Whether a threat to your family's safety comes in the form of a forest fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, chemical spill or terrorist attack, your chances of surviving it are increased if you already have a plan in place and a well-stocked emergency supply kit. Your strategy, including an evacuation plan, not only should involve everyone who resides in your household but also should be rehearsed regularly and long in advance of it ever being needed.
Draw a floor plan of your house and identify all doors and windows that can safely be used for emergency exits.
Identify on the floor plan where your fire extinguishers are located. For a multistory house, indicate where the portable escape ladders are stored. You should also specify in your emergency evacuation plan where and how to shut off your home's utilities (electrical and gas) and water.
Indicate on the floor plan where you keep your most important documents. These would include things such as bank, credit card and Social Security information; insurance policies and inventories of your possessions; passports and birth certificates; health records and prescriptions; and property deeds. While you should never jeopardize your life trying to grab documents that are on file with business, government and medical entities, having them in your possession during an evacuation will help speed the process of putting your life back together.
Make a list of emergency telephone numbers as well as a list of out-of-state relatives and friends you might need to contact if you have to evacuate your house or neighborhood.
Specify in your plan a safe meeting place that family members should go to in the event they are separated at the time of the incident or become separated as the crisis unfolds. Have a Plan B in the event the prearranged meeting place is not accessible as well as a responsible out-of-state third party that family members can check in with if, for instance, they're at school or at the workplace and are diverted to an area the family wouldn't otherwise know about. You should also identify in the emergency plan where the nearest neighborhood shelter is situated.
Make a list of written rules for your children to observe in the event of an emergency, such as don't try to save your toys, don't open doors that feel hot and don't cross a pool of water if you don't know how deep it is.
Prepare a checklist of items for your emergency preparedness kit and include this in the document. These items will include bottled water, battery-operated radio, flashlights, blankets, first-aid kit, packaged snacks, matches, hand tools, duct tape, cellphone chargers, prescription medications and food for your pet(s). Specify on your floor plan where the emergency preparedness kit is kept.
Include a city map in your evacuation plan and highlight at least three escape routes to safety. This is particularly important if you live in a region that is prone to natural disasters that could affect the accessibility of certain roads.
Make copies of the evacuation plan and distribute them to family members. Make an extra copy that can be kept in a common area of the house, such as a kitchen drawer.
The resources below provide additional information about what to do in an emergency scenario that requires evacuation. Review the evacuation plan regularly with all family members, and incorporate practice drills as a quarterly routine in your household.