Make a Family Emergency Plan

Learn how to make a Family Emergency Plan that addresses the needs of your family and prepares your family to safely evacuate or shelter in place.

Table of Contents


When an emergency or disaster occurs, will you be ready? It is critical that you create a family disaster plan to keep you and your family safe, protect your property, and build your community’s resilience.

Develop a plan with the members of your household to prepare for what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate in an emergency. Be sure your plan addresses the special and/or medical needs for you and your family. You should:

Establish Meeting Locations

Select two family meeting locations where your family can reunite after a disaster. 

  • Choose one close to home 
  • Second farther away, in case you are asked to evacuate or can’t return to the area

Develop an Emergency Contact Plan

  • Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to serve as your family’s emergency contact. After a disaster, it is sometimes easier to call long distance to unaffected areas.
    • Provide every family member with the name, address, and phone number of the emergency contact and make sure each family member has a cellphone or a prepaid phone card.
    • Inform your emergency contact of any family member’s special needs or medical issues.
  • List emergency contacts in cellphones as “ICE” (in case of emergency), which will make it easier for emergency management personnel to contact the right person in case of an emergency responder needs to make a call on your behalf.
  • Identify alternate communications methods:
    • Show all family members how to text message, as it may be easier to send a text than make a call during an emergency.
    • Learn how to use social media, which can be an effective tool to let friends and family know your location and status.
    • See the American Red Cross's Contact Loved Ones for ways to help family members connect after a disaster.

Learn How to Receive Emergency Alerts and Information

  • Receiving advance warnings for severe weather, timely emergency alerts, and information during a disaster is critical to staying safe during an emergency. Every family should have multiple methods for receiving emergency alerts, including at least one with an audible alert to wake you in the middle of the night.

Plan How to Evacuate

  • Identify and practice how you will exit your home.
  • Establish possible evacuation routes to ensure you are able to get to your designated meeting location(s).
  • Identify available modes of transportation.
  • Make arrangements with family, neighbors, friends, or local government if you don’t have personal transportation.
  • If you need assistance, contact your local public safety official to make them aware of your needs.
  • Review tips to safely evacuate.
  • During COVID-19, your family emergency plan should include what you might do differently given the public health guidance.
    • Your plan to evacuate should include where you might evacuate to (such as a relatives' home, hotel, etc.) given your family's circumstances.

Plan How to Shelter in Place

  • Designate safe room(s) within your home. They should have:
    • as few windows or doors as possible; and
    • access to television, radio, and telephones.
  • Make sure you have necessary supplies and can access your emergency kit.
  • If you receive medical treatments or home health care services, work with your medical provider to determine how to maintain care and service if you are unable to leave your home for a period of time.
  • Review tips to safely shelter in place.

Consider Everyone’s Needs

  • Plan for everyone in your household, including individuals with access and functional needs, seniors, children, and pets. 
  • If you or someone close to you has a disability or other access or functional need, you may need to take additional steps to prepare yourself and your family.
  • Pets are important members of many households, and like people, they are affected by disasters. Include your pets and animals in your emergency plans.

Practice Your Plan with Your Household

  • Practice your emergency plan at least 2-3 times a year with all members of your family.
  • To practice your plan, test your emergency communications plan, assemble at your meeting locations and practice your evacuation routes.
  • Update your plan with any changes, if necessary, after you practice.

Consider Other Plans

  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans that are in place at your workplace, children’s school or daycare, or other places where your family spends time.
  • If no plans exist at these places, consider volunteering to help develop one. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead, and communicate with others in advance.

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