How to Create a Family Emergency Plan

September is National Preparedness Month, part of an annual awareness campaign spearheaded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Are you prepared for the variety of disasters you might face in Florida? Do you have a plan? We lay out below what you should consider when creating your family’s emergency plan.

What Is an Emergency Plan?

A family emergency plan, aka disaster plan, involves reviewing and documenting what to do and how to do it when disaster strikes. Everyone in your household, as well as extended family and loved ones, should be aware of the plan and what their role is in an emergency. A disaster plan is your plan to stay safe, no matter what is happening around you.

Why Everyone in Florida Needs an Emergency Plan

The most common threats to anyone living in Florida are hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, and flooding. In these cases, you and your loved ones may find yourself sheltering in place at home, sometimes without electricity, running water, or other utilities. You may even have to evacuate your home and seek shelter elsewhere. Having an emergency plan can help reduce some of the chaos and panic in the moment, supply you with simple, helpful steps to follow, and provide peace of mind knowing you’ve thought things through ahead of time. House fires, health emergencies, and other severe weather events are additional types of disasters requiring a plan of action.

What to Include in Your Family's Emergency Plan

Any worthwhile emergency plan should address these topics: where/how to shelter or evacuate, types of supplies to gather, what to put in a go bag, how to communicate with loved ones if you become separated, and how to remain alert to changing conditions in an emergency. We cover each of these topics below in greater detail. You can also check out family emergency plan templates available from various sources online, such as FEMA and the American Red Cross (in English and Spanish).

Shelter / Evacuation Plans

This portion of your family emergency plan should include emergency meeting locations, how you’ll evacuate, and what you’ll need to successfully shelter in place.

Whether you’re staying home or planning to evacuate, be sure to accommodate the medical, dietary, and other specific needs of each household member, including pets.

For example:

Children: Pack plenty of games and activities for your children so they are entertained and kept busy while riding our the storm.

Elderly or loved ones with special needs: Don’t forget their medications, assistive devices (such as canes, walkers, glasses) and more.  

Pets: Include a water bowl, crate/carrier, special food, medications, and a favorite toy – especially if you end up having to evacuate. Consider microchipping your pet so you may find them more easily if they get lost.

Identify two meeting places where family members can get together quickly – and out of harm’s way – when disaster strikes. The first should be somewhere safe, right outside your home, in the event of fire, a gas leak, or other emergency requiring immediate evacuation of the premises. It could be as simple as a nearby tree, mailbox, or neighbor’s home. The second meeting place should be outside your immediate neighborhood, should you need to leave not only your home but the entire area. Make sure the designated locations are accessible to all family members.

Choose several possible evacuation routes, in case your first choice is not feasible. Be prepared to stay at a hotel, with family or friends, or at an evacuation shelter if necessary.  

Supplies and Go Bag

There are numerous disaster supplies and build-a-kit checklists you can use, most of which include reminders to stock up on shelf-stable food, water, and to keep a first aid kit, important documents, cash, phone chargers, and comfort items for kids/pets handy. Keep a version of these supplies in a bag you can grab and go in case of emergency. Don’t forget to include any special needs items, such as diapers, baby food, medications, and pet supplies.

Communication Plan

Collect and share everyone's phone number and schedule, as well as contact information for friends, family, schools, workplaces, doctors, local police/fire/hospital/vet, the poison control center and animal control. Select an out-of-area contact person who can coordinate communications if internet or phone service becomes limited in your area. You can use this emergency contact card template from the American Red Cross to make sure each household member has the most important information at their fingertips.  

Ensure You Get Emergency Alerts

There are several ways to ensure you’re staying on top of a quickly changing emergency situation. Here are a few:

Enable emergency alerts on your cellphone by going to “settings,” “notifications,” and turning on the emergency and public safety alerts at the bottom of the screen.

Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts, which run 24/7. Find the NWR station nearest you.

Download apps with local emergency alert functionality: American Red Cross app; FEMA app; The Weather Channel app.

Discover more local alerts available for your area by searching the internet for your city name, along with “Florida alerts.”

Know the Plan & Practice It!

Once you have decided on the details of your family emergency plan, keep the plan in an easy-to-access area (such as on the refrigerator). Practice safely evacuating your home and meeting at the designated spot just outside your home. Ideally, you should do this in the daylight and at night with everyone starting from their respective beds. Practice leaving with nothing, with essentials, and with the time to organize your departure – and make sure everyone understands when to do each.

Include Insurance in Your Emergency Planning

No family emergency plan is complete without making sure your home and personal property will be protected even after a devastating loss. This includes documenting your property and valuables, understanding your insurance options, and purchasing coverage in the proper amounts and for the right types of potential hazards, depending on your goals and location.

At Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, we’ve been helping homeowners like you plan for potential disasters and get the property protection they need since 2005. As one of the largest Florida-based homeowner’s insurance companies, we offer multi-peril policies covering homes, condos, renter’s belongings, and more. Find out more by getting a quote or calling your Florida Peninsula agent now.

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