Planning for an Emergency - A Homeowner's Guide

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Naturally, no one wants to think about an emergency that could disrupt your family’s life and perhaps damage your home. Not only is thinking about the worst case scenario unpleasant, it takes a little time – time that busy families don’t have in abundance. But developing a family plan for communicating during an emergency and deciding which items you need on hand can become an activity for everyone in your household to participate in while protecting them if disaster strikes.

Communications plan

Depending on the age of your children, you’ll need to set up a communications plan for what could happen under different scenarios. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends starting by answering the following questions:

  • How will my family/household get emergency alerts and warnings? You can learn more about signing up for alerts at
  • How will my family/household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies? Think about potential disasters that could hit your area, such as a tornado or hurricane.
  • How will my family/household get in touch if cell phone, internet or landline doesn’t work? Make several copies of contact information for everyone in your family, including all phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts, school phone numbers and numbers for your doctors and nearby medical facilities. Post the list in your home, but also make sure every family member keeps a copy in his or her backpack or purse or wallet.
  • How will I let loved ones know I am safe? It’s a good idea to have a phone number of someone outside your area who could serve as the hub for family communications if local cell lines are not working well.
  • How will family/household get to a meeting place after the emergency? Pick a place that’s accessible and familiar to everyone in the family. Some examples include a neighbor’s house, a nearby library or community center or even a mailbox at the end of your driveway.

Building an emergency supply kit

In addition to creating a communication plan with your family, it’s smart to have some emergency supplies ready in your home. Floridians nearly all have a standard supply of water bottles around during hurricane season – but even in areas less prone to wild storms it’s good to be prepared for a disaster.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends preparing your household with the following items:

  • An emergency kit with three days of supplies, including a gallon of water per person per day (or 9 gallons for a family of three); nonperishable foods like canned tuna, peanut butter and powdered milk along with a manual can opener and some utensils.
  • A three-day supply of medicines, a first-aid kit
  • A multi-purpose tool to function like a knife, pliers and a screwdriver
  • Personal care items such as soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, baby wipes and contact lenses or glasses
  • A flashlight and batteries
  • A battery or solar-powered radio
  • A cell phone with chargers

You should also have a section of paperwork and documents:

·Cash in case ATMs don’t work

·A set of keys to your car and your home


·Important documents – make a copy of your insurance cards, immunization records, medical paperwork if you have a medical condition

·Your family emergency plan with all contact information

If your family includes children and pets, keep an extra stash of supplies for them, such as baby food and diapers, games for the kids and pet food plus a pet carrier, leash, litter box and paperwork for your pet.

Store all of these items in containers that you can reach and carry if necessary. Check on everything a couple of times each year for expiration dates – a good time is when the time changes and you’re already checking on your smoke alarm batteries.

An annual insurance check-up is a smart move to make sure have adequate coverage in an emergency, including living expenses if you would have to leave your home while it’s repaired. Make sure everyone knows how to find and use a fire extinguisher and to turn off the water, gas and electricity in your home – you may be able to prevent additional damage depending on the emergency.

Don’t forget to practice your plan – your kids should be used to fire drills at school, so do one at home to make sure everyone remembers what to do in an emergency.

Visit for downloadable templates for your family’s emergency plan.