Your family is your number one priority, especially in emergency situations. You may not be able to predict and plan for every possible scenario, but you can create a family emergency plan that will prepare your family and help keep you safe in a range of circumstances. Family preparedness is about more than protection against actual emergencies. You'll gain everyday peace of mind knowing that you and your family have a clear strategy in place to stay safe, calm and ready if disaster strikes.
Start a Discussion
Have a conversation with the members of your family about the importance of being safe and prepared in emergencies. Encourage kids to participate by asking them to brainstorm different kinds of emergency situations and natural disasters. Begin the planning process by exploring the most common disasters in your area.
Make Your Family Emergency Plan
Some emergencies, such as house fires, call for immediate evacuation. Others, like tornadoes and other unpredictable storms, often mean taking shelter in the safety of your home. Your family emergency plan should help prepare you for both. Follow these steps to create a comprehensive family preparedness plan:
- Establish shelters and meeting places.
When choosing your shelter, pick a place away from windows and exposure to the outside. Basements and closets are generally the safest options, along with specially designed safe rooms. Your shelter should be equipped with emergency supplies, clear of obstacles and ready for use at all times. In case you need to evacuate, identify at least two primary exits, and keep these areas clear of obstacles, too. Designate a neighbor's front yard or another safe outdoor location nearby as the family meeting place.
- Collect essential information.
Make a list of emergency contacts, and make sure your family has access to the information. Use the Family Emergency Plan template from Ready.gov to get started. Keep records of important medical, insurance, and identification information in your shelter so they're safe and easy to access. Make sure your kids know how to call 9-1-1, and help them memorize important emergency phone numbers in case of evacuation or separation.
- Create an emergency kit.
Start with a large plastic storage container, and clearly mark it as the family emergency kit. Inside, stash enough supplies to help you and your family survive for at least three days. Your family's emergency kit should include:
- Non-perishable food
- Bottled water
- Flashlights and batteries
- Important medications
- And other emergency preparedness kit items
Ask your kids what items they think are important in an emergency, and discuss their suggestions so they can learn how to prioritize in a crisis. Have your kids help pack the kit so they see everything that goes in to emergency preparation and safety. Don't forget about Fido! Stash pet food, bowls, extra leashes, ID tags, medications, and carriers or crates for your four-legged family members, as well. Put Your Plan into Action Review your family emergency plan and safety procedures together regularly, and practice executing your plan at least twice a year. Imagine hypothetical situations that will help you respond to specific emergencies. Set a timer to continually work on improving how long it takes everyone to reach your designated shelter or meeting place. In home fire drills, you can practice crawling on the ground to avoid smoke or block off certain areas to focus on alternate escape routes. The more scenarios you practice, the better prepared you will be. Family preparedness will help keep you and your loved ones safe in the event of a crisis. Make your family emergency plan today, and start practicing so you're ready to respond if and when disaster strikes.