Firefighter looking out of a smoke filled window

Creating a Family Emergency Plan

Help keep your family safe by developing a family emergency plan so you are prepared for whatever comes your way. Since military families sometimes face emergencies while their service members are deployed or away for extended periods, it is essential to have an emergency plan and assemble a reliable network of support in preparation for a potential crisis.

What needs to be included in my family emergency plan?

Planning for the unexpected begins with the whole family talking about what to do in a serious emergency. Do this in a calm way that will not make children or older relatives anxious. Here are some tips for creating an emergency plan:

  • Phone numbers. Post emergency numbers in a central place where they won't be missed. Include the numbers for police, fire, poison control, school, work, child care and important relatives. Include your home address for quick reference since emergency respondents will need to know where to find you.
  • An emergency contact. Since it's often easier to call long distance during an emergency, pick an out-of-state relative as your family's emergency contact. They'll be the point person you call or text to explain where you are in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Escape routes. Go through each room of your home and plan the quickest and safest escape route. Make sure each member of your family knows the plan for each room and how to put that plan into action should they need to make a quick escape.
  • Emergency meeting spots. Choose three spots, just to be on the safe side — one near your home, (like in the case of a fire), one outside your neighborhood, (such as the fire station or a relative's home), and one out-of-town location in case you need to evacuate.
  • Pet plan. If your family has pets, make sure your emergency plan also includes a plan for your four-legged family members. Make sure you have any necessary pet carriers and plenty of food and water on hand to take with you.
  • Important documents. Put your important documents in a plastic bag and keep them in a fireproof and waterproof evacuation box for easy grabbing. See below for which important documents you should include.
  • A "go-bag." This ready-to-go supply kit can help your family leave home quickly without having to worry about packing up too many necessities. See below for some ideas of what to include in your go-bag.

Which important documents do I need to take with me?

  • A copy of each family member's driver's license and passport
  • Each family member's Social Security card or number
  • A copy of each family member's birth certificate
  • A copy of everyone's medical records and list of vaccinations, including your pet's
  • Property titles for your car and home
  • All of your bank, credit card and investment account numbers and corresponding customer service telephone numbers
  • Health insurance and life insurance account information
  • Photographs or videos of all of your property to make potential insurance claims easier
  • Wills, as well as living wills and a power of attorney
  • Your latest tax return
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Adoption and citizenship papers
  • Military records
  • Medications and eyeglass prescriptions
  • Important files backed up on an external hard-drive
  • Copies of your favorite family photographs

What should I include in my go-bag?

  • At least three days of water for every member of the family
  • Non-perishable food options, like nuts, canned goods and granola bars
  • Changes of clothing and footwear for each member of the family
  • Sleeping bags or rolled blankets
  • First-aid kit supplies
  • Emergency supplies, such as a battery-operated radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, duct tape, plastic bags, water purification tablets, local maps and a compass, aluminum foil, matches and a can opener
  • Basic tools, like pliers, a wrench, an axe and a utility knife
  • Personal care items such as toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine products, extra eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Money, including a few personal checks

What else can I do to ensure emergency preparedness?

  • Make sure your children know their last name, address and phone number.
  • Know your installation's emergency response procedures and who you should contact from the installation after an emergency.
  • Teach each family member who is old enough how and when to turn off utilities (water, gas, oil and electricity) at the main switches.
  • Make sure each floor of your home has a smoke detector (with up-to-date batteries) and a fire extinguisher.
  • Get in the habit of making sure your car has half a tank of gas in it at all times so you won't have to worry about refilling if you need to make an emergency exit.
  • Maintain adequate insurance on your car, home and property.

You may not be able to keep disasters from happening, but you can control how you prepare for them. Get that family meeting scheduled today.