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Create a family plan before disaster strikes

Does your family have a plan for what to do in the event of a disaster? A disaster plan takes into account all family members, giving clear guidance for what to do in different disaster situations.

What would your family do in a disaster?

All families should be able to answer this question. To get started creating a disaster plan, visit Make a disaster preparedness plan, from the American Red Cross. Your disaster plan will most likely vary depending on the disaster. Some disasters may need family members to meet in the home; others will need them to meet outside the home.

If you have small children, Sesame Workshop can help you build a kid-friendly emergency kit and plan.

Talk with your family

Making a disaster plan is a great opportunity to talk to the whole family about disasters. It's important to talk to your children, no matter their age. Even small children need to know the plan. Make sure they have enough information, know what to expect and reassure them without scaring them. Remember, avoiding the topic will not prevent the disaster from happening. Families need to talk about disasters, their plan for responding, and how to be better prepared. See Helping children cope for more information on how to discuss the topic with children.

Besides children, older adults can be particularly vulnerable if evacuation is required. For information see Before a natural disaster: tips for older adults.

Pack a disaster emergency kit

Have a packed bag ready to "grab and go" should an emergency arise. The kit should be water-resistant, easy to carry and include:

  • A flashlight.
  • Food for three days.
  • A plastic bag for sanitation purposes.
  • A cell phone charger.
  • Warm clothing.
  • National Weather Service battery-operated radio.

Remember to include your grab-and-go file of important documents. Children can help by packing their own bags. Place the bag(s) in an easily accessible place and build this disaster emergency kit into your family plan.

Practice your plan

The key part of making your disaster plan work when you really need it is to practice it as a family. Plan a test run of the evacuation strategy, for example. Practice it until everyone can do it perfectly and revisit your plan often. Is the flood season is approaching? Take the opportunity to revisit your plan for floods and practice what to do as a family.

Practice will allow your family to maximize their safety in the event of a disaster.

Minnell Tralle, Extension educator in family resiliency

Reviewed by Sara Croymans, Extension educator in family resiliency

Reviewed in 2023

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