Preparing Your Family for an Emergency

Family Discusses Emergency Plan
Family Emergency Planning Can Be Life Saving

You have probably participated in emergency response trainings and drills at work, but what happens if a disaster strikes when you’re at home? Do you have an emergency action plan for your family? Fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, severe storms and earthquakes are all potential emergencies that you may face.

You need to be prepared for three main scenarios:

  • Responding to a medical emergency (injury or illness)
  • Taking shelter
  • Evacuating

Responding to a medical emergency

If a medical emergency occurs, call 911. The dispatcher will remain on the line with you to help you through the event while waiting for help to arrive. Teach children how and when to call 911. Always place the phone on speaker so you can talk hands-free and the dispatcher can hear what is happening.

Whether day or night, turn on the outside light to your house and advise the dispatcher that it is on. This will help emergency crews locate your home quickly. If you have pets, place them in the backyard or in a separate, secure room. This will make things easier on the responders and protect your pets.

If a family member is taken to the hospital or falls suddenly ill, you may need a neighbor or relative to take your children or pets. Make plans ahead of time and add their contact information to your phone for easy access.

Taking shelter

Severe weather requires making a decision: Shelter in place or evacuate?

Identify a safe place to shelter in your home (basement, crawl space or inner room away from windows). Decide on what conditions (such as a tornado) would require sheltering. If you are at work and your kids are home, they need to know what to do. Also remember to include your pets in your plan.


Many county governments designate emergency shelters. Some shelters are even pet-friendly, so it’s important to research them ahead of time if you have pets. Know where the shelters are located and discuss how you and your loved ones will get there. If your pets cannot go with you, have a plan for how to keep them protected and cared for so they are not left to fend for themselves. It could be several days before you are able to return.

If you’re evacuating, identify a family assembly area outside the house where everyone should gather. It may be in your yard, a neighbor’s home or a place of business. Establish a fire escape route and conduct family fire drills. Remember to make the experience fun for your kids so they don’t panic. A well-rehearsed evacuation plan will ensure your loved ones know what to do and where to go in a real emergency.

Assembling your emergency kit

Assemble a home emergency kit and keep it in a safe, temperature-controlled location in your house that’s easily accessible. Call your local American Red Cross chapter for help with kit contents. Emergency kit checklists can also be found online. But here are just a few essentials to include:

  • Batteries
  • Flashlights
  • Candles
  • Matches
  • A battery-operated radio
  • Blankets
  • Ready-to-eat or canned foods
  • A manual can opener
  • Bottled water
  • Infant supplies, if applicable (formula, diapers, etc.)
  • Pet food, if applicable
  • A list of prescription medications, including dosages
  • Phone numbers of relatives or emergency contacts
  • An extra pair of glasses
  • Clothing (at least socks and underwear)
  • Copies of your passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates and social security cards

The best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Planning now will help you cope with the incident and keep your family safe.

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