You cannot plan an emergency, but you can plan to be prepared! When disaster strikes, the best way to have the best outcome is to have a plan in place beforehand. Here, we will offer some tips on how to make a family emergency plan, what should be included, and why each is important. However, it is important to remember that your individual family plans will be based on your family, your family living situation, the age of your family members, and anticipated emergencies. Depending on the age of your children, it is not a bad idea to practice, rather than just discuss, to help create some muscle memory that will help when the time comes.

Some examples of emergencies that you should plan and prepare for include a house fire, a natural disaster (whichever ones are most common in your area), a medical emergency, a flood, a community evacuation, and a home invasion. Not all of these scenarios are appropriate to discuss with all family members — it may not be appropriate to practice home invasion reaction with your three-year-old — but each should be considered by the heads of household.

Step 1: Make a Plan

Depending on the ages of your children, the adults may be making the plans, with or without involving the kids. If children are old enough to understand, it is important to discuss the plan with them, and if children are old enough to help, you can ask for their input and suggestions. Your plan should be basic and consider all the possibilities and family members (including pets). Keeping your plan basic will help your family members better remember it and apply it to any scenario.

Identify Emergencies

The most important part of a plan is to discuss what kind of emergencies your family should prepare for. These should include ones that require your family to evacuate — house fire or flood — and ones that would require the family to barricade within the home — hurricane. You can also discuss unlikely scenarios, such as a community event or a medical emergency that would require a special event-specific plan.

Assign Roles

You should also assign roles to each person. For instance, task your nine-year-old to get to the meeting point as quick as possible and call 911, while your role is to rescue the family dog. Assigning roles not only helps make sure that everyone remains safe, but also helps to reduce panic and feelings of helplessness. Be sure to assign roles that are age-appropriate and won’t put your family members in increased danger. For instance, it is not appropriate to assign your five-year-old to rescue the cat, because, in the event of a house fire, your child may continue to search the home instead of evacuating or feel responsible if the cat does not make it out on time.

Step 2: Implement Safety Measures

The next part of your plan should be to prepare for an emergency and implement safety measures. This can be anything from checking smoke detectors and installing fire extinguishers to installing second- and third-story fire ladders or a home security system, and everything in between.

Write it Out

Write your emergency plan out so that family members can reference it, and you can discuss it a few times a year to refresh the memory of family members. You should also write out emergency information, such as contact information, special needs, and any special medical information.

Establish Meeting Spots

Establish a meeting spot inside the home, outside the home, and at an off-site location. Practice getting to these places and make sure everyone understands exactly where they are supposed to go. If you have a trusted neighbor or family member’s house who lives close, you can include them in your plans and make their home your emergency meet-up area.

Create a Contact Plan

Create a contact plan that everyone understands. This should include emergency services and emergency contacts who can help get your family members to a safe place in the event of an emergency. If you have pets or children, establish an emergency contact and placement plan for them.

Make an Emergency Kit

Create an emergency kit and store it somewhere that is out of the way but is readily accessible in the event of an emergency. The size of your kit should depend on your family, where you live, and what emergencies you are likely to face. You can keep the kit small by including things, like flashlights, matches, a first aid kit, a pocket knife, and glow sticks. And, if notified that a natural disaster is likely, you can build a full kit that includes hygiene items, food and water, and anything your family may need for three to four days without electricity, plumbing, or the ability to leave.

Step 3: Practice the Plan

For a plan to be effective, you must practice it! While you don’t need to practice calling 911 or board up all your windows, you should rehearse meeting points and make sure everyone knows where to find the contact information and emergency kit. If you purchase fire ladders, make sure everyone knows how to use them and understands the evacuation plan and alternate routes. If you have children, you can do a rehearsal 911 phone call without dialing, just to go over what may be said and important information that the dispatcher will need to know.

Most emergencies are unforeseeable and catch you by surprise. However, you can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome by being prepared and having a plan for the entire family. Check out these references for more information on establishing a family emergency plan.

Additional Resources:

https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/make-a-plan.html

https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan

https://www.ready.marines.mil/Make-a-Plan/Making-a-Family-Emergency-Plan/

https://beprepared.com/emergency-preparedness-plan-for-your-family/

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1440449346150-1ff18127345615d8b7e1effb4752b668/Family_Comm_Plan_508_20150820.pdf

In the event of an emergency that affects your family’s home, don’t take on your insurance company alone. Let a public claims adjuster help you and your family recover from an emergency or catastrophe. At Grasso Public Adjusters, we are dedicated to helping families recover and getting what you deserve to rebuild your home. Contact us for more information today!