Even for the most prepared of parents, creating a family emergency plan can be a daunting task.
Between driving your kids to soccer practice and prepping your weekly meals, you probably don’t have a ton of time to create maps, buy emergency supplies, or gather contact information from local hospitals and facilities.
But it’s so worth it.
Creating a family emergency plan can make a big difference in your level of preparedness in the event of an emergency.
Wondering how to do it? In the following, we outline 7 key steps for making an emergency plan for your family and home.
#1: Develop an Emergency Communication Plan
If one of your family members is separated during an emergency, they need to know how to get back into contact with everyone, whether that’s by phone, text, email, or non-traditional means of communication.
That’s why having a clear communication plan is a must!
We recommend creating a hard copy list of important contacts, including your family members, nearby hospitals, schools, service providers, and more.
If you have young children, it’s a good idea to get them to memorize one or two of the most important phone numbers. You can also put a print out of your emergency contacts in their school bag!
Keep in mind that some emergencies could affect local phone lines or cell phone service, so it’s important to designate an out-of-state contact who can act as a central point of communication to help your household reconnect. Don’t forget to share your family emergency plan with them as well!
#2: Determine a Meeting Location
There’s a good possibility that your family won’t all be in the same place during an emergency, so it’s really important to pick a nearby meeting place that’s safe and accessible to everyone.
This could be a library, community center, house of worship, family friend’s home, or something else entirely!
Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s a familiar place for everyone in your family -- this is especially important for young children and family members with disabilities.
Once you’ve picked a location, you can use Google Maps to create a map that highlights your meeting place, walking routes, hospitals, shelters, and more. Share this with your family along with hard copies of the map that they can carry with them.
#3: Make an Emergency Supply Kit
It’s also important to build (or buy) an emergency supply kit that covers survival basics: water, food, clean air, and warmth.
An easy place to start is by purchasing emergency supplies from the Red Cross. Their kits start at just $27 USD and include all the necessities, including clean water, food, first aid supplies, blankets, breathing masks, and more.
You may want to consider storing extra water containers in case of a power outage or sanitation emergency as well.
You should also put some thought into where you store your kit and supplies. A lower level near a door or garage is usually ideal – and if you live in an apartment, you could store them in a common area with storage.
Expert tip: Keep a “refresh” card on the kit with a list of its contents and best before dates. It makes keeping track of any perishables or expiring medications much easier!
#4: Plan How to Evacuate
While some emergencies can be fairly minor, in other instances, you may have to evacuate your home.
That’s why it’s important to create an evacuation plan for your family.
Start by identifying the best exits and escape routes from your home. Then pick a location that’s a safe distance from your home where everyone can meet.
This could be the meeting location we discussed above or a different place entirely! Just make sure that it’s easily accessed from your family’s meeting location.
If a potential disaster calls for evacuating your neighborhood, it’s important to organize transportation, and if you don’t have personal transportation, make sure to arrange this with your family, neighbors, friends, or your local public safety officer to inform them about any specific needs.
#5: Consider Your Family’s Needs
When developing your family emergency plan, it’s important to also consider your family’s daily needs and responsibilities.
For example, if you’re a parent with school-aged children, there’s a good chance they won’t be at home during an emergency, so you’ll need to incorporate the location of their school or schools into your plan.
This could also include family members with disabilities or accessibility needs, pets or service animals, dietary needs, medical needs, or cultural and religious considerations.
Try to go over this plan on a yearly basis so that it’s updated and always represents your current family situation.
#6: Practice Your Plan with Your Family
A well-thought-out plan is useless if your family doesn’t know how to use it!
That’s why you need to spend some time practicing your family emergency plan once you finish making it.
This is especially important for those living with young children or seniors who may need extra assistance.
And if you live somewhere that changes with the seasons, it may be helpful to practice during the winter and spring months as seasonal variances could affect your emergency plan.
#7: Stay Informed
Finally, if you really want to be proactive, you should spend some time researching what disasters are the most likely to affect your neighborhood or region. This can help you refine your emergency plan and understand what types of disasters to plan for.
You can also download the American Red Cross first aid app which has information to help you quickly react to specific emergency situations!
And that’s a wrap! While all of the steps we outlined are important, the most important thing to remember is that it’s your family’s emergency plan and should consider your family’s specific needs.