How to Make a Family Emergency Plan
Step 1: Analysis
In order to be prepared, you need to have an idea of what you are preparing for. Think about your local area and look into what hazards are likely to affect you. For how long should you be prepared to be self-sufficient if these emergencies come? Will they affect only a small area, perhaps just a single building, or will they be on a larger scale? A house fire requires a very different response than an earthquake or hurricane.
In this step, take some time to really think about where you and your household spend their time and how they are likely to be affected if an emergency happens. With this firmly in mind, it is time to make a Family Emergency Plan.
Step 2: Immediate Response
Once you know what you may face in an emergency, it’s critical to know how to respond to it as it is happening. I recommend putting these processes right into your emergency plan and referring back to them at least once a year to practice the procedures.
For a house fire, this might mean practicing crawling under smoke, going to your meeting place, or using unusual exit points for your home. One of my strongest memories as a kid was getting to climb out of my bedroom window and off the roof as part of a fire drill. Going through the motions and imagining why I might need to be doing these things hit home much more clearly than any lecture could have.
Step 3: Reunification
Emergencies can happen anytime. They usually don’t wait for everyone to be home and safe before striking. This is why creating a plan to reunify your household in an emergency is so important. If little Jimmy is at school, Mrs Jimmy is at work, Mr Jimmy is at his parents’ house and Jimmette is at college, how does everyone find one another? Who is responsible for picking up little Jimmy? Does Mr Jimmy stay with his parents or come home?
This is the most important step in making a Family Emergency Plan.
Consider where each member of your household spends their time. Establish guidelines and contingencies for how each person gets to your meeting place, and where they will go if your meeting place is not safe. Plan at least two routes in and out of locations in case some roads or exits are impassable.
Once everyone is together, where will you go if your home is not viable? Do you have an emergency kit you can take with you? And, of course, who do you call to let loved ones know you’re alright?
Step 4: Establish an Out of Town Contact
If your family is living apart – Jimmette might live on campus for example – you need to establish an out of town contact. This should be someone who is unlikely to be affected by the same emergency as you, often in a different province, and who answers their phone reliably.
Everyone in your household should know this person’s contact information or have it in their phone/wallet. Make it part of your plan that each person checks in with the out of town contact. Let them know that they are safe and get news of other family members. This will allow the contact to coordinate communications from a safe place. If the phone lines are not working, texts will often still go through.
Be sure to ask your contact for permission before making them responsible for your family communications. Ensure they understand their role and are okay with taking it on.
Step 5: Consider Everyone
Once plans are in place for all the members of the Jim family, we need to look at their immediate circle. Pets, parents, neighbours, or others that may need help from the Jims, should be considered in the plan. This could be as little as checking in to make sure that everyone is okay, or as much as adding extra supplies to your kit to ensure their pets don’t go hungry.
Step 6: Share and Teach
Once you have your plan ready to go, sit down with those involved in your plan and discuss it. Take feedback and confirm that everyone has a good understanding of what to do in an emergency. Schedule drills and kit-checkups at least once a year to keep everything up to date and top of mind. If something changes, update the plan. Don’t assume everyone will automatically pick up on the change.
The government of Canada has a great resource to help you make your plan which you can find here. Be methodical in your process and be sure to document what you come up with. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a break, but be sure to come back to it. A plan is one of the most important parts of being prepared, whether you are living on your own, or have an extensive, multi-generational household.
Thank you for reading. This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author of Tethered and emergency preparedness professional.