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How to Create a Plan

1. Get Informed

Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross Chapter to gather information you will need to create a plan.

  • Community Hazards. Ask about the specific hazards that threaten your community (e.g. hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes) and about your risk from those hazards. Additionally, hazard information for your local area can be obtained at
  • Community Disaster Plans. Learn about community response plans, evacuation plans and designated emergency shelters. Ask about the emergency plans and procedures that exist in places you and your family spend time such as places of employment, schools and child care centers. If you do not own a vehicle or drive, find out in advance what your community’s plans are for evacuating those without private transportation.
  • Community Warning Systems. Find out how local authorities will warn you of a pending disaster and how they will provide information to you during and after a disaster. Learn about NOAA Weather Radio and its alerting capbilities (
  • Assistance Programs. Ask about special assistance programs available in the event of an emergency. Many communities ask people with a disability to register, usually with the local fire or police department, or the local emergency management office so needed help can be provided quickly in an emergency. Let your personal care attendant know you have registered, and with whom. If you are electric-dependent, be sure to register with your local utility company.

2. Make A Plan

Because a disaster can disrupt your primary emergency plan, it is also important for you to develop a back-up plan to ensure your safety.

  • Meet With Your Family/Personal Care Attendants/Building Manager. Review the information you gathered about community hazards and emergency plans.
  • Choose An “Out-of-Town” Contact. Ask an out-of-town friend or relative to be your contact. Following a disaster, family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know the contact’s phone numbers. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long distance call than a local call from a disaster area.
  • Decide Where To Meet. In the event of an emergency, you may become separated from household members. Choose a place right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire. Choose a location outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
  • Complete A Communications Plan. Your plan should include contact information for family members, members of your support network, caregivers, work and school. Your plan should also include information for your out-of-town contact, meeting locations, emergency services and the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222). A form for recording information can be found at or at These websites also provide blank wallet cards on which contact information can be recorded and carried in a wallet, purse, backpack, etc., for quick reference. Teach your children how to call the emergency phone numbers and when it is appropriate to do so. Be sure each family member has a copy of your communication plan and post it near your telephone for use in an emergency.
  • Escape Route And Safe Places. In a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate on a moment’s notice. Be ready to get out fast. Be sure everyone in your family knows the best escape routes out of your home as well as where the safe places are in your home for each type of disaster (i.e., if a tornado approaches, go to the basement or the lowest floor of your home or an interior room or closet with no windows).
  • Plan For Your Pets. Take your pets with you if you evacuate. However, be aware that pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in emergency public shelters for health reasons. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians and “pet-friendly” hotels that could shelter your pets in an emergency.
  • Prepare For Different Hazards. Include in your plan how to prepare for each hazard that could impact your local community and how to protect yourself. For instance, most people shelter in a basement when there is a tornado warning, but most basements are not wheelchair accessible. Determine in advance what your alternative shelter will be and how you will get there. Other hazards, like a home fire, will require you to leave. Make sure both primary and secondary exits are accessible and that you can locate them by touch or feel (since lights may be out and thick, black smoke may make it very hard to see).

Download Our Action Checklist (PDF)

3. Assemble A Disaster Supplies Kit

In the event you need to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you, you probably will not have the opportunity to shop or search for the supplies you and your family will need. Every household should assemble a disaster supplies kit and keep it up to date.

A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items a family would probably need to stay safe and be more comfortable during and after a disaster. Disaster supplies kit items should be stored in a portable container(s) as close as possible to the exit door. Review the contents of your kit at least once per year or as your family’s needs change. Also, consider having emergency supplies in each vehicle and at your place of employment.

Download Our Example of a Disaster Supplies Kit (PDF)

4. Maintain Your Plan

Quiz: Review your plan every six months and quiz your family about what to do.

Drill: Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills on a regular basis with your family.

Restock: Check food supplies for expiration dates and discard, or replace stored water and food every six months.

Test: Read the indicator on your fire extinguisher(s) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to recharge. Test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace alarms every 10 years.

Download Our Sample Plan Maintenance Chart (PDF)

Download Our Sample Smoke Alarm Maintenance Chart (PDF)

Learn More > If Disaster Strikes

Learn More

For more information please contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter.

Click here to find your local American Red Cross chapter ยป

Other preparedness materials are available at