By the time severe weather hits, it's already too late. Disaster preparedness is about having an established safety plan. Whether it's preparedness for floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or fires, the key to survival in disasters is planning. Use our preparedness section to stay informed, make a plan, and most importantly—remain safe in an emergency.
Make a Family Emergency Plan
Use this template from Ready.gov to create a family plan that's right for you.
Family Communication Tips
Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you've listed them as emergency contacts.
Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Escape Routes and Meeting Place
Draw a floor plan of your home. Use a blank sheet of paper for each floor. Mark two escape routes from each room. Make sure children understand the drawings. Post a copy of the drawings at eye level in each child's room.
If your home is taller than ground level, plan to use an escape ladder from upper floors. Make sure everyone in your household is familiar with these products and is comfortable using them.
Establish a place to meet in the event of an emergency, depending on where each person could potentially be at the time. Record the locations so all family members know them.
Plan For Locations
While there are warnings for many types of potential disasters, many emergencies and disasters occur without any warning. Since you can't predict where you will be for disasters, it is important to have plans and supplies for the locations you and your household go to regularly. Planning ahead will ensure that you and your household will know what to do and have the supplies you need to be safe wherever you are.
Individuals and households should consider the locations they frequent; find out what plans are available for these locations, and customize their personal and household plans based on what household members would do if an emergency occurred while they were at that location. Examples of locations to consider and plan for include:
- Regular methods of transportation such as trains, urban commuter transit
- Places of Worship
- Sports arenas and playing fields
- Entertainment locations such as theaters
- Shopping areas such as malls and retail centers
- Tourist and travel locations such as hotels
Developing plans for different locations will require getting key information about the organization or building managers' plans for the locations. In some cases if plans are not available, this may involve working with the building manager or other members of the organization to develop or expand plans. Information that should be considered includes:
- How you and other occupants will get local alert or warnings while you are there
- Building location alarm or alert systems
- Building occupant evacuation plans including alternate exits
- Building or organization plans for sheltering occupants in an emergency
- Key Supplies you/household members and others would need for temporary sheltering
Planning should also consider how the type of structure or the environments around the structure or location may impact alerts and warnings, shelter and evacuation, and the need for supplies. Examples of considerations for the type of structure or the environment around the location include:
- Single story vs multi-story or high rise buildings have different types of alarm systems, shelter and evacuation considerations.
- Urban and rural locations may have different local assumptions and plans for evacuation if large areas are impacted.
- Buildings like schools, sports arenas, and malls may have different plans for evacuation and shelter depending on the specific building structure and likely safe methods for evacuation or safe locations for shelter for different types of emergencies e.g. tornadoes
- Outdoor locations likes sports fields or golf courses need specific plans for rapid short-term shelter e.g. for thunderstorms and lightening or tornadoes
- Geography may be critical for some hazards, e.g. if the area is low and vulnerable to flash flooding
- Mobile homes, modular structures and other buildings not attached to permanent foundations require planning for evacuation and alternate shelter locations
Prepare For the Extreme
Get Severe Weather Alerts
- Tornado Preparedness
- Tornado FAQ
- Where Tornadoes Occur
- Understand the Fujita Scale
- Severe Storms and Supercells
- Flash Floods
- Radar FAQ
- Severe Storms Lingo
Hurricanes and Typhoons
- Hurricane and Typhoon Preparedness
- Storm Surge Basics
- Storm Surge Survival Myths
- Storm Surge: Know Your Elevation
- Inland Flooding and Flash Flooding
- Radar FAQ
- Hurricane Lingo