Make a Plan

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When an emergency or disaster occurs, will you be ready? It is critical that you create a family disaster plan to keep you and your family safe, protect your property, and build your community’s resilience.

Develop a plan with the members of your household to prepare for what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate in an emergency. Be sure your plan addresses the special and/or medical needs for you and your family.

meeting location

1. Establish meeting locations.

Select two family meeting locations where your family can reunite after a disaster. Choose one close to home, and a second location farther away, in case you are asked to evacuate or can’t return to the area.

2. Develop an emergency contact plan.

Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to serve as your family’s emergency contact. After a disaster, it is sometimes easier to call long distance to unaffected areas.

Provide every family member with the name, address, and phone number of the emergency contact and make sure each family member has a cellphone or a prepaid phone card.

Inform your emergency contact of any family member’s special needs or medical issues.

Identify emergency contacts in your cell phone's contact book and set up the Emergency SOS feature on your cell phone. This will make it easier for emergency management to contact the right person, in case an emergency responder needs to make a call on your behalf.

Familiarize yourself with alternate communications methods. Show all family members how to text message, as it may be easier to send a text than make a call during an emergency. Learn how to use social media, which can be an effective tool to let friends and family know your location and status. The American Red Cross provides a Safe and Well service where you can register yourself as “safe and well” or search for loved ones after a disaster.

emergency contact
social media
sign up for alerts

3. Learn how to receive emergency alerts and information.

Receiving advance warnings for severe weather, timely emergency alerts, and information during a disaster is critical to staying safe during an emergency. Every family should have multiple methods for receiving emergency alerts, including at least one with an audible alert to wake you in the middle of the night. Visit our "Sign Up For Emergency Alerts" page to learn more.

Teach family members how to use text messaging if they don't do this regularly.  Keep in mind text messages can often work even when there is network disruptions or congestion when a phone call might not be able to get through.

4. Plan how to evacuate.

Practice how you will exit your home. Establish possible evacuation routes to ensure you are able to get to your designated meeting location(s). Identify available modes of transportation. Make arrangements with family, neighbors, friends, or local government if you don’t have personal transportation. If you need assistance, contact your local public safety official to make them aware of your needs.

evacuation route
special needs

5. Consider everyone’s needs.

Plan for everyone in your household, including individuals with access and functional needs, seniors, children, and pets. If you or someone close to you has a disability or other access or functional need, you may need to take additional steps to prepare yourself and your family.

Pets are important members of many households, and like people, they are affected by disasters. Include your pets and animals in your emergency plans.

6. Practice your plan with your household.

Practice your emergency plan at least 2-3 times a year with all members of your household, like a fire drill. To practice your plan, test your emergency communications network, assemble at your meeting locations, and practice your evacuation routes. Update your plan with any changes, if necessary, after you practice.

Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans that are in place at your workplace, children's school or daycare, or other places where your family spends time. If no plans exist at these places, consider suggesting one, or volunteering to help develop one. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead, and communicate with others in advance.

family discussion

To begin planning