Health Encyclopedia

Do You Have a Family Disaster Plan?

Natural disasters can strike quickly and force families like yours to evacuate your neighborhood. But families can and do survive such circumstances if they make preparations in advance. Knowing what to do is your best protection—and your responsibility.

These suggestions can help you plan for the worst.

Be informed

Your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter is a great place to start.

Seek answers to these questions:

  • Does our community have a public warning system? What does it sound like and what should I do when I hear it?

  • Where is the closest public shelter to my home?

Create a plan

Your plan should specifically address how to prepare and respond if a disaster occurs.

To create your plan:

  • Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster.

  • Decide what to do in every kind of possible disaster. Everyone should know what to do if all family members aren’t together when disaster strikes. Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local emergency contact number.

  • Develop an emergency communication plan. If family members are separated from one another during a flood, tornado, or other disaster, have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-town relative or friend to be your “family contact.” Family members should call the contact and tell him or her where they are. Be sure everyone knows the contact’s name, address, and phone number.

  • Be familiar with escape routes from your neighborhood. Know several routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed.

  • Plan where you’d take your pets if you had to go to a public shelter where they aren’t permitted.

  • Make a checklist of things to take if you must leave your home. Include medications, important papers and documents, eyeglasses and hearing aids, medical contact numbers, family albums and irreplaceable possessions, bottles of water, and nonperishable food.

  • Keep enough food and emergency supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days.

  • Keep a portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries on hand. Listen to local radio for news and instructions. Local authorities will provide the most appropriate advice for your particular situation.

If disaster strikes, put your plan into action and assist friends and neighbors who need help.



Medical Reviewers:

  • Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
  • Haines, Cynthia, MD