Make a Plan

Make a Plan

For a template to begin your family's emergency plan click here.


Parents can help prepare children and reduce their emotional stress during an emergency by including them in the planning process and answering their questions about safety. Make sure your children take part in your preparation process and ensure that you have included supplies that make them feel comfortable and safe.

School or Day Care

  • Know your child’s school or day care emergency plan.
  • Find out how they will communicate to families during an emergency.
  • Find out where children will be taken in the event of an evacuation during school hours.
  • Keep your contact information up-to-date at your child’s school.
  • Consider authorizing a friend or relative to pick up your children in an emergency and let the school know who that designated person is.

Teach your children...

  • Their basic contact information.
  • How to dial your home telephone number and important cell phone numbers.
  • How and when to call 911. Role-play 911 calls with them.
  • What to do if a parent becomes ill and the child is alone.
  • How to reach an “out-of-area” family contact.
  • Basic emergency response plans, such as your family evacuation plan and Stop, Drop, and Roll. Practice them together.

Additions to the Emergency Kit

  • Toys and games
  • A recent family photograph
  • Comfort foods and treats

Helping Children Cope with Disaster

Children can be particularly vulnerable to the stressful effects of a disaster. Parents, teachers and caregivers need to be alert to signs.

FEMA Booklet on Helping Children Cope with Disaster


Communication Plan

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. Consider a plan where each family member calls, texts or e-mails the same friend or relative in the event of an emergency.

Traditional means of communication may be limited during a widespread emergency situation due to system damage or overload. It is important that you identify several different ways to communicate with your family and friends to let them know you are safe.

Printable Family Communications Plan Sheet from the Department of Homeland Security

Emergency Communication Tips

  • Long distance lines often work even if local phone lines do not.
  • Designate an out-of-area contact person. Family members should call this person to report their location if they cannot reach each other. Provide your contact person with important names and numbers so they can assist in keeping others posted on your situation, and let your friends and family know whom they can contact to check on you in case of an emergency.
  • Cell phone networks are often overwhelmed during an emergency; do not rely on using you cell phone for calls.
  • Text messaging on cell phones sometimes works even when the network is overwhelmed.
  • Make sure you have at least one phone in your house that does not require electricity to work. (Cordless phones and most business phone systems do require electricity.)
  • Avoid making non-emergency calls!
  • Keep coins and important contact information with you for pay phones, which often have service restored before residential customers.
  • Make sure your entire household knows necessary emergency contact information.
  • Program an ICE or in-case-of-emergency point of contact into your cell phone in case you are incapacitated. This should be a family member, friend, or relative.
  • If internet connections are available, social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and others may be used to communicate with friends and family.


Knowing your neighbors can give you a critical advantage during an emergency. Good community relationships can help keep your family and neighborhood safe and simplify your family communication plan. Make arrangements with your neighbors to check on each other’s homes and pets when traveling. Check on elderly neighbors or others with special needs. This is vitally important during extreme weather events (heat or cold) or during power failures. Find out what specialized knowledge, skills, and equipment members of your community possess. Knowing what is available to you in the event of a disaster can make your response more effective.

Volunteer opportunities are available to assist in community emergency preparedness and response as well. These function to assist first responders and other agencies during disasters and large-scale emergencies. See the links and other resources section for volunteer opportunities.

Family Plan

Family emergency planning can be the key to surviving an emergency. That’s why it’s important to talk to your family to prepare them for various emergencies. Ensure the whole family is a part of the planning process so that the plan addresses everyone’s needs. Recognize that in extreme situations, city emergency resources may be limited. Be prepared to care for yourself and your family for at least 3 days.

Here is a template to help get you started on your family emergency plan.

  • Designate a location to meet in case it is impossible to return home or if you have to evacuate. Choose two – one near your home and one outside the neighborhood. Make sure your family knows the address and phone number of both locations.
  • Designate on an out-of-area contact person. This person should be far enough away that it is unlikely he or she would be affected by the same emergency. Family members should call this person to report their location if they cannot reach each other. Provide your contact person with important names and numbers so they can assist in keeping others posted on your situation.
  • Create an Emergency Supply Kit. Make sure that all members of your household know where these supplies are.
  • Keep a flashlight and a pair of shoes by each bed.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Identify at least two separate escape routes and practice using them.
  • Locate your gas main and other utilities. Make sure the entire household knows where they are and how to operate them.
  • Familiarize yourself with emergency plans at places that are a part of your everyday life, such as school, work, church, daycare, etc.
  • While making your plan, consider the special needs of children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and pets in your household.
  • Create a communications card for each member of your household to keep with them at all times.
  • Make copies of all important documents and keep them off-site in a secure location. Documents to include: passports, birth certificates, social security cards, wills, deeds, driver’s licenses, financial documents, insurance information, and prescriptions.
  • Catalog and photograph valuables. Keep these with your second set of documents.


