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Make a Family Emergency Plan

Making a Family Emergency Plan

During an emergency situation, you may not have time to think about what you’ll need if you have to evacuate. Now is the time to prepare.  A “GOOD” bag is a must.  What is a GOOD bag? GET OUT OF DODGE! So what will you need? The following will help you prepare.


Start with the important task of document review. You may need this information quickly. It’s a good idea to copy important documents and keep them all in one single place for a quick grab and go. A fireproof safe is best, but if you don’t have one, you can always use your freezer!  Or another idea would be to scan and save your important documents to an auxiliary hard drive. Important documents may include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Insurance policies … Vehicle, Homeowner’s, Renter’s, other
  • Drivers’ license
  • Health insurance card
  • House deed
  • Legal documents, including Social Security card and passport
  • Credit cards, copied on both sides, showing account numbers and customer contact information
  • Detailed list of belongings.

Another idea? Take video of your belongings and talk about them as you record. For example, “In the master bedroom closet is my grandmother’s watch.” You may also want to take video of items in storage, including your garage, shed, back yard and porch. If you can’t take video, be sure to take lots of pictures. Then, store digital video and images with copies of your important papers in a safe place. 

Prepare a Go Bag: 

A variety of emergencies may require an evacuation. You might have a day or two to prepare, or an immediate evacuation or shelter-in-place situation may be in order.

Prepare a Go Bag, for each family member and pet with: 

  • Change of clothing for several days
  • Sleepwear
  • Boots and Sox
  • Gloves
  • Coat / jacket
  • Rain poncho
  • Food and water for three days minimum
    • 1.5 gallons per day per person (and pet) 
    • non-perishable, ready-to-eat food
    • Pet food and treats
  • Money
    • Cash
    • Check book
    • Debit card
    • Credit cards
    • Savings passbooks
  • Medications
    • Prescriptions
    • Reading glasses
    • Hearing aids & spare batteries
    • First aid kit
    • Over-the-counter medications, lip balm

Other things to consider:

Electronics …

  • Phone and charger
  • Laptop / Notepad and charger
  • Auxiliary hard drives; thumb drives; discs
  • Solar power banks / chargers
  • Portable DVD player

Other essentials …

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Portable, hand-crank radio
  • Water purifying drinking straws and water cleaning devices
  • Solar panels
  • Sun glasses
  • Toilet paper / hand sanitizer / wipes
  • Diapers and baby supplies
  • Duct tape. Yup. We said it.
  • Covered container to use as emergency toilet
  • Reading materials, games


  • Pet medications
  • Pet first aid kit and manual
  • Carrier and/or sturdy leash or harness
  • Food, can opener, water bowls
  • Cat litter pan and scoop
  • Plastic bags

Jewelry and Sentimental

  • Family heirlooms; keepsakes
  • Photo albums, home videos
  • Valuable jewelry and art

Things to consider when prepping for an evacuation

  • Fill your evacuation vehicle fuel tank.
  • Park evacuation vehicle in the garage, heading toward street.
  • Close garage door but leave it unlocked.
  • Disconnect automatic garage door opener.
  • Close vehicle windows but do not lock car.
  • Leave keys in ignition.

Evacuating your home:

  • Use a battery-powered, or crank radio in your emergency supply kit to follow the official agency’s evacuation instructions.
  • Know where you will go and how you’ll get there.
  • Establish an emergency contact person and put his/her contact information in the phone of every family member in case you are separated. You will need to know where everyone is and local phone service may be disrupted.
  • Everyone in the family should know the Emergency Person to call.
  • Can the pets go with you to your evacuation location? Prepare for pets when you make your family plan. Be prepared in advance; avoid heartbreak and worry.
  • Prepare a “go-bag” for each family member to carry.
  • Prepare a “emergency kit” for the family. 
  • Shut off gas at the meter, or disconnect the propane tank.
  • Turn off pilot lights.
  • Shut off air conditioning / heater, water, gas and electricity.
  • Take only one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.

Shelter In-Place:

  • Bring outdoor pets inside.
  • Close and lock all doors and windows to the outside.
  • Turn off heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Switch inlets or vents to the closed position.
  • Close fireplace dampers.
  • Seal gaps around window-type air conditioners, fireplace dampers, doors, and windows with plastic sheeting, wax paper, or any other suitable material and tape the material down. Duct tape!
  • Close drapes or shades over windows.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Remain in place until you are told by police or fire officials, or through radio or television broadcasts that it is safe to leave.
  • If time does not permit you to seal the entire home, close as many internal doors as possible, move to the most central room in your home, and seal that room as above. Duct tape!

Wildfire! Possibly the most frightening of all emergency situations is the threat of wildfire. First and foremost is to get out safely. These are things to consider if there is time:


  • Locate your pets and keep them nearby.
  • Prepare farm animals for transport; move them to a safe location early.

Inside …

  • Shut all windows and doors; leave them unlocked.
  • Remove lightweight curtains and flammable window shades.
  • Close fire-resistant window coverings, heavy drapes, metal shutters and blinds.
  • Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.
  • Turn off pilot lights.
  • Leave house lights on so firefighters can see your home under smoky conditions.
  • Move overstuffed furniture away from windows.
  • Close sliding glass doors into the center of the house. Do not lock them.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and containers with water.
  • Leave one light on in each general area so firefighters can see your house in dark and smoke.
  • Shut off the air conditioning.
  • Prepare an “information note” to leave on the door detailing who you are and where you have gone.

Outside …

  1. Patrol your property and monitor the fire situation. Don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel threatened.
  2. Place emergency provisions in your evacuation vehicle.
  3. Back your car into the driveway, facing the road, vehicle loaded, and all doors and windows closed. Carry your keys with you.
  4. Gather flammable items from the exterior and bring them inside, or place them in your pool. Such items include patio furniture, toys, door mats, trans cans, etc.
  5. Disconnect / turn off propane tank.
  6. Shut off gas at the meter.
  7. Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.
  8. Close or cover outside shutters, air vents, and openings close to the ground.
  9. Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters.
  10. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.
  11. Turn off sprinkler system and running water to avoid affecting critical water pressure.
  12. Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof. Make safety equipment obvious for firefighters (spigots, chain saws, hoses, etc.)
  13. Leave exterior lights on so home is visible to firefighters in smoke or darkness.
  14. Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave.