How to Make a Family Disaster Plan


Plan | Stay Safe • Earthquakes | Extreme Heat | Floods | Hail | Hurricanes | Lightning | Tornadoes | Tsunamis | Winter Storms

Where will your family or household be when disaster strikes? If you are not together when an emergency happens, will everyone know how to stay in contact — even if cell towers are down and phones don’t work? Do you have a meeting place and will everyone have a way to get there?

To develop a family disaster plan, start by mapping out contact methods and meeting places. Then share and practice your plan with your family or household and out-of-town contact. While you develop your plan, keep in mind these specific household needs:

  • Ages of household members
  • Medical needs like prescriptions and equipment
  • Disabilities or access and functional needs
  • Dietary needs
  • Pets or service animals
  • Languages spoken

After you make your plan, all you need to do is revisit and communicate your plan regularly so you’re ready when disaster strikes.

Build your plan

  • Write it down.
    • Create a document with the contact information for your family, close friends, designated out-of-town contact, employers, and other service providers like doctors, schools, etc.
  • Plan to communicate.
    • Plan how to communicate with family or friends when disaster strikes.
    • Discuss the benefits of calling, texting, emailing, or using social media. Texting tends to work more reliably than calling, especially when systems are in high demand.
    • Determine how your family will receive emergency updates and alerts.
  • Choose a meeting place.
    • Pick two places to meet your family or household members.
    • Meet outside your home in case of a sudden emergency or at a friend's or neighbor's house in case you can't return home.
    • Ensure that these places are reachable for those with access and functional needs and that your pets are welcome.
    • Share the address and phone number for each of your meet-up locations.
    • Add the information to your phone’s contacts and list them in your plan.
  • Plan to evacuate.
    • If an evacuation is necessary, determine where you will evacuate and how you will get there.
    • If you plan to shelter-in-place, identify the safest location in your home to shelter during a disaster.
  • Identify emergency contact(s).
    • Ask an out-of-town family member or friend to be your emergency contact.
    • Ensure everyone in your household knows the contact’s name, location, phone number, email, and any social media contact options.
  • Schedule a meeting.
    • Set a meeting with your household to talk about the types of disasters and hazards you might face.
    • Work together and share responsibilities as a team.

Know your plan

Send links to your disaster plan and make copies for all family or household members and emergency contacts. Post a copy in a prominent place in your home like a bulletin board.

Practice the plan

Regularly gather your family or household members to review and practice your plan. Discuss what information you would communicate during a disaster and send practice messages. Make sure all family members (including children) understand how and when to call 911.

Update your communication plan at least once a year or whenever information changes.

Special Considerations for Families with Children

A natural disaster is often devastating for adults, but children can be especially vulnerable to stress and anxiety when disaster strikes. Prepare your children before a disaster and plan activities to keep them busy during and after an emergency.

Getting kids involved in the planning process and letting them plan activities will distribute the workload and give your family a sense of control.

Preparing Your Children for Disasters

  • Learn what types of emergencies are possible where you live, teach your children about them, and discuss the steps you’ve taken to protect your family and home.
  • Discuss emergencies that may require evacuation, such as a hurricane, and shelter-in-place emergencies, such as a tornado.
  • Include your children when creating your family communication plans and building a disaster supply kit.
  • Have a disaster drill and practice your plan, making sure to give your children a role and way to participate.
  • Prepare fun, kid-friendly activities and games to keep them occupied. Choose games that they do not ordinarily play, so they have something special to enjoy.
  • Select activities that do not require power so you can conserve your batteries and back-up power sources.

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