I was lucky in college that I lived in places where people did a lot of safety checks for me. The dorm I lived in at Louisiana State University had all their evacuation plans posted on all the doors in case of a fire or other emergency. We also had fire drills pretty frequently. My roommates and I all knew where we’d go if there was an emergency and how to get in touch with our parents or other family members because they had it covered for us.
However, during my sophomore year at the University of Arkansas, I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment. My roommates and I were a flagrant example of the worst way to approach potential disasters. We were lucky if there were batteries near the smoke detector, much less actually in it. We had no idea what kind of response we would have if one of those famous Oklahoma twisters made it near our home in Fayetteville.
We dodged a bullet – there were no tornadoes or fires that year. It wasn’t until I began volunteering with the Northwest Arkansas Red Cross that I began to realize the importance of being prepared. And when I moved to Chicago and began interning full-time with the Greater Chicago Chapter, I truly took on a different approach. My smoke and carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries are checked at least once a month. I know how I’ll get out of my apartment if there’s a fire. I have the beginnings of a disaster kit. And I have renters’ insurance.
There is still more I can do to work toward being prepared for disasters. For example, I need to exchange emergency contact information with my roommates so we can contact each other and our families if we must. Also, I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to get out of the city quickly if I need to (I have no car and the nearest family member is in Glenview).
Being prepared with roommates can be more challenging because roles aren’t as clearly defined as they are in a family. My dad’s always taken on the leadership role for our family preparedness. This makes sense to me, but the leadership role in my home here in Chicago hasn’t been assigned. It is imperative that roommates work together to overcome these communication breakdowns to ensure they’re as prepared as possible. Have a chat with your roommates this week – determine who’s going to take the lead in making sure you’re ready for anything. It’ll take just 30 minutes of your day and you’ll be glad you did it.
Once you’ve decided who should take the lead on this issue, check out the Be Prepared section of our Web site and begin implementing them into your living situation. Good Luck!
–Gentry Lassiter is an intern in the Marketing & Communications Department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. He lives with his two roommates in a walk-up apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.