Preparing a Disaster Plan for Your Family

When disaster strikes, you may be asked to leave your home or you may need to shelter at home or the workplace - lacking services such as water, gas, electricity, telephone. Thinking ahead and communicating in advance will help prepare you and others during an emergency.

In discussing what your family will do in an emergency situation, you should consider:

  • The kinds of disasters that could occur.
  • Pick two places to meet outside your home in case of emergency and share phone numbers. Identify a family member or friend outside of your area to be a "point of contact" by phone.
  • Plan for evacuation (including safe escape routes) and what to do to take care of pets.
  • How and when to turn off utilities.
  • Identify safe places within your home.
  • Stock emergency supplies and a disaster kit, making sure each person knows contents and location. (Review and refresh contents every 6 months.) Learn more about what your disaster kit should contain.
  • Learn CPR and first aid from the Red Cross.
  • Teach children how to call 911.
  • Find out about disaster plans at school or the workplace.
  • Maintain batteries in smoke detectors.

Secure dangerous items within your home or workplace that could cause accidents, including bookshelves, water heater, pictures, heavy items which are stored high and could fall, flammables like oily rags, and keep electrical wiring and gas connections in good repair.

Check these websites for plan details:

National Disaster Education Coalition disaster planning guide
FEMA Disaster Preparedness Plan for Kids


Having a disaster plan in place at work is also very important.

Be aware that disasters bringing power outages, brown-outs or surges, chemical spills preventing you from arriving at your business, floods affecting distribution and inventory availability, and many other disasters can affect daily business operations.

The Red Cross reports that floods, windstorms, tornadoes, and other disasters can prevent as many as 40 percent of small businesses from opening and operating for hours or days.

Disaster plans should include:

  • Phone lists of key employees and customers, with copies to key personnel.
  • Identify one remote number to record messages for employees; arrange call forwarding.
  • Leave keys and alarm information with at least one other employee.
  • Install emergency lights, surge protectors, and battery backup systems.
  • Back up computer data often.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio on-site.
  • Check that insurance coverage is adequate.
  • Secure dangerous items to reduce accidents such as bolting bookcases to wall studs; install shutters to close to protect windows from flying debris.
  • Maintain a disaster kit of supplies.
  • Provide CPR and first aid training for employees.


Planning for Pets

Do not leave your pet behind if you must evacuate your home. Plan for alternatives. Determine which hotels/motels outside your immediate area accept pets and their guidelines. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places along with phone numbers. Ask if friends or others outside your immediate area would be willing to offer housing and temporary foster care. Keep a list of boarding facilities. Make a list of kennels/veterinary facilities.

Put together a pet disaster kit.

  • Keep a photo, medical record and i.d. information conveniently located. Make sure all dogs and cats have collars with current identification.
  • Arrange a care plan with neighbors, in case you are not at home when disaster strikes.
  • If you MUST leave your pet at home alone, be sure he is confined to a safe area inside. Never chain a pet outside or inside. Place a notice in a visible place outside advising that there are pets inside, where they are located, the name of your veterinarian, and information where you can be contacted.