Making a Disaster Plan

In the face of disaster, all that matters is the safety of you and your loved ones. Having a plan in place will help to ensure you can focus on what’s most important, while also minimizing the financial impact.  

No two disaster plans will be the same, so it’s important to consider your unique circumstances, like the layout of your home, the ages and mobility of each resident, communication channels, etc. Here is a basic checklist to get you started: 

  • Create a supply kit. 
  • Know what emergencies are most likely to happen in your area. 
  • Identify potential risks in your home. 
  • Know your utilities. 
  • Identify your safe place.  
  • Make an evacuation plan. 
  • Make an emergency communication plan. 
  • Assign responsibilities. 
  • Create a plan for special needs.  
  • Post emergency phone numbers in an open and obvious place. 
  • Designate a meet-up location. 
  • Prepare for stress. 

Let’s break down each. 

Create a supply kit. 

Pull together everything you might need in the wake of a disaster. The general recommendation is to include supplies for at least three days and up to two weeks. Keep everything in easy-to-carry containers, like backpacks or duffle bags, so you’re ready to “grab and go.” You may also want to keep a smaller version in your car. For a list of suggested items, visit ready.gov

Know what emergencies are most likely to happen in your area.  

This includes weather, like flood, tornado, hurricane, etc., as well as man-made, like from a chemical plant or power station. Risks vary depending on if you live in the city or in a more rural location. Your local American Red Cross or emergency management agency can help you learn what the greatest risks are in your area.  

Know the dangers in your home.  

At least once a year, look through your home for potential risks, like blocked exits, old appliances, leaning trees, etc. Identifying these risks can help you keep an eye out the warning signs of a dangerous situation in or around your home. 

Know your utilities.  

Learn how to turn your utilities, like water, gas and electric, off and on. Check your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers once a month, and change the batteries every year.  

Identify your safe place.  

In the case of severe weather, where should you go for safety? Your safe place might change depending on the situation. For example, a flood vs. tornado vs. fire.   

Make an evacuation plan.  

If you must evacuate, does everyone in the house know where to go? Practice fire and emergency evacuation drills at least twice a year. Imagine that you could take only one suitcase or pack a single carload. What would you take? Agree on this ahead of time and adjust if there is a change in your household.  

Make an emergency communication plan.  

Who will be the designated contact to share important information? If you have children, who is the backup contact if you’re unreachable? How will you communicate that information? 

Assign responsibilities. 

For example, who is in charge of the family pet? What about important documents? How will your emergency plan change if someone assigned a responsibility isn’t home?  

Create a plan for special needs.  

If you or someone in your house has special needs, as in the case of a disability, it’s especially important to have a plan in place. Include information on any needs, medications, back-up equipment, etc. in your supply kit. Many local emergency services maintain a registry so that you can let them know exactly what type of help you would need in an emergency.  

Post emergency phone numbers in an open and obvious place. 

Make sure everyone knows how to reach family and friends in case of emergency. Consider having a designated contact who can help notify the rest of your list, that way you only have to make one call.  

Designate a meet-up location. 

If you’re away from home when disaster strikes, and phones are down, where will your family regroup? Always listen to warnings from emergency response teams. Do not attempt to access roads or buildings that have been deemed unsafe. 

Prepare for stress. 

Stress is inevitable during and after experiencing a disaster. Although there’s no way to avoid it, the more prepared you are, the better equipped you’ll be to handle it. Practicing coping skills in your daily life can be an extra step in improving how you handle stress.