Make A Plan
You don’t know when the next emergency or disaster will occur or what it will be. Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. Creating a Family Emergency Plan will address these issues.
Also consider creating a Plan to Shelter in Place and a Plan to Evacuate should an impending or actual emergency require you to “stay” in place or “go” While making a plan can sounds challenging and formal, it is simple and doesn’t even need to be written down. The important thing is that all family members know what to do in different types of emergencies. Much of this planning can be done in a few hours and can prove invaluable in an emergency.
Create a Family Communications Plan
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov program has made it simple for you to create a Family Emergency Plan. Download the Family Communication Plan for Parents and Kids (PDF) documents, fill out the sections, and print out copies for your family and friends
Because your family may not all be together when an emergency occurs and because emergencies can disrupt normal communications due to power outages or infrastructure damage, it is important to plan how you will communicate in different situations.
- Have two predetermined family meeting locations that the entire family knows. One can be right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire. The other can be outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
- Identify an out-of-state contact for household members to notify that they are safe. The out-of-town contact, if unaffected by the emergency, may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
- Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number of the emergency contact and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. In addition, program other “ICE” contacts in your cell phone as contacts during an emergency. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel may check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Inform your ICE contacts that they are programmed into your phone and inform them of any medical issues or special needs you may have.
- Teach family members how to use text messaging if they don’t text regularly. Text messages can often work even when there is network disruptions or congestion when a phone call might not be able to get through.
- If you have internet after a disaster (either on a computer or your cell phone), consider using social media to let friends and family know that you are safe and where you are.
Create a Plan to Shelter in Place
During some emergencies there may be situations when it’s best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside. “Shelter-in-Place” is a standard protective action utilized in emergency management. It is most often used during an event in which hazardous materials have been accidentally released into the atmosphere, but also during other dangerous conditions, such as hurricanes, flooding, blizzards, or law enforcement activity when it’s safest to remain indoors. As part of your emergency plan, consider what you would need or would need to do in advance of sheltering in place. This includes building an Emergency Kit , preparing your home for emergencies, and learning how to shut off any systems that involve air handling in case you are asked to turn them off.
For more information, see MEMA’s Shelter in Place webpage.
Create a Plan to Evacuate
Some emergencies and disasters may require evacuation. Evacuations may be for an event like a hurricane where there is time to get ready, or may be for an incident such as a hazards materials spill, a major fire, or other emergencies that may require evacuation with no notice. Since evacuations often have short or no notice, planning ahead is essential.
As part of your family emergency plan, consider what you would do if you were asked to evacuate:
- Where would you go? Would you stay with family and friends and if so, who? Or would you go to a hotel or local emergency shelter?
- How will you evacuate? Do you have your own car that you would take? If your car was damaged or inaccessible, how would you travel? If you don’t have a car, how would you evacuate? Make sure you know at least two routes to your destination in case of impassible roads or traffic.
- What will you bring? Considering bringing your “go bag” of key items that is part of your Emergency Kit . Make sure to include any items specific to your family needs (medicines, medical equipment, assistive devices, baby supplies, etc.)
- What will you do with your pets? While service animals will be allowed inside shelters household pets are not allowed in all shelters. Consider additional options for your pet, such as staying with relatives or friends, a kennel, or pet friendly hotels. Have pet supplies, medicines, carriers and tags for your pet.
- When will you evacuate? For events that have warning, like hurricanes, make a plan of when you might evacuate. Don’t wait until the last minute when conditions outside might be dangerous.
For more information, see MEMA’s Evacuation webpage