An emergency plan may seem like a distant, unnecessary document to keep on your fridge. However, a well-prepared plan could literally save you and your family from needless trauma brought on by suddenly having to leave your home. So when it comes to how to be prepared for an emergency at home, advanced planning is key.
Of course, your first priority is to make sure all people and animals are brought to safety. As a secondary consideration, having everything you need for at least 72 hours, along with priceless keepsakes should you have the time to grab them, will go a long way to mitigate the trauma brought about by emergency situations. With a plan, you can feel confident that everyone will know just what to do when disaster strikes.
There are many motivations to create an emergency plan. Perhaps you live in an area wrought with natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Maybe you or a loved one lives with a chronic health condition that could land you in the hospital, or relevant to recent times, there is the threat of a pandemic looming and you are in a high-risk category.
When you factor in threats both natural and human-made, no one is completely immune to disaster. Below we outline the steps you should consider taking to prepare for an emergency and to help you write an emergency plan. You can find specific information regarding different types of emergencies and natural disaster preparedness here.
Create Your Own Emergency Preparedness Plan For Home
Prepare a home evacuation plan: create, review, and most importantly, practice escape routes. This will be different depending on the type of emergency you are preparing for. Will you need to shut off power or gas? How will you secure your home from flying debris or power outages?
What tools will you need to do this? Once you make your determination, make sure your tools are stored near your bug out bag in an easily accessible place. Have a plan to evacuate the region. Where will you go and what is the best route and importantly, the alternative route should the best route be blocked?
Create a list of items you will need/take with you: determine what you will bring with you, making contingency plans based on whether you expect to have to leave immediately, or if you will have a preemptive warning. Make sure to also determine how responsibilities will be delegated with your family. Who will be responsible for the pets? Who will be responsible for the baby? Who will pack the bags in the car?
Plan ahead and have cash, because ATMs may not work. Don’t forget critical documents - you can either keep copies of drivers licenses, passports, birth certificates, and social security cards in a secure place stored digitally or keep these documents in a sealed waterproof folder inside your bug out bag.
Make a communications plan: know where to meet if everyone is not at home and how to communicate with family and friends. Include a list of emergency contacts in your written plan. Choose a person who doesn’t live near you for family members to check in with and keep them up to date with what’s happening. Write the contact information for physicians, hospitals, local utilities, and your children’s schools.
Consider your family’s unique needs: if you have children in school or daycare, know their emergency plans and contact information. Have you made a plan for your pets? Are you prepared with your medications? Do you have anyone elderly or disabled living with you that you need to make extra plans for?
Create an Emergency Bug Out Bag
The next answer to the question of how do you prepare for an emergency is to have a bug out bag at the ready. Include enough provisions for at least 72 hours, along with basic emergency supplies. Include things like food, water, toilet paper, matches, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, extra batteries, first aid kit, change of clothes, and toiletries.
Don’t forget to pack books, games, and activities for kids. Assess your unique situation and consider having an emergency kit at home, work, and in your car. If you have a baby or pets, make sure you think through their needs as you build your bug out bag. Read our comprehensive bug out bag checklist for more details.
Make Sure Your Vehicle is Prepared
When it comes to how to prepare for an emergency evacuation, keep a full tank of gas anytime an evacuation seems likely (hurricane or wildfire seasons etc.). It’s possible that gas stations may not be open. Be aware of local emergency evacuation routes. When living in places where natural disasters are seasonal, consider always having a partial list of items stored in a bug out bag located in the trunk of one of your vehicles or roof box, and make sure all required car maintenance is complete and up to date.
Use this simple 5 step checklist below to ensure you are “Red Cross Ready”:
- I know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in my community.
- I have a family disaster plan and have practiced it.
- I have a survival kit.
- At least one member of my household is trained in first aid and CPR/AED.
- I have taken action to help my community prepare.
Remember to call 2-1-1 if you need help in the aftermath of a widespread emergency or natural disaster. 211 is a free, confidential service that provides 24/7 information and support in North America. It aggregates information from government, private and nonprofit organizations to get people the help and information they need, anywhere in North America.