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Emergencies & Your Health: Make a Plan

What goes into a family emergency plan?

A basic family emergency plan should include:

  • Collecting and updating important information (contacts, documents, medical records, etc,) for everyone in the family;
  • Making sure everyone has ID;
  • Creating an extended family communication plan;
  • Setting up to receive emergency alerts and warnings;
  • Making an evacuation plan, and assembling materials for an evacuation kit for everyone.

Once you've got a plan, make sure everyone in the plan knows what to do. Review it together (maybe also practice or rehearse), so that people can move quickly in an emergency.

Being able to communicate with each other in an emergency is key - and why we all need an emergency family communication plan. That plan should:

  • Identify an out-of town contact for every member of your household;
  • Equip your family with the contact’s phone number and a cell phone or prepaid phone card;
  • Make sure everyone is prepared to use text messaging if a voice call cannot go through.


Customize the plan to your household.


And ask about the emergency plans for family members who are in a care facility.

Phones during emergencies

Our phones are our lifelines - but it's easy to forget that they're affected by power outages and disasters too.

When an emergency or disaster effects an area, the FCC advises that we:

  • Call 911 only when no local phone numbers are available for highway accidents or other non-life-threatening incidents.
  • Limit non-emergency phone calls so emergency response teams can get through. (Making one phone call to an out-of-area emergency contact so that person can then notify other family, friends, and work colleagues helps with this.)
  • Wait at least 10 second before redialing a call that doesn't connect.
  • Try using text in non-emergency situations.
  • Conserve cell phone's battery by putting it in "airplane" mode or turning it off when not actually using it (so it doesn't use power constantly looking to make a connection).
  • If evacuated, forward a home landline to cell phone.

This video has captions in Chinese, English, Filipino, French, Korean, Spanish, & Vietnamese.

What's the greatest risk?

Depending on what type of disaster threatens, you may want to customize the plan.



Fire in the home:


Cut off at home by blocked roads (by flooding, mudslides, severe storm, or earthquake):


Extended power outage: see the links above for sheltering-at-home.

Include your animals

The U.S. Weather Service advises:

  • Include your pets in your emergency plans
  • Build a separate emergency kit for your pets
  • Make sure to keep digital records and/or pictures to identify your pet after a disaster in case you become separated
  • Create a list of places that accept pets if an emergency happens

Stay up to date

Ideally, preparing for emergencies isn't something we do only once. It's important for emergency supplies to be regularly updated (batteries are fresh, food is still good) and that our information is current.

This calendar of monthly activities can make it easier to keep emergency supplies and preparedness skills up to date:

The text on this page is copyright PlaneTree Health Library, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA. Linked contents are the responsibility of their creators / copyright holders.