Create a Family 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.
  • Everyone in the family should know the address and phone number of the designated meeting place. Pick two places to meet:
    1. Outside your home in the case of a sudden emergency, like a fire; and
    2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.
  • 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.
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 extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Locate the main electric fuse box, water service main and natural gas main. Learn how and when to turn these utilities off. Teach all responsible family members. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Remember, turn off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if you are instructed to do so. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.
Coming Together as a Community

Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how the neighborhood could work together during and after an emergency until first responders arrive. If you're a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce emergency preparedness to the group if it has not already been addressed. Know your neighbors' special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans to help care with children and those with special needs in case families are separated.

Evacuation Planning
If told to do so, evacuate immediately. Follow these tips when evacuating:
  • Listen to your battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your family disaster supplies kit.
  • Lock your home.
  • Post a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities--don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  • Shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so.
  • Make arrangements for your pets.
     When checking for damage in your home after returning:
  • Use flashlights--do not light matches or turn on electrical switches if you suspect damage.
  • Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards.
  • Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately.
How do I find my family after the disaster?
The American Red Cross Safe and Well database is another way to help you find family. You should contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.