Develop a Family Disaster Plan
Families can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Create a family disaster plan including a communication plan, emergency kit, and an evacuation plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.
Find out what could happen to you
- Learn about potential hazards in your community.
- To learn more about preparing for potential hazards, contact your local emergency manager. Ask about your community’s warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
- Ask your local emergency manager about animal care after disaster. Animals other than service animals may not be allowed inside emergency shelters.
- Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons. Your local neighborhood association may have a buddy system in place.
- Ask about disaster plans at your workplace, your children’s school or daycare center, and other places where your family spends time.
Make a disaster plan
- Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. To help you get started, use the Preparing Together Discussion Guide and Toolkit available online or from your local library.
- When developing your disaster plan, find out what types of emergencies are most likely to happen in your community. Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.
- Pick a meeting spot and a way to get in contact with your family members. When an emergency happens, there's a good chance that all your family members won't be in the same place, so it's important to have a predetermined rendezvous point:
- 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.
- Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s 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.
- Families should develop different methods for communicating during emergency situations and share their plans beforehand with all those who would be worried about their welfare. Options for remaining in contact with family and friends if a disaster strikes include:
- Phone contact with a designated family member or friend who is unlikely to be affected by the same disaster.
- E-mail notification via a family distribution list.
- Registration on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Website (see below for more information).
- Use of the toll-free Contact Loved Ones voice messaging service (1-866-78-CONTACT).
- Use of the U.S. Postal Service change of address forms when it becomes necessary to leave home for an extended period of time, thus ensuring that mail will be redirected to a current address.
Safe and Well Website
Following the 2005 hurricane season, the Red Cross developed the Safe and Well website, which enables people within a disaster area to let their friends and loved ones outside of the affected region know of their well-being. By logging onto the Red Cross public website, a person affected by disaster may post messages indicating that they are safe and well at a shelter, hotel, or at home, and that they will contact their friends and family as soon as possible. During large-scale disasters, there will be telephone-based assistance via the 1-866-GET-INFO hotline for people who live within the affected areas and do not have Internet access, but wish to register on the Safe and Well website.
People who are concerned about family members in an affected area may also access the Safe and Well website to view these messages. They will be required to enter either the name and telephone number, or the name and complete address, of the person about whom they wish to get information. Red Cross chapters will provide telephone-based assistance to local callers who do not have Internet access and wish to search the Safe and Well website for information about a loved one.
Be assured that the information on the Safe and Well website is secure and that information about the locations where people are staying is not published. Privacy laws require the Red Cross to protect each person's right to determine how best to communicate their contact information and whereabouts to family members. The Red Cross does not actively trace or attempt to locate individuals registered on the Safe and Well website.
Complete this checklist
- Post emergency telephone numbers by all phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
- Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
- 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.
- Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches.
- Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
- Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher, and show them where it’s kept.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
- Conduct a home hazard hunt.
- Stock emergency supplies and assemble an emergency kit.
- Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
Practice your plan
- Test your smoke detectors monthly, and change the batteries at least once a year.
- Quiz your kids every six months so they remember what to do.
- Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
- Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
- Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions.
For more information, please visit: http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/plan/index.asp