Make a Plan

Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property. If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be ready as well. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere.

You should know how to respond to severe weather or any disaster that could occur in your area - earthquakes, extreme weather, flooding, chemical releases, or terrorism.

You should also be ready to be self-sufficient for at least three days and possibly a week. This may mean providing for your own shelter, first aid, food, water, and sanitation.

Preparedness Tips

The following steps will help you prepare for any emergency:

  • Make a Family Emergency Plan (PDF). Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Notify caregivers and babysitters about your plan.
  • Get informed about hazards and emergencies that may affect you and your family.
  • Identify the community warning systems (PDF) and evacuation routes.
  • Find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or daycare center, and other places where your family spends time.
  • Teach children how and when to call 911.
  • Make sure each adult in your home knows how and when to turn off the utilities (water, gas, and electricity) at the main switches and when or who should turn them back on.
  • Get training for adults in your home on how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it's kept.
  • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
  • Learn what to do for specific hazards. Practice and maintain your plan.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
  • Pick two places to meet: 1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire. 2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the location and phone number.
  • Designate an out-of-area contact person. Try to select someone that is far enough away to not be affected by the same emergency. Provide this person with the names and contact information of the people you want to keep informed of your situation. Instruct family members to call this person and tell them where they are. Long-distance phone service is often restored sooner than local service.
  • Duplicate important documents and keep copies off-site, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust. Documents may include:
    • Passport
    • Driver's License
    • Birth Certificate
    • Social Security Card
    • Wills
    • Deeds
    • Financial Statements
    • Insurance Information
    • Marriage License
    • Prescriptions
  • Inventory valuables, in writing and with photographs or video. Keep copies of this information off-site with your other important documents.
  • Discuss with family members what you would do if family members are not home when a warning is issued or a disaster occurs.
  • Make your home safe.
  • Put together an emergency supply kit. Plan to have supplies for yourself and your family for at least 3 days following a disaster. Supplies for up to a week are recommended.
  • When planning, consider the special needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities, family members that don't speak English, and pets.