As the daughter of an Eagle Scout, I was raised with the motto “Always be prepared” on continuous repeat. My siblings and I always teased our father for his relentless reminders to prepare for any and all scenarios, but the truth is, being prepared has served me well in life. When you’re prepared, you can avoid the fear and panic that comes with facing an unforeseen circumstance.
Now that I have a family of my own, part of being prepared means creating a family emergency plan. If you’re unfamiliar with a family emergency plan, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a strategy for keeping your family safe in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. Whether it’s a fire, home intruder, tornado, earthquake, or hurricane, unfortunately, emergencies happen. Luckily, it doesn’t take long to complete this family emergency plan checklist to keep your family safe.
Your Family Emergency Plan Checklist
Discuss your family’s specific needs
Each family is different and will have different needs. Some important things to consider:
- Medical needs (including prescriptions, medical equipment)
- Dietary needs
- Specific needs for young children or elderly relatives
You will also have different safety needs depending on where you live. Forest fires are a real issue in California while hurricanes are more cause for concern in Florida.
Designate meeting locations
Choose safe meeting locations for your family in the event you need to evacuate or shelter in place. You should designate two meeting spots/rooms in your house that are away from windows if there is a weather emergency. You should also pick two outdoor locations for your family to meet up in the event you need to leave your home separately. It’s a good idea to choose one location close to home (in case of a fire), and one somewhat further away in case you have to evacuate the area.
Teach your children their full address and how to dial 911. For meeting locations and escape routes, it’s often helpful to draw a diagram or create a visual for children.
Familiarize yourself with household safety equipment
Make sure family members know how to use a fire extinguisher, what the smoke detector/carbon monoxide detector sound like, and where the first aid kit is.
Learn how to receive emergency alerts and information
Knowledge is power in an emergency. Make sure you are receiving up-to-date weather warnings and emergency alerts.
Designate an out-of-state emergency contact
This person would be the one that your family members could contact to let everyone know that they are ok. That contact person can spread the word to everyone else to let them know when someone is ok.
Create a physical family emergency communication plan
There are several plan templates available online or you can create your own. This emergency plan template from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) includes important household information, emergency contact information, as well as family meeting places. FEMA also has specific emergency plans for pets, as well as other great resources for emergency preparedness, such as a list of essential safety skills.
Organize a dry run and run through your entire safety plan with all family members. Make sure everyone has their own copy of the plan and repeat frequently throughout the year so everyone is familiar with the process. Practicing is especially crucial if you have children. Children will be less likely to panic in the moment, if you’ve practiced your escape route before.