Life is unpredictable – so families should always be prepared for any situation that might be thrown their way. Because preparation is key to survival during any major threat, one crucial focus for every family should be effective disaster planning. From gathering supplies to planning for pets, there is a mountain of vital disaster plan work that can be done ahead of time to ensure everyone’s safety.
Planning, practicing and perfecting your very own family disaster plan now just might save your life later.
Creating Your Family Disaster Plan
Use the following tips as a starting point to create a customized family disaster plan that caters to your family members’ specific needs.
Know Your Escape Routes
- Mark escape routes from each room on a floor plan of your home.
- Establish a place to meet in the event of an emergency (e.g., a specific neighbor’s house, the neighborhood grocery store parking lot).
- Ask local authorities about emergency evacuation routes and the locations of local shelters in the event of an emergency.
Pick Your Shelter
- First, consider the hazard, and then choose a place in your home or other building that is safe from that hazard.
- Sheltering outside the hazard area might include staying with friends or relatives, seeking commercial lodging or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster-relief groups and local authorities.
Make a Communication Plan
- Your family may not be together when disaster strikes. Plan how you will contact one another in different situations.
- Identify an out-of-town relative or friend for family members to notify when they are safe. It may be easier to make long-distance calls than to call across town.
- Complete a contact card for each family member and have them keep these cards handy (e.g., in a wallet, purse, backpack). Include contact names, phone numbers, meeting places and any other important information. Sample contact cards can be found on the Ready.gov website.
Every family member should have a cell phone, coins for public phones or a prepaid calling card. During network disruptions, text messages often go through when phone calls do not.
Know How to Shut Off Your Utilities
- Contact your utility companies for shutoff requirements (e.g., natural gas, water, electricity), and be sure to record the information.
Maintain Insurance Policies and Vital Records
- Annually review existing property, health and life insurance policies and obtain additional coverage as needed. Do this before storm season – insurance companies may not issue/change policies during storm season.
- Document important information about your personal property for insurance purposes. This includes taking photos of high-value items.
- Store important documents, such as insurance policies, deeds and property records, in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box at a bank. Make copies of important documents for your disaster supply kit.
Assemble a Disaster Supply Kit
- Assemble a three-day disaster supply kit to see you through until help arrives. At a minimum, the kit should include essentials such as water, food, a first aid kit, tools, sanitation items, hygiene items, clothing and bedding.
- For help and advice on building your disaster supply kit, visit the Ready.gov website.
Plan for Your Pets
- Plan for pet disaster needs: identify shelters; gather pet supplies; make sure your pet has proper ID and up-to-date veterinary records; provide a pet carrier and leash.
Remember, pets are not allowed in public shelters, so be prepared to make alternate plans for your furry friends.
Consider Any Access and Functional Needs
- If you or someone close to you has access and functional needs, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency (e.g., make special arrangements to receive warnings, get transportation to a shelter). Find out about the special assistance that may be available in your community.
For more information on products to help you prepare for an emergency situation, browse the Quickseries® library of guides, including: Make a Plan: Your Family Emergency Preparedness Guide