be kept in a safe deposit box or the home of a trusted friend or relative who lives in another town.

  • Know your child’s school’s emergency plan. Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and caregivers to arrange for pickup. Also, ask what type of authorization the school requires to release your child to someone you designate, if you are unable to pick up your child.