Family Disaster Preparedness Plan: Things to Consider

Family Disaster Preparedness Plan: Things to Consider

The latest natural disaster to impact the U.S.—Hurricane Matthew—emphasized how important it is to create a family disaster plan. It seems like every time Mother Nature invokes its fury on communities across the country, there are people caught unawares. In some cases, people don’t have the resources to plan ahead, while in other cases, they rely on those in charge of their care to take necessary precautions, e.g. residents of nursing homes.

The most important part of disaster preparedness comes down to one word: planning. To start, consider emergencies most likely to occur where you live. The Red Cross suggests incorporating the following basics in any disaster plan for every member of your family including pets.

  • What to do in case you are separated during an emergency
  • Steps to take if you have to evacuate
  • How to communicate to loved ones so they know you’re safe

Basic Tips from the White House 


If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan where to stay. Many communities have shelters, but you should have a backup plan because shelters often quickly reach capacity. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.

Disaster supply kit:

Essential items include a first-aid kit, medications, a tool kit, matches, disposable lighters, flashlight, battery-or solar-powered cell phone chargers, personal care items, battery-operated radio, extra car keys, and critical documents. You might consider investing in a flash drive or hard drive back up with important data. This can be stored off site or in a fireproof box with your disaster kit.

Emergency Supplies:

If you are not in an area advised to evacuate and decide to stay home, you still need to plan ahead. You may lose power, water and not be able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads. You should stock your pantry with long-shelf life foods and a minimum of one gallon of water per day per person. Don’t forget to have enough supplies on hand for everyone in the family including pets.

Family emergency communication plan:

Families are often not together when disaster strikes. You may have children at school and elderly relatives in nursing homes. It is important to find out what emergency plans a school or nursing facility has in place and how they will notify you during natural disasters.

Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. FEMA offers a downloadable mobile app that enables you to:

  • Receive severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the U.S. with tips how to stay safe.
  • Upload and share photos of damage and recovery efforts to help first responders.
  • Locate and receive driving directions to open shelters and disaster recovery centers.
  • Apply for federal disaster assistance with easy access to
  • Save a customized list of items in your family’s emergency kit and local emergency meeting places should disaster strike.
  • Receive preparedness reminders and safety tips for more than 20 types of disasters including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.

Experts recommend discussing, practicing, and updating your plan a minimum of twice a year.

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