Pets are often full-fledged members of the family, and any family emergency plan must include them to be truly complete. Many shelters will not permit animals (with the exception of service animals), so it is especially important that you have a plan for your pets in case of an evacuation.

  • Make sure your pets all have licenses and ID tags. Microchip your pets. 
  • Ask local shelters and animal clinics if they provide emergency foster care.
  • Arrange with neighbors to care for your pets if an emergency occurs while you are away from your home and you cannot return.
  • Know your pets’ hiding places so you can find them easily if you need to evacuate.
  • Transport pets in carriers or on leashes during an emergency; this makes them feel more secure.
  • Prepare a list of hotels, kennels, friends, and family members outside your immediate area where your pet may be able to stay in an emergency. 
  • Create an Emergency Kit for your pet including:
    • A recent photo of your pets in case they get lost
    • Sturdy leashes and/or carriers
    • Pet food, water, and bowls
    • Cat litter and box if appropriate
    • Pet toys
    • Contact information for a veterinarian
    • Medical information and records
    • Any necessary medication
    • Plastic bags for clean-up

Here are some guidelines that may help your pet through the recovery period:

  • Check your pet for injury and exposure to chemicals. If you have any concerns about the health of your pet or their exposure to hazardous materials, contact a veterinarian before you attempt to treat them.
  • If you have to move to new surroundings, do not remove your pet from its crate until it is calm. Do so only in a closed room.
  • Be careful in allowing your cat or dog out after a major disaster. Follow the recommendations of your emergency management personnel as to whether the environment is safe for you and your pet.
  • Give your pet small amounts of food and water several times throughout the day. The volumes of food may be increased to normal over three to four days.
  • Let your pet have plenty of uninterrupted sleep. If you still have your pet's favorite toys, encourage them to play. This will allow them to recover from the stress and trauma.
  • Avoid unfamiliar activities with your pet, such as bathing, excessive exercise, or diet supplements. Try to avoid diet changes.
  • If you and your pet are separated, pay daily visits to local shelters, animal control facilities, veterinary offices, and kennels until you have found it. A phone call is often not as effective as a visit. You can also post photos of your lost pet. If your pet has tattoos, a microchip or other permanent identification, this will increase the chances of finding it. Be aware that collars and tags are sometimes lost.
  • If you find a stray animal, take it to a shelter or other facility set up for lost and found animals. Place an advertisement in the local newspaper to inform the owner where the pet was taken. Often newspapers run found ads for free.
  • Download a Card to fill out and carry with you to alert first responders that you have a pet that may be home alone and will need care if you are injured or deceased. 

At Risk Populations

During an emergency, seniors and those with a disability may have special needs that must be considered when creating a household plan and emergency kit.


  • If you or a family member have difficulty moving quickly and easily, make sure your neighbors are aware and that you have someone who can check in during an emergency.
  • Develop a support network with several people who will continue to follow up with you following an emergency.

Medication & Medical Supplies

  • Keep a separate supply of at least 7 days worth of any medication or critical medical supplies.
  • If you rely on electric medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, ventilators and oxygen compressors, talk to your medical supply company about getting batteries or a generator as a back up power source.

Medical Devices that Require Electricity

As a home medical device user, it is important that your device works during a power outage and that you have a plan in place to ensure you know what to do. This completed booklet will help you have an established plan to obtain and organize your medical device information, take necessary actions so that you can continue to use your device, have the necessary supplies for the operation of your device, and know where to go or what to do during a power outage.

When the power goes out, you should NOT:

  • Perform an action to the device that you are not sure of.
  • Assume your device is working correctly.
  • Leave home without your device.
  • Forget your personal emergency file.

Think about putting together a personal emergency file. It should contain:

    • Instructions for using the medical device and all device manuals.
    • First aid kit
    • Medical records
    • Insurance cards
    • Current home care doctor’s orders
    • Plan of treatment
    • What a family member, friend or hospital should do to help me in an emergency.
    • My power of attorney (personal and medical) allowing someone to act on my behalf if I am not able to.
    • Contact information for my health care provider(s) and pharmacy.
    • Contact information for family, friends and medical transportation services.
    • Where to go before, during and after an emergency.
    • Where to go for medical supplies.


  • During an emergency, personal care attendants may not be able to make it to their patients. Make sure you have made arrangements with caregivers and/or are familiar with your personal care agencies emergency policy.
  • If you have a service animal, make sure that it has a registered tag.

Additions to the Emergency Kit and Go Bag

  • Extra mobility aids, including a manual wheelchair
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • Necessary medications and supplies
  • Special sanitary needs
  • Important medical phone numbers
  • Food that meets specialized dietary needs
  • Make a list of your medications, medical conditions, insurance information, allergies, and have your insurance cards available. Keep one copy with you at all times, and give the other copy to someone else for safekeeping.