Make a Plan
Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified. Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or emergency workers may go door-to-door.
After a major disaster, it is unlikely that emergency response services will be able to immediately respond to everyone’s needs, so it’s important to be prepared to take care of yourself and your family. Plan to be on your own for at least the first 72 hours.
Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the incident, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is immediate danger.
The following steps will help you prepare for any emergency:
- Designate an out-of-area contact person. Try to select someone that is far enough away to not be affected by the same emergency. Provide this person with the names and contact information of the people you want to keep informed of your situation. Instruct family members to call this person and tell them where they are. Long distance phone service is often restored sooner than local service.
- Duplicate important documents and keep copies off-site, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust. Documents may include: passport, drivers license, social security card, wills, deeds, financial statements, insurance information, marriage license and prescriptions.
- Inventory valuables, in writing and with photographs or video. Keep copies of this information off-site with your other important documents.
- Make a family communications plan. Involve all key people in planning.
- Make your home safe.
- Put together a disaster supply kit. Plan to have supplies for yourself and your family for at least 3 days following a disaster.
- When planning, consider the special needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities, family members that don’t speak English and pets.
Family Communications Plan
Talk with your family about potential disasters and why it's necessary to prepare for them. Involve each member of your family in the planning process. By showing them simple steps that can increase their safety, you can help reduce their anxiety about emergencies.
- Have a flashlight and a pair of shoes under everyone’s bed in case there is an emergency during the night. Use a plastic bag tied to the leg of the bed to keep these items from moving during an incident such as flooding or an earthquake.
- Plan where to meet after a disaster if your home becomes unsafe. Choose two places, one just outside your home and one outside your neighborhood in case you are told to evacuate. Be sure your gas tank is always at least half full.
- Determine the best escape routes from your home. Try to identify two escape routes.
- Make sure each member knows who your family’s out-of-state contact is and instruct them to call this person and tell him/her where they are.
- Locate the gas main and other utilities and make sure family members know when and how to turn them off.
- Practice your evacuation routes, Drop, Cover & Hold and Stop, Drop & Roll drills.
- Teach each member of your family how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Create emergency response cards for each of your family members.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations.
- It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
- Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact.
- You may have trouble getting through, or the telephone system may be down altogether, but be patient.
Ready America -- Family Communications Plan
Other Emergency Plans
Like individuals and families, schools, daycare providers, workplaces, neighborhoods and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance.
Schools and Daycare
If you are a parent, or guardian of an elderly or disabled adult, make sure schools and daycare providers have emergency response plans.
» Visit Ready Kids for more information.
- Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis.
- Ask if they store adequate food, water and other basic supplies.
- Find out if they are prepared to "shelter-in-place" if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away.
For more information on developing emergency preparedness plans for schools, please visit the U.S. Department of Education at http://www.ed.gov/emergencyplan.
If you are an employer, make sure your workplace has a building evacuation plan that is regularly practiced.
» Visit Ready Business for more information.
- Take a critical look at your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to determine if it is secure or if it could feasibly be upgraded to better filter potential contaminants, and be sure you know how to turn it off if you need to.
- Think about what to do if your employees can't go home.
- Make sure you have appropriate supplies on hand.
A community working together during an emergency makes sense.
- Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together during an emergency.
- Find out if anyone has specialized equipment like a power generator, or expertise such as medical knowledge, that might help in a crisis.
- Decide who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors.
- Make back-up plans for children in case you can't get home in an emergency.
- Sharing plans and communicating in advance is a good strategy
High Rise Buildings
- Note where the closest emergency exit is.
- Be sure you know another way out in case your first choice is blocked.
- Take cover against a desk or table if things are falling.
- Move away from file cabinets, bookshelves or other things that might fall.
- Face away from windows and glass.
- Move away from exterior walls.
- Determine if you should stay put, "shelter-in-place" or get away.
- Listen for and follow instructions.
- Take your emergency supply kit, unless there is reason to believe it has been contaminated.
- Do not use elevators.
- Stay to the right while going down stairwells to allow emergency workers to come up.
In a moving vehicle:
- If there is an explosion or other factor that makes it difficult to control the vehicle, pull over, stop the car and set the parking brake.
- If the emergency could impact the physical stability of the roadway, avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards.
- If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
- Listen to the radio for information and instructions as they become available.
Think About It:
- Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on a map in case main roads are blocked or gridlocked
- Be sure you know your workplace emergency plan, including multiple ways to exit your building.
- Always participate in workplace evacuation drills and consider keeping a smaller version of your emergency supply kit in your desk.
- Be sure you and your family know the best escape routes from your home, including two ways out of each room.
- Pick two places to meet after an emergency situation. One should be right outside your home and the other outside your neighborhood.
- Choose an emergency contact person outside your area, as it may be easier to call long distance after a local/regional emergency.
- Complete an emergency contact card and make copies for each member of your family to carry with them.