Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: How will you get to a safe place? How will you contact one another? How will you get back together? And what will you do in different situations? For more information, read Family Communication .
Ready.gov has made it simple to construct a family emergency plan. Download the Family Communication Plan for Parents and Kids (PDF), fill in the sections, and print it or email it to your family and friends.
You should also inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time, such as at work, daycare and school, faith organizations, and sports events as well as commuting. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to community leaders, your colleagues, neighbors, and members of faith or civic organizations about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance. For more information read about school and workplace plans.
Have an emergency plan for traveling between work and home and other regularly visited locations. Download the Commuter Emergency Plan (PDF).
Family Communication Plan
Because you and your family may not be together when a disaster hits, it’s important to create a communication plan to help you connect and get help. Complete a contact card for family members. Have them keep these cards in a wallet, purse, or backpack.
- Identify an out-of-town contact, such as a friend or relative, whom family members can call to let them know they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, because phone lines can be jammed. An out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
- Teach your family members how to text. It may seem like second nature to some of us, but not everyone texts. During an emergency, it’s often easier to get a text message delivered than a phone call.
- Subscribe to an emergency alert system. Check with your local health department or emergency management agency to see if there is one offered for your area. Post emergency telephone numbers by home phones or save them in your cell phone (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
- Teach children how and when to call 911 for help.
Create a Family Disaster Plan
Planning for a disaster means knowing what to do in any situation. Whether you have to evacuate your home or need to shelter in place, it’s important to have a plan.
Before creating your disaster plan, it’s important to know what types of emergencies are likely to occur in your area and the best ways to respond. For example, if tornadoes are common in your area, does your family know what the warning signs are and where to take shelter? Call your Local Red Cross chapter or Emergency Management Agency for more information.
Because different disasters may require you to go to different places, make sure you identify a meeting place in your neighborhood, a meeting place just outside your neighborhood, and a meeting place out of town. Review these plans with all members of your family and don’t forget to consider what you will do with your pets if they are not allowed in emergency shelters.
- Learn about your community’s warning signals: What do they sound like and what should you do when you hear them?
- Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
- Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster. For example, during an earthquake, you would want to practice “drop, cover, and hold on” under a sturdy desk or table. During a tornado, you would want to seek shelter in a lower-level, windowless room.
- Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity.
- Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher, and show them where it’s kept.
- Practice your plan by quizzing your kids periodically and conduct fire and other emergency drills.
- Check your emergency supplies throughout the year to replace batteries, food, and water as needed.
Additional Ways to Prepare
- Check if you have adequate insurance coverage for flooding or structural damage to your home and property.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) and smoke detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Install at least one battery-powered or battery backup carbon monoxide alarm in your home, preferably near bedrooms. Test the battery at least twice a year, such as when you change the time on your clocks.
- Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class .
If a disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for some time. You should have emergency kits for your home, office, school, and car. Here are some steps you can take to help your family stay safer and healthier during and after a disaster.
- Consider storing two weeks-worth of food supplies. You may be able to use many of the canned goods and dry mixes already in your cupboard.
- Store at least a three-day supply of water for each member of your family – that means one gallon per person per day.
- Don’t forget about pets; they’ll need food and water, too.
- Learn where your gas, electric, and water shut-off locations are and how to turn them off.
Pack an emergency supply kit. Here’s what you’ll need:
Food and Water
Water(http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/kit/water/index.asp) — one gallon per person, per day
- Battery powered, solar, or hand crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Extra batteries
Health and safety supplies
- First aid kit
- Medicine (seven-day supply), other medical supplies, and paperwork about any serious or ongoing medical condition
- Emergency blanket
- Soap, toothbrush, and other personal care items
You should also keep:
- Family and emergency contact information
- Multipurpose tools
- Copies of important documents such as insurance cards and immunization records
- Extra cash
- Map(s) of the area
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
If you have babies, children, or someone with special medical needs in your family, you should add:
- Medical supplies (e.g., hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, or a cane)
- Baby supplies (e.g., bottles, formula, baby food, and diapers)
- Games and activities for children
Keep it fresh and ready to use.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, pack the items in easy-to-carry containers. Clearly label the containers, and store them where you can reach them easily. During a disaster, you may need to get your emergency supply kit quickly — whether you are sheltering at home or evacuating. Make sure to check expiration dates on food, water, medicine, and batteries throughout the year.
Involving children in getting ready is the first step in helping them know what to do in an emergency. There are many ways children can help.
It’s important that you and your family know what to do before, during, and after an emergency. This means understanding what emergencies are likely to occur in your area and specific ways to respond. You should also understand the ways you can get information about potential threats, such as through text alerts, emergency sirens in your community, or other methods.
In addition to understanding how you will be informed of potential threats, you need to understand the difference between various weather alerts:
- A watch gives advance notice that conditions are favorable for dangerous weather. If a severe storm watch or other type of watch is issued for your area, be alert for changing weather conditions.
- A warning requires immediate action and is only used when severe weather is about to strike.
Follow the links below to learn more about the different types of disasters that may happen and how to respond. You can also find more information on how to sign up for alerts in your area at ready.gov/alerts