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Create a family plan before disaster strikes

Families should have a plan for what to do in the event of a disaster. This plan should take into account all family members and give clear guidance what to do in different disaster situations.

What would your family do in a disaster?

All families should be able to answer this question. To get started in the process of creating a disaster plan, visit Prepare your Families for Disasters, an online resource from the American Red Cross. Your disaster plan will most likely vary depending on the disaster. Some disasters may require family members to meet in the home; others will require them to meet outside the home.

If you have small children, Sesame Street: Let's Get Ready! can help you build a kid-friendly disaster plan.

Talk with Your Family

Making a disaster plan is a great opportunity to talk to the whole family about disasters. It is important to talk to your children, no matter what the age. Even small children need to have information, giving them enough information to know what to expect and reassure them without scaring them. Remember, avoiding the topic will not prevent the disaster from happening! Families need to talk about disasters, their plan for responding and how to be better prepared if a disaster is inevitable. See It’s Important to Talk with Children about Natural Disasters for more information on the topic.

Besides children, older adults can be particularly vulnerable should evacuation be required. See Before the Natural Disaster: Planning and Preparing Tips for Older Adults for information to start the conversation with your older family members.

Pack a Grab and Go Bag

Have a packed bag ready to "grab and go" should an emergency arise. The bag should be small and easy to carry. Include a flashlight, food for 3 days, a plastic bag for sanitation purposes, a cell phone charger, warm clothing, and a National Weather Service battery operated radio. Remember to include your Red File of important documents. Children can help by packing their own bag. Place the bag(s) near an outside door and build "grab your bag" into your family plan.

Practice Your Plan

The key part of making your disaster plan work when you really need it is to practice it as a family. Plan a test run of the evacuation strategy, for example. Practice it until everyone can do it perfectly and periodically revisit your plan. Know an upcoming flood season is approaching? Take that opportunity to revisit your plan for floods and practice what to do as a family.

Practice will allow your family to maximize their safety in the event of a disaster.

Want to make sure your pets are also protected during a disaster? See these resources:

Author: Minnell Tralle, Extension Educator, Family Relations
Reviewer: Kathleen Olson, Extension Educator, Family Relations (2011)

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