Emergency Care For You

Family Disaster Preparedness - Develop a Plan

To develop a plan, keep the following steps in mind:

  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit and an evacuation box. Check with your child’s school to see if you can keep a disaster supply kit for him or her there.
  • Become familiar with designated evacuation routes (which are common in hurricane-prone areas). Plan one or more evacuation routes (in case alternate routes are blocked), and know the safest route to emergency shelters. Conduct family emergency drills about every six months. 
  • Set two or three meeting places if the family is not together when the disaster occurs and communication is disrupted (e.g., landline phones or cell phones are not functioning).
  • Learn about emergency plans in your child’s school or day care center and in the community. (This includes knowing schools policy regarding sheltering in place and evacuation procedures.) 
  • Make sure all family members know where to go in the home to be safe.
  • Make sure all family members can recognize danger signals (e.g., smoke detector alarm) and the warning signals (sirens, radio or television messages) your community uses, as well as what to do if they hear them.
  • Make sure all family members know how and when to turn off gas, water and electricity.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio and flashlight in a safe accessible location. Check the batteries every six months.
  • Choose an out-of-state family contact, and make sure everyone knows how to contact this person, in case you become separated in an emergency. Make sure your children know how to call for help and when to use emergency numbers.
  • Place emergency phone numbers on each phone. These should include 911 or an EMS telephone number, fire department, ambulance, physician, poison control, work numbers, neighbors, gas company, Red Cross, hospital, out-of-town contact and local emergency management division.
  • Make sure adults in the house know how and when to turn off household utilities. 
  • Develop a plan to protect your pets in an emergency.
  • Know how to help the elderly and people with special needs. Keep a portable list of medications or know the pharmacy from which medications are obtained so a list can be compiled if the bottles are lost in the disaster.
  • Make two copies of important documents and keep originals in a safe deposit box away from your home.
  • Conduct a household inventory. Make a detailed visual or written record of all your possessions, including model and serial numbers.
  • Make sure you have enough insurance coverage. 
  • Learn first aid and take a CPR class.

Practice and Maintain Your Plan

  • Every month — test your smoke alarms.
  • Every six months — go over your family disaster plan and do escape drills. Replace stored food and water.
  • Every six months, replace batteries in smoke detectors. In a disaster, it’s important to remain calm and put your plan into action.
  • Follow all government evacuation orders. Listen to local radio and television stations for updates and instructions. If you don’t have a battery-powered radio, listen to your car radio.
  • If told to evacuate, leave right away. Use flashlights instead of matches. Do not touch any downed power lines.
  • 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 (a professional will need to turn the gas back on).
  • Clean up any spilled household chemicals, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Check on neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.

If Asked to Evacuate:

  • Take personal identification and evacuation box with you.
  • Use routes suggested by officials.
  • If safe and if advised, shut off water, gas and electricity.
  • Stay away from power lines that are down.
  • Take disaster supplies.
  • Leave a note explaining when you left and where you are going.

If Asked To Shelter in Place:

The following are general procedures. The actual steps involved in sheltering in place may vary.

  • Gather everyone, including pets, inside, and lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace flues.
  • Turn off forced-air systems, including heat and air conditioning, as well as exhaust fans and dryers.
  • Make sure you have your disaster supply kit and first-aid kit with you.
  • Choose an interior room, or one that has as few doors, air vents and windows as possible. A room with access to a water supply is best, such as a master bedroom connected to a bathroom.
  • Seal all outside air sources with plastic sheeting and duct tape. Pre-cut the sheeting, if possible, and make sure it is larger than the space that it needs to cover. Position it flat against the surface.
  • Monitor radio, TV or Internet reports for updates and instructions 
  • Only general procedures are outlined. The actual steps involved in sheltering in place may vary, depending on the type of disaster situation at hand.