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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Step 3: Preparing the Family Emergency Plan

By Sarah Anderson

Preparing a family emergency plan will help you and your family get ready for any disaster that may strike. A good emergency plan will cover all options and must include an evacuation plan and safe meeting places.

In addition, a good plan will help you prepare for different disasters and emergencies. Include in your plan how to prepare for each hazard that could impact your local community and how to protect yourself.

Evacuation Plans

Some disasters will require a quick and efficient evacuation. In cases such as fire, a quick evacuation can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Evacuation and escape routes must be well planned and practiced with all family members. Plan an evacuation route that will guarantee the quickest, safest way out. Consider worst case scenarios including power malfunctions that will prohibit any use of elevators.

Make sure to have a backup plan in case main exits are blocked. Think about all possible exit options when planning your "Plan B". Consider windows, balconies, etc., and work out the safest way to escape your home. Keep in mind that evacuation routes must not be complicated. Keep it child-friendly.

Safety Places

While some disasters require a quick evacuation, in other cases, staying indoors is much safer. A good emergency plan will also list the safe places inside your home. A basement is usually one of the safer places in your home, especially during a tornado. However, if you don't have a basement, use a lower floor interior room with the least number of windows and openings.

Map It

Documentation is very important for every emergency plan and mapping is the best way to document your evacuation plan and safe places.

How to map your home?

  1. Draw the floor plans of your home.
  2. Mark the location of all exits and openings including doors, windows, and balconies.
  3. Point important locations such as: emergency kit, fire extinguisher, smoke alarms, collapsible ladders, first-aid kits, and utility shut-off points.
  4. Add indoor orientation points: stairways, large furniture, etc.
  5. Show outdoor orientation points: garages, patios, stairways, elevators, driveways, and porches.

Add evacuation routes

  1. Illustrate at least two escape routes from each room. Use a different color for each route.
  2. Make the escape routes end at a safe point.

Add safe places

  1. Mark the indoor safe places.
  2. Mark an outdoor safe point. This is where all family members should meet in case of emergency that requires evacuation.

Disabled and Special Needs

Your emergency plan must cover all special needs of any disabled persons and those who have home caregivers and the caregivers themselves.

If someone uses a wheelchair, make all exits from your home wheelchair accessible and plan your evacuation routes accordingly. Keep support items in a designated place so they can be found quickly.

For those who are bed-bound, it is essential to have an alternate plan if the caregiver is not present. Also, plan for a case in which the caregiver is present and include him or her in your emergency plans.

If any of your household members are dependent on electricity-powered equipment, develop a plan that includes an alternate power source for the equipment or relocating of that person. It is recommended to provide the power company with a list of all power-dependent life support equipment required by family members.


If you must evacuate, do not leave your pets behind. However, be aware that pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in emergency public shelters for health reasons. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians, and "pet-friendly" hotels that could shelter your pets in an emergency.

Recommended Reading
Step 2: Preparing Personal Emergency Cards
Step 4: Emergency Action Checklist

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