While you may not consider yourself an official Prepper, and you may not worry that The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) is around the corner, there is no hiding from the fact that emergencies happen. The federal government officially recommends that your household be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours before you can expect help to arrive in any form. Ideally, you should be able to maintain food, water, and shelter for 2 weeks.
Even if your biggest fear is a flash flood, hurricane, wildfire, or long-term power outage, it is your responsibility to ensure your family’s safety and preparedness. If an emergency like a terrorist attack happens while you are at work and your kids are at school, it will be up to you to get your family together and to a safe place.
With this in mind, it’s critical that you create your own Family Emergency Plan booklet or binder. You may want to take the time to create plans for a variety of situations that could arise. And most importantly, discuss these plans with your family in full. Be careful not to scare young children, but everyone needs to know their role and any expectations of them when things go south.
It’s also a good idea to practice evacuations and other emergency situation reactions. This helps to ensure that everyone knows where important gear is, and will significantly reduce the time it takes to get out the door when you need to.
Creating Your Plan
Ideally, you will create an individual plan for each emergency/disaster that you can envision happening. While this may seem overwhelming at first, you can follow a template and adjust based on where everyone is when the disaster strikes, and whether the plan is to Bug In or Bug Out.
Start With Important Contacts
The first page in your family booklet or binder should be waterproof and should contain the most important phone numbers and addresses that you may need: family members, schools, childcare, work, police, fire, poison control, local hospitals, and your Bug Out location if you have one. Remember that Internet and phone service may be cut off, so there won’t be an opportunity to Google. Write everything down.
Household Escape Routes
Create a plan for each room of your house: how to get out, and where to meet once everyone has evacuated. If your house catches on fire, you don’t want anyone cowering, unsure of how to get out safely. For the adults, indicate the presence of any firearms or fire extinguishers in each room.
Create Emergency Meeting Points
The best approach to emergency meeting points is to think in ever-increasing circles. If the emergency is confined to your home (like a fire), choose a spot nearby to meet. If the emergency is larger (like a riot), choose a neutral and well-lit spot outside of your neighborhood, like a fire station or hospital. If the emergency is regional (like a hurricane), choose a much more distant location, such as a relative that lives out-of-state.
Pack Individual Go-Bags
Each person in your family should have their own Bug Out Bag packed. You can read more about how to pack these here. Every family member should know where these are located, and not to take supplies out of them at any time. Someone should be assigned to add last-minute food and water supplies to the bags.
Copies of Important Documents
Keep copies of important documents in a waterproof and fireproof evacuation box that you can easily grab on your way out the door. These include:
- Copies of each family member’s driver’s license and passport
- Each family member’s social security card
- Each family member’s birth certificate
- Copies of medical and vaccination records, including pets
- Property titles for cars and homes
- All bank, credit card, and investment account numbers
- Health insurance and life insurance information
- Photographs of your property
- Current photographs of family members
- Tax return
- Marriage certificate
- Adoption and citizenship papers
- Military records
- Important files on an external hard drive
Make a Plan for Pets
Know what you are going to do with any pets before disaster strikes. If they are coming with you, be ready with plenty of food and water, and any necessary carriers.
Pack Individual Get-Home Bags
Your car should be stocked with a get-home bag that provides you with all of the supplies you need to walk home from work if necessary. Keep in mind that this may mean spending the night on the side of the road, depending on how far you work from your home. Your children’s backpacks should include a small stash of supplies that they can use if they become stranded at school as well.
Include Topographical Maps & Routes
Because GPS may not be available to you in a true emergency, print out maps and mark all possible routes to your jobs, kids’ schools, and how to get out of town and to safety. Make sure these are waterproof.
Prepare for the Worst
As you create your family booklet or binder, you will be able to personalize it based on your family’s specific situation and needs. Prepare everyone for the worst-case scenarios, so that there are no surprises when disaster strikes. Be calm as you explain the types of emergencies that you need to be prepared for; don’t scare anyone, but make sure they understand the severity of what can happen, and what is expected of them. Be organized, and create checklists for if you need to leave in a hurry:
- Ensuring each family member is present and ready to leave
- Everyone has a packed Bug Out Bag ready to grab
- Pets secured with supplies
- Turn off utilities at the main switches before leaving the house
- Pack firearms and ammunition
- All important documents are ready to take with you
- Always keep gas tanks at least half-full in cars
Prepare your booklet before you need it. Discuss each aspect of each plan in full. Make sure your family has the tools they need to get to safety.