Family Disaster Planning

From “Family Disaster Plan.” developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross.

Create a Personalized Disaster Plan
Shelter-in-Place in an Emergency
What special needs and abilities do blind and visually impaired household members have?

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services–water, gas, electricity or telephones–were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.

Four Steps to Safety

  1. Find Out What Could Happen to You Contact your local Red Cross chapter or emergency management office before a disaster occurs–be prepared to take notes. Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen. Request information on how to prepare for each. Learn about your community’s warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them. Ask about animal care after a disaster. Animals are not allowed inside emergency shelters because of health regulations. Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons, if needed. Find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children’s school or day care center, and other places where your family spends time.
  2. Create a Disaster Plan Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team. Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case. Pick two places to meet: Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire. Outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number. Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact’s phone number. Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.
  3. Complete This Checklist Home Hazard Hunt
    • In a disaster, ordinary items in the home can cause injury and damage. Anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire is a potential hazard.
    • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections.
    • Fasten shelves securely.
    • Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves.
    • Hang pictures and mirrors away from beds.
    • Brace overhead light fixtures.
    • Secure water heater. Strap to wall studs.
    • Repair cracks in ceilings or foundations.
    • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products away from heat sources.
    • Place oily polishing rags or waste in covered metal cans.
    • Clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors, and gas vents.
    • Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
    • Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
    • Show each family member how and when to turn off the utilities (water, gas, and electricity) at the main switches.
    • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
    • Get training from the fire department for each family member on how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it’s kept.
    • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
    • Conduct a home hazard hunthome hazard hunt.
    • Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
    • Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
    • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
    • Find the safe places in your home for each type of disaster.
  4. Practice and Maintain Your Plan
    • Quiz your kids every six months or so.
    • Conduct fire and emergency evacuations.
    • Replace stored water and stored food every six months.
    • Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
    • Neighbors Helping Neighbors Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help arrives. If