Family Emergency Plan


Disaster, whether personal like a house fire, or community-wide like a flood or tornado, can strike quickly and without warning.  It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood, prevent you from returning home, or confine you to your house.  Families can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team.  Preparing for emergencies can reduce anxiety you or your family may have about future events.  Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.  Use this guide to help your family prepare for an emergency.

What You Can Do...

Prepare for an Emergency

  • Learn about your local warning signals- what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
  • Find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or daycare center, and other places where your family spends time.
  • Determine who will pick up and watch over your children if they have to leave school.
  • Identify relatives or friends who can care for your children or elderly family members if you must stay at work.
  • Ask about animal care after a disaster.  Pets are not allowed inside emergency shelters due to health regulations.
  • Prepare to help elderly or disabled family members, if needed.

Make a Plan for Your Family

  • Meet with your family to discuss why you need to prepare for disaster.
  • Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, earthquakes, etc. to children.  Plan to share the responsibilities and work together as a team.
  • Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen.  Explain what to do in each case.  Pick two places to meet- right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and beyond your neighborhood in case you can't return home (everyone must know the address and telephone number).
  • Ask an out-of-state friend or family member to be your "family contact".  After a disaster, making local phone calls may be difficult or impossible, and it's often easier to call long distance.  Family members should call this person and tell them where they are.  Everyone must know the contact's phone number.

Talking to Your Children

Parents may choose not to share family disaster planning information directly with very young children, who may become frightened.  If you plan to include your school-aged children in the development of the plan, the following suggestions may be helpful:

  • In simple language, explain why it is important to have the family emergency plan.
  • Explain that nothing bad is happening at the moment.
  • Involve your children in the planning.  For example, they can help to check for batteries, help purchase supplies, etc.
  • Reassure children that they will be protected by a parent, a relative, or someone else who cares about them.
  • Do not make things seem worse than they actually are.  Remember that children will be as calm and cooperative as the adults around them.
  • Explain that it is okay to feel scared or afraid.
  • Older children and teens may ask if this plan relates to terrorism.  Explain that recent events remind all parents of the need to be sure that they have plans in place in the event the parent is delayed leaving work.  If your child has watched news coverage, he or she may be aware that some children and their parents had a difficult time reuniting.
  • If they are already aware of this situation, you can offer your family plan as your personal way to ensure that you will be reunited safely and as soon as possible.
  • As a parent, you know your child best.  You can make the best decision about how much information to share.

Emergency Checklist

  • Post all emergency phone numbers.
  • Teach your children how and when to dial emergency numbers such as 911.
  • Show family members how to turn off the natural gas, water, and electricity supplies to your home.
  • Teach all family members how to use a fire extinguisher.  Purchase one if necessary.  An ABC-type extinguisher is best.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of your home.
  • Determine the best escape routes in case evacuation is necessary.
  • Determine the safest spot in your home for disasters such as tornadoes.
  • Evaluate your home for hazards, such as shelves that could tip over during an earthquake.  Then, eliminate these hazards.

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