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How can I develop an emergency preparedness plan for my family?

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One of the first steps toward personal emergency preparedness is the creation of a family disaster supply kit. The next step is to develop a family preparedness plan. A plan can help family members be aware and well versed in what to do in the event of an emergency. This is important since essential services may be cut off, and local disaster relief and government responders may not be able to reach you immediately following an emergency. Knowing what to do to protect yourself and your household is essential. Consider these steps to develop a plan.

  1. Do your homework. To find out which disasters could happen in your area, contact your local emergency management or civil defense office and the American Red Cross. Learn how these disasters might affect your family and request information on how to prepare and respond to each potential disaster. Learn about your community's warning signals, what they sound like, what they mean and what actions you should take when they are activated. Learn about local, state or federal assistance plans. Find out about the emergency response plan for your workplace, your children's school or day-care center and other places your family frequents. Develop a list of important telephone numbers (doctor, work, school, relatives) and keep the list in a visible location in your home. Ask about animal care. Pets may not be allowed inside shelters because of health regulations.

  2. Create a family disaster plan. Discuss the need to prepare for disaster with your family. Explain the danger of fire, severe weather (tornadoes, hurricanes) and floods to children. Develop a plan to work together as a team and share responsibilities with family members. Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to occur and how to respond. Establish meeting places inside and outside your home, as well as outside the neighborhood. Make sure everyone knows when and how to contact each other if separated. Decide on the best escape routes from your home. Identify two ways out of each room.
    Make a plan for pet care. Establish an out-of-town family contact (friend or relative). Call this person after the disaster to let him or her know where you are and if you are okay. Make sure everyone knows the contact's phone number. Learn what to do if you are advised to evacuate.

  3. Make a checklist of duties that need to be performed, and update as it becomes necessary. Establish an out-of-town family contact (friend or relative). Call this person after the disaster to let him or her know where you are and if you are okay. Make sure everyone knows the contact's phone number. Learn what to do if you are advised to evacuate. Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.). Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local EMS number for help. Show each family member how to turn off water, gas and electricity at the main valves or switches.
    Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and keep it in a central location. Check it each year. Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Stock emergency supplies and assemble a disaster supply kit. Learn basic first aid. At the very least, each family member should know CPR, how to help someone who is choking and first aid for severe bleeding and shock. The Red Cross offers basic training for this.
    Identify safe places in your home to go for each type of disaster. Check to be sure you have adequate insurance coverage for disasters that could happen in your area.

  4. Practice and maintain your plan. Test children's knowledge of the plan every six months so they remember what to do. Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills. Replace stored water and food every six months. Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries once a year. In conjunction with a family preparedness plan, working with neighbors can also save lives and property. Meet with neighbors to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help arrives. Members of a neighborhood organization, such as a homeowner’s association or crime watch group, can introduce disaster preparedness as a neighborhood activity. Know your neighbors' special skills (medical, technical) and consider how to help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents can't get home. This information can assist you in protecting yourself and your family in case of a disaster. It is wise to have an emergency plan before the disaster strikes.

Posted on 10 Feb 2005

Leona Hawks
Extension Housing Specialist

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