Create an Emergency Plan

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An emergency can occur suddenly, at any time and anywhere. Are you prepared? Does your family know what to do?

Planning what to do before a disaster strikes provides the best protection for you and your floved ones.By creating a family emergency plan, you can:

  • make sure you are as prepared as you possibly can be for emergencies,
  • discover and eliminate  hazardous conditions that might aggravate an emergency situation
  • identify and eliminate the lack of any key supplies or resources before an emergency occurs
  • provide a great opportunity to discuss what to do in an emergency with all members of your household as well as extended family
  • increase your family's safety by discussing different kinds of emergencies and different situations, such as what to do in an emergency when the family is apart.


There is no way to predict where the members of your family might be when disaster strikes, so the first step in creating an emergency plan is to decide how you will contact one another.

  • Authorities recommend that you identify a friend or relative who lives out of state and is less likely to be dealing with the same emergency, for family members to notify that they are safe.
  • Be sure every member of your household knows the emergency contact phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call it.
  • If you have a cell phone, program the emergency contact person as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone.

Focus on Specific Needs

Tailor your plan to the specific daily living needs and responsibilities of each member of your household, including communication, shelter, transportation and medical needs. Pay special attention to planning and providing for:

  • infants, nursing mothers and people with special dietary needs
  • those who require accessible transportation or who have no transportation
  • people who take medications and/or with functional needs that require equipment
  • children who may be in school or elsewhere at the time of the emergency
  • those who speak languages other than English
  • pets and service animals
  • power for communication, medical or assistive devices 

Emergency Alerts

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are emergency messages sent to cell phones by government agencies to let you know about dangerous weather conditions, emergencies, and other local hazards. They are free and broadcast from local cell towers to mobile devices in the area. WEA messages and are sent to advise you of:

  • Extreme weather and/or other threatening emergencies in your area
  • An AMBER Alert
  • A national emergency (presidential alert)

WEA messages look like text messages and contain no more than 90 characters. They do not count toward texting limits on wireless plans. WEA messages include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice. When you receive a WEA message:

  • Read the alert.
  • Take action.
  • Follow the directions.

Other emergency alerts are issued by NOAA Weather Radio, news broadcasts, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV programs, outdoor sirens and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies. There are two kinds of weather alerts:

  • A watch gives advance notice that conditions are favorable for dangerous weather. If a severe storm watch or other type of watch is issued for your area, be alert for changing weather conditions.
  • A warning requires immediate action and is only used when severe weather is about to strike.


As you create your plan, consider working with others to create networks of neighbors, relatives, church family, friends and co-workers who will assist each other in an emergency. Discuss each family's needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can help each other.


Government agencies that are involved in emergency response measures have developed resources to help you create your family's emergency plan. Here are just a few:

FEMA Supply Checklist

Get Ready Now Brochure

Get Ready Now Brochure for Seniors

Get Ready Now Brochure for Pet Owners

FEMA Communications Plan (Child-Oriented)

FEMA Communications Plan (Parent-Oriented)



  • Last updated: 05/05/2014
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