Prepare your family

Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it's important, before an emergency happens, to have a family discussion to determine: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. This section provides tips and suggestions on how to prepare everyone in your home for a major disaster.

Building a Family Plan

Developing a family plan is an important step towards making sure that everyone knows what to do in the event of a big disaster. Your plan can be as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be, but it should include the following information:

  • What you need to do to stay safe during the disaster
  • How you will reunite after a disaster happens
  • The name and number of your out of area contact that will serve as the central communications point if the local phone lines are down or busy

For more information on things to think about when you are putting together a family plan check out the resources:

Talking to your Kids

The phrase "The better you're prepared, the less you're scared" goes for kids as well as adults. When talking to kids about disasters, it is important to teach them about disasters, without scaring them. It's a balancing act between the facts and potential impacts of a disaster and empowering them with actions they can take to be safe. Being open about what you are doing as a family to prepare before disasters happens is comforting. When possible, involve kids in activities like putting together the disaster supplies kit.

Teaching younger children

The best thing you can do for younger children is to create a safe environment around them. You can't really teach an infant or toddler about Drop Cover and Hold in an earthquake, but you can reduce the likelihood they will get hurt from falling book shelves, pictures and other furnishings around them. For more information on reducing earthquake hazards in your home visit our Prepare your Home page

As kids get older

For most kids, you can start introducing safety actions at about 4-years-old. Don't overwhelm them with too much information at once. Teach one safety action such as Drop, Cover and Hold, and follow up with actually doing it so they can demonstrate they understand. Practice with them until you are satisfied they know what to do. As kids get older, you can talk about how a disaster is something that could hurt people or cause damage. Explain that nature sometimes provides "too much of a good thing" -- fire, rain, and wind. Explain how important it is to make a Family Disaster Plan. Teach children:

  • How to call for help
  • When to call each emergency number
  • To call the family contact if separated
  • To keep personal identification information in their possession at all times

Let them help with testing smoke detectors or building the family kit. You can get them their own backpack and have them assemble a kit for themselves. When you involve your kids in getting your family ready, you are insuring they understand the family plan and are building life skills that will come in handy as they grow up!

For more information about talking with your kids after a disaster, download How to help Children after a disaster

Preparing your Pet

Don't leave your pets out of your plans

dog with suitcase in mouth


One of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina was that many people did not evacuate because they did not know what to do with their pets. For many of us, our pets are an important part of our family. Leaving them behind in a disaster would be unthinkable. As responsible pet owners we need to think about how to take care of our animals when disaster strikes. The same advice for human preparedness goes for preparing for your pets.  

Pet Preparedness Brochure