How to Make a Family Emergency Plan

How to Make a Family Emergency Plan

If you have a family, then you need a family emergency plan. I hate to be blunt, but it really is that simple and that important. It’s a must-have, and any delay is too long. Let’s get on it.

The good news is that putting together a family emergency plan isn’t that difficult. Most of it can be done on a few sheets of paper, without so much as leaving your house. As long as you hit the important steps and keep everyone up to speed, you’ll have gone a long way toward keeping your family safe in a crisis.

First of all, think about where you live.

  • What kind of disasters are you likely to face?
    • Floods?
    • Hurricanes?
    • Wildfires?
  • What are the best ways in and out of your neighborhood?
  • Does your community have an emergency plan?
    • Shelters?
    • Evacuation routes?

Knowing all of this helps shape your individual family emergency plan.

Secondly, let’s talk fire safety. Double-check and make sure you’re home has at least one working smoke detector on each level, as well as one large working fire extinguisher. Teach your children what they are and how to use them. Have a fire escape plan—and practice it regularly.

Having a basic emergency kit —including three days of supplies for each member of the household—is a must. Don’t forget special needs like medication, and remember that your pets need food and water, too! If you drive a lot, consider putting together a separate emergency kit for each vehicle. This also comes in handy in case of evacuation.

Make sure everyone in your family knows where the home first aid kit is and how to use it, and how to contact emergency services in the event of a medical emergency.

In the event of an emergency, you may be called upon to evacuate your home. I recommend having three separate rendezvous points:

  • one immediately outside of your home (like a neighbor’s house) in case of fire or home invasion
  • one outside your neighborhood in case of a larger evacuation or lack of access
  • one with a friend or relative in another city or town

The trusted person at your third location can also serve as a communications hub if your family is separated, so make sure everyone has the address and phone number.

Toward that end: an emergency communications plan is a must. At a minimum, this should include the contact information—including work, school, etc. addresses—for everyone in the household, that of your trusted friend or relative, and emergency services, shelters, and evacuation roots. Everyone should have a written physical copy in their purse, wallet, backpack, as well as in each vehicle and with your emergency kit. If possible, laminate and waterproof them. You may not be able to charge your devices in an emergency, so digital copies may not be available.

If possible, make sure everyone in your family has a cell phone that uses the same model charger. Keep an extra charger in the vehicle or with your emergency kit. This will come in handy if you have to evacuate.

There’s a lot more to talk about, but this is a good start toward a family emergency plan that will help keep you safe if the worst happens.

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Michael Jenkins is a writer and editor based in Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a lifelong reader, gardener, shooter, and musician. You can reach him at
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