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How to Make a Family Emergency Plan

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know:

  • How you will contact one another
  • How you will get back together
  • What you will do in case of an emergency

Below are guidelines to help you make an emergency plan for your family. Remember, your emergency plan is a continuing process that should be revisited and updated regularly.

Getting Started

First meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for an emergency. Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen and what to do in each situation. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.

Keep it simple. A disaster is an extremely stressful situation that can create confusion. The best emergency plans are simple enough so that everyone can remember the important details.

Your Plan

Plan where your family will meet. Meeting places should include locations both near your home (in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire) and outside of your immediate neighborhood (in case you can’t return home or need to evacuate). Notify caregivers and babysitters about your plan.

Plan how your family will communicate. Consider asking a relative or friend who lives outside of your area to be your family contact. In a disaster, local telephone service may be disrupted, but long-distance lines are more likely to be open. For this reason, an out-of-town contact may be better able to communicate among separated family members. Everyone should know the contact’s name, address and telephone number. (If long-distance lines are not open, try a pay telephone. This is the telephone company’s emergency telephone network and will be the first system to be restored if there is an emergency.)

Take a Basic First Aid and CPR class. Contact the American Red Cross for more information.

Post emergency contact numbers near all telephones. Pre-program emergency numbers into phones that have auto-dial. Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1 to get emergency assistance.

Prepare to evacuate your home. If you need to vacate your home because of a fire or other emergency, have a plan to get out quickly and safely:

  • Review escape routes with your family and practice escaping from each room.
  • Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut, and that security gratings on windows have a fire safety opening so they can be easily opened from the inside.
  • Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches. If for any reason you turn off natural gas service to your home, call your gas company to restore service. Do not attempt to restore service yourself.
  • If your residence has more than one level, consider getting escape ladders.
  • When escaping fire, teach family members to stay low to the floor.

Prepare to evacuate the area. If authorities ask you to evacuate, have a plan for you and your family to leave the area:

  • Identify ahead of time where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
  • If you don’t have a car, plan alternate means of evacuating.
  • If you have a car, keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case you need to evacuate.
  • Plan several escape routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed. Remember to follow the advice of local officials during evacuation situations.
  • Take your emergency supply kit.
  • Take your pets with you, but remember that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. You can find more information about what to do with your pets in an emergency on the Pets and Livestock page.
  • Keep family records in a waterproof and fireproof safe. Inexpensive models can be purchased at most hardware stores.
  • Ask about emergency plans at places where your family spends time. This could include work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.

Practice Your Plan

  • Practice and maintain your plan. Practicing your plan will help you instinctively make the appropriate response during an actual emergency. Review your plan periodically and make changes as needed.
  • Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizen Corps chapter. Remember to keep your training current.