Your Family Disaster Plan

Disasters strike without warning and being prepared at home will help to insure that you and your family can make the best of a bad situation. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but in many cases they cannot reach everyone right away and you need to be ready to take care of yourself for up to three days.

Some emergencies can force you to evacuate from your neighborhood or confine you to your home. It is important that you know what to do if basic services-water, gas, electricity or telephones-were cut off. Preparing in advance and working together as a team make it much easier to cope with an emergency situation.

Contact your local emergency management office to find out:

  • What types of disasters are most likely to happen in your area.
  • If your community has warning signals or sirens, what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
  • Ask about animal care after disaster. Animals may not be allowed inside emergency shelters due to health regulations.
  • Find out how you can help people with special needs if needed until first responders arrive.


Create a Disaster Plan:

Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Many families already have an emergency plan for a house fire, so making an all-hazard plan will just add a few more details. Every member of the family will have a role during an emergency, so it is important to share ideas, responsibilities and work as a team when you create your plan.


Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case. Pick two places to meet:


1. Outside your home in the case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.

2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.

Everyone in the family should know the address and phone number of the designated meeting place.


Pick an out-of-town or out-of-state friend to be your "family contact." After a disaster, it is often easier to call long distance than to make a local call. All family members should call this person and tell them if they are safe, and where they are to help reduce panic during an emergency.


Discuss what to do in an evacuation and keep reference materials distributed by utilities and emergency managers with evacuation zones and routes in a designated area. Take some time to plan for your pets.


Complete This Checklist:
  • Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.). Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
  • Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches. Keep water and gas keys in central location.
  • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage annually and determine if specific types of disasters like hurricanes are covered or excluded under your policy.
  • Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it's kept.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home (especially near bedrooms) and remember to change the batteries twice a year.
  • Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
  • Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home and mark them on a diagram in your family emergency kit. Find two ways out of each room.
  • Identify the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.


Practice and Maintain Your Plan:
  • Quiz your kids every six months so they remember what to do.
  • Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
  • Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
  • Test and recharge your fire extinguishers according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.