Making a Family Plan

By Gabriela Murza, MS; Kandice Atismé, MPH, MHA, CPH; Tim Keady, MS, CHES; Mateja Savoie-Roskos, Ph.D., MPH, RD; Maren Wright Voss, ScD; Ashley Yaugher, Ph.D.

No matter what the emergency or situation, it is important to create a plan early to ensure that you and your family are prepared. An emergency plan ensures that every member knows what to do, what to expect, and how to respond. The goal is to be prepared while staying in your regular routine as much as extension

Write down what your normal daily routine is, and modify it based on the current situation. Modify tasks you did in public (i.e. going to the gym), but don't change the routines you do at home (i.e. reading with kids).

This is also a great time to start a family routine, such as reading, playing games, and having family meals. Continuing a familiar routine or creating a new schedule helps provide stability, which can help ease anxiety.


If family members are in separate locations, list the point person to call or text for updates, directions, and check-ins.

If communication is impacted in your area, do you have a family member or friend who lives in another city or a state who can serve as a point person? It can be easier to reach someone outside of the area due to less strain on phone lines, the Internet, etc.

List neighbors closest to your home in case family members are not available.

Consider using American Red Cross Safe and Well for communicating with family and friends who are in various states and countries. This can be found at


Place your emergency contact information in an easy-to-find location (for example on the refrigerator) with current medical conditions and prescriptions for all family members.

Where is the closest Urgent Care or Emergency Department? Is TeleHealth an option in your area? Arrange to have local emergency numbers and locations familiar to the family.

Telehealth for mental health services is also available. Know your local resources for this. To find behavioral health service providers, visit

Review and update all family emergency contact phone numbers and emails. Enter ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts into the phone for emergency medical responders.


Let your children be a part of creating their daily schedule. They know what their normal school or daycare schedules entail and can help incorporate those activities into your home schedule.

Let your children choose what toys, games, and other items they want to have with them in case of evacuation.

Involve your children in everyday activities they usually don't have the opportunity to help with (e.g., measuring ingredients for dinner, meal planning, budgeting).


Find ways to include activity into your daily schedule. It can include simple activities such as:

Walking (324 calories (cal)/hour)

Calisthenics (324 cal/hour)

Tai Chi (288 cal/hour)

Stretching/gentle yoga (288 cal/hour)

Jumping rope (720 cal/hour)

Mowing law (324 cal/hour)

Heavy cleaning (324 cal/hour)

Keep exercise low-stress with trauma-informed practices such as:

Focus on your body's intelligence and go with the flow

Exercise is a space that feels safe

Set up a routine so you can shut the mind down while you move

Avoid self-judgment and labels (like "I'm weak" or "I'll never get it right")

Find more at-home exercise resources at:


Limit time spent watching or reading the news and social media.

Limit screen time for yourself and your children. Try to find fun, active ways you can connect as a family each day.

Practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation, taking a walk, mindfulness, or gratitude exercises.

For more information and resources on stress management, visit the CDC website:

Inform your family and loved ones that if they are having thoughts of harming themselves or need additional emotional support, they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).


Make a weekly meal plan using the food you have in your fridge and pantry to reduce costs at the grocery store.

Let the whole family decide which meals should be on the menu that week.

Try new recipes or make favorite family recipes.

Find ways for the whole family to help with meal preparation. Depending on their age, kids can help wash vegetables, mix ingredients, set the table, clean up, and more!

Use meal times as opportunities to connect with one another. Instead of focusing on what and how much everyone is eating, focus on highlights of the day or statements of gratitude.


Federal Emergency Management Administration (July 2015). Create Your Family Emergency Communication Plan (document). Retrieved from

Department of Homeland Security (2020, March 18). Pandemic (post). Retrieved from

Department of Homeland Security (2019, September 16). Make a Plan (post). Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, March 23). Coronavirus Disease 2019. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, March 23). Manage Anxiety & Stress. Retrieved from

National Suicide Prevention lifeline (2020, March 23). Talk to Someone Now. Retrieved from

University of Rochester Medical Center (n.d.) Calorie Burn Rate Calculator (webpage). Retrieved from

For more information about the Health Extension: Advocacy, Research, & Teaching (HEART) Initiative please visit our website:

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