Family Disaster Plan

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services-water, gas, electricity or telephones-were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.


Families can-and do-cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed to create your family's disaster plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

Where Disaster Will Strike

Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere-at work, at school or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe?

  1. 4 Steps to Safety
  2. Emergency Supplies
  3. Evacuation
  4. Home Hazard Hunt
  5. If Disaster Strikes
  6. Neighbors Helping Neighbors
  7. Utilities
  • Find out What Could Happen to You: Contact your local emergency management or civil defense office and American Red Cross chapter-be prepared to take notes:
    • Ask about animal care after disaster. Animals may not be allowed inside emergency shelters due to health regulations.
    • Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen. Request information on how to prepare for each.
    • Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons, if needed.
    • Learn about your community's warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
    • Next, find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or daycare center and other places where your family spends time.
  • Create a Disaster Plan: Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.
    • Ask an out-of-state friend to be your "family contact." After a disaster, its often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone number.
    • Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.
    • Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.
    • Pick two places to meet:
      • Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
      • Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
  • Complete This Checklist
    • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
    • Conduct a home hazard hunt.
    • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
    • Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.
    • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
    • Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
    • Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
    • Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
    • Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
    • Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
    • Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it's kept.
  • Practice and Maintain Your Plan
    • Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
    • Quiz your kids every six months so they remember what to do.
    • Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
    • Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
    • Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.