Why You Need A Family Emergency Plan

Dad and son holding hands at the lakeWhile many people will spend months researching, planning and packing for a dream vacation, most will never spend a single second preparing their families for an emergency.

If being prepared in the event of a local, national or global disaster is so important, why do most people put it off? The answer could be anything from laziness to avoiding unpleasant thoughts. Thinking about and planning for an emergency isn’t fun — but it just might help you sleep better at night.

Having a family emergency plan will also help your kids cope under pressure, and ensure that critical supplies like extra water, blankets, food, and backup power sources are there when you need them.

Parents Should Talk to Their Kids About Being Prepared for Emergencies

Talking to children about natural disasters or terrorism is a daunting task. But waiting until something happens could have dire consequences. Having a fact-based, candid conversation could help your kids handle an emergency with confidence at the very least, and in an extreme case — knowing what to do could save their lives.

Let your kids know that sometimes bad things happen in the world, but you’ll do your best to keep them safe, and part of being safe is knowing what to do and being prepared.

If your kids are very young, you might want to check out these resources from Sesame Street. There you will find videos about buying emergency supplies, the importance of kids knowing their full names (and parents’ full names – after all – “Mommy” isn’t specific enough for someone to find you) and “special helpers”-such as EMTs or firefighters – who can help us in an emergency.  

How To Begin Your Planning

It seems like an impossible task – preparing for an imaginary event, the details of which you don’t yet know. Many people aren’t sure where to begin.

Depending on where you live, some events are likely, while others (like a blizzard in Santa Fe) will never happen. Knowing what could happen based on where you live will guide you in preparing supplies, and talking to your kids.

What Kinds of Emergencies Could Happen Where You Live?

You can begin developing your family’s emergency plan by deciding if any of the following could happen where you live:

  • Flood or wildfire
  • Blizzard, hurricane or tornado
  • Earthquake
  • Disease outbreak
  • Terrorism
  • Power outages
  • Chemical spills or contaminations

Next, make a list of the things that could happen and address each one with a written plan. The FEMA website has many great resources for developing family communication plans.

Great Online Resources for Family Emergency Planning

FEMA also recommends these conversation starters when doing your planning:

  • How will my family/household get emergency alerts and warnings?
  • How will my family/household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?
  • How will my family/household get in touch if cell phone, internet, or landline doesn’t work?
  • How will I let loved ones know I am safe?
  • How will family/household get to a meeting place after the emergency?

Once you’ve determined possible events that could happen in your area, check out the free downloadable checklists on the Red Cross website. Then gather materials for a family disaster supplies kit.

For additional resources and to stay informed, you can also download the FEMA app and subscribe to the FEMA blog.

Other Ideas to Consider For Family Emergency Planning

In addition to written plans and checklists, you may want to consider family training such as CPR, first aid, or how to use a fire extinguisher.

Pro Tip: Make sure that you and your children have memorized key phone numbers. This will be especially important for kids who are too young to have their own phone, or, if for some reason you cannot access your contact list in your cell phone.  

Finally, communicate your plans during a family meeting, stressing that while most incidents are not likely to occur, you will all rest easier knowing what to do just in case. Run a couple of practice drills, and quiz your kids every six months.  

Next Steps:

Make or Break Project