Family Disaster Plan

Family Disaster Plan

Disaster can strike
quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood
or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services–water,
gas, electricity or telephones–were cut off? Local officials and relief
workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone
right away.

Families can–and
do–cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as
a team. Follow the steps listed in this brochure to create your family’s
disaster plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

4 Steps to Safety:

I. Find Out What Could Happen to You:

  1. Contact your local
    Red Cross chapter or emergency management office–be prepared to take
  2. Ask what types
    of disasters are most likely to happen. Request information on how to
    prepare for each.
  3. Learn about your
    community’s warning signals: what they sound like and what you should
    do when you hear them.
  4. Ask about animal
    care after a disaster. Animals are not allowed inside emergency shelters
    because of health regulations.
  5. Find out how to
    help elderly or disabled persons, if needed.
  6. Find out about
    the disaster plans at your workplace, your children’s school or day
    care center, and other places where your family spends time.

II. Create a Disaster

  1. Meet with your
    family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the
    dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquake preparedness to children. Plan to
    share responsibilities and work together as a team.
  2. Discuss the types
    of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each
  3. Pick two places
    to meet: Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like
    a fire, and another location outside your neighborhood in case you can’t
    return home. Remember, everyone must know the address and phone number.
  4. 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.
  5. Discuss what to
    do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.

III.   Complete
This Checklist:

  1. Post emergency
    telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
  2. Teach children
    how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services
    number for emergency help.
  3. Show each family
    member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the
    main switches.
  4. Check if you have
    adequate insurance coverage.
  5. Get training from
    the fire department for each family member on how to use the fire extinguisher
    (ABC type), and show them where it’s kept.
  6. Install smoke detectors
    on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
  7. Conduct a home
    hazard hunt.
  8. Stock emergency
    supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
  9. Take a Red Cross
    first aid and CPR class.
  10. Determine the best
    escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
  11. Determine the safest
    places in your home or office for each type of disaster.

IV.   Practice
and Maintain Your Plan:

  1. Quiz your family
    every six months or so.
  2. Conduct fire and
    emergency evacuation drills.
  3. Replace stored
    water every six months and stored food every six months.
  4. Test and recharge
    your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Test your smoke
    detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.

Neighbors Helping

Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors
to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until
help arrives. If you’re a member of a neighborhood organization, such
as a home association or crime watch group, introduce disaster preparedness
as a new activity. Know your neighbors’ special skills (e.g., medical,
technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special
needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care
in case parents can’t get home.

Home Hazard Hunt:

During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage.
Anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire is a home hazard.
For example, a hot water heater or a bookshelf can fall. Inspect your
home at least once a year and fix potential hazards. Also, it would be
a good idea to contact your local fire department to learn about home
fire hazards.


  • Evacuate immediately
    if told to do so:
  • Listen to your
    battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency
  • Wear protective
    clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your Disaster
    Supplies Kit with you.
  • Lock your home.
  • Use travel routes
    specified by local authorities–don’t use shortcuts because certain
    areas may be impassable or dangerous.

If you’re sure
you have time:

  • Shut off water,
    gas, and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so.
  • Make arrangements
    for your pets.

Emergency Supplies:

Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three
days. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need in an evacuation.
Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as back-packs,
duffle bags, or covered trash containers. Include:

  • A three-day supply
    of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won’t spoil.
  • One change of clothing
    and footwear per person, and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
  • A first aid kit
    that includes your family’s prescription medications.
  • Emergency tools
    including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
  • An extra set of
    car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler’s checks.
  • Sanitation supplies.
  • Special items for
    infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
  • An extra pair of

Keep important family documents in a waterproof container.

Keep a smaller version of this kit in the trunk of your car.


  • Locate the main
    electric fuse box, water service main, and natural gas main. Learn how
    and when to turn these utilities off. Teach all responsible family members.
    Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Remember, turn
    off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if you
    are instructed to do so. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional
    to turn it back on.

If Disaster Strikes:

  • Remain calm and
    patient. Put your plan into action.
  • Check for Injuries
  • Give first aid
    and get help for seriously injured people.
  • Listen to Your
    Battery-Powered Radio for News and Instructions
  • Evacuate, if advised
    to do so. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Check for Damage
    in Your Home… Use flashlights. Do not light matches or turn on electrical
    switches, if you suspect damage.
  • Sniff for gas leaks,
    starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn
    off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other
    damaged utilities. (You will need a professional to turn gas back on.)
  • Clean up spilled
    medicines, bleaches, gasoline, and other flammable liquids immediately.
  • Remember to…
    • Confine or
      secure your pets.
    • Call your family
      contact–do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening
    • Check on your
      neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.
    • Make sure you
      have an adequate water supply in case service is cut off.
    • Stay away from
      downed power lines.

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