Sometimes families have to rush out of their homes due to disasters. Though there is often warning that an incident such as a hurricane is about to occur, warning is rare for disasters such as wildfires and industrial accidents. If work, school, or other activities have your family separated when a disaster that requires evacuation occurs, how will you get in contact with one another? Where will you meet? Once reunited, where will you go?
A family emergency plan contains answers to these questions. Let’s look at what exactly should be contained in a family emergency plan and then, if you desire, you can document your plan using the handy printable I’ve included towards the end of this post.
How to contact one another
- Family contact information. Family members may be at work, school, or other locations when a disaster strikes, so it is important to document the name, address, and phone number for the location where each family member is likely to be located.
- Places to meet. Your family should specify three possible meeting locations where you can reunite. Make sure each family member knows the locations and when he or she should head to each.
- Right outside your home (e.g., by the street light, by the mailbox) – This location provides a place to meet in the event of a sudden emergency in your home (e.g., house fire, high carbon monoxide reading).
- Away from your neighborhood, but still in your community (e.g., local park, library) – This location provides a place to meet in case you have to evacuate your home, but are able to stay in your community.
- Away from your community, but still in your region (e.g., rest stop, hotel, loved one’s home) – This location provides a place to meet in case you have to evacuate your city and surrounding areas.
- Out-of-area emergency contacts. Sometimes local phone lines can become overloaded or be out of service during a disaster. If this happens, it may be easier to call or send a text message long distance. An out-of-area contact can act as a temporary liaison between family members.
Where to evacuate
- Evacuation destinations and routes. Select a couple of evacuation destinations (e.g., the home of a loved one, a hotel in a specific city). The destinations should be in different areas. This is so you have a valid option available in case the disaster also wreaks havoc in the vicinity of one of your destinations. Likewise, at least one of the destinations should be a couple hundred miles from your home in case the disaster is catastrophic. Take a close look at a map and plan routes to your destinations.
- Evacuation practice. Drive your planned evacuation routes each year. Identify areas where traffic or other impediments may cause delays and plot alternate routes.
- Plans for pets. Many hotels and evacuation shelters will not accept pets, so it’s important to keep a list of pet-friendly hotels, kennels, and shelters that are along your evacuation routes.
What to take with you
It’d be great if you could take your entire disaster preparedness kit (the kit you’d use if stuck in your home for a few days to a few weeks) with you in the event of an evacuation. However, this often isn’t possible. The next best option is having a “go bag” (a bag to expedite evacuation, not long-term survival). A go bag consists of a sturdy storage container (e.g., backpack, suitcase, plastic tub with handles) filled with the following:
- Copies of important documents (e.g., property titles, insurance policies, medical information)
- At least $50-$100 in cash (small denominations)
- 1-2 bottles of water for each family member
- Snacks for each family member (energy or granola bars are good options)
- A flashlight and an extra set of batteries
- A battery-powered or hand crank radio (plus an extra set of batteries if the radio requires them)
- Prescription medications
- A first aid kit
- Regional map
- Baby care items (if needed)
- A blanket and raingear
Depending on the size of your family, you may need more than one bag. It is wise to place a note on your go bag that reminds you to grab your keys and wallet so you don’t rush out without them!
Printable family emergency plan
I’ve created a printable template for my family to use as we create our emergency plan. I hope it will be useful to you, too.
(Click on the image to view and download a larger, printable version of the emergency plan.)
Does your family have an emergency plan? What tips can you share for creating one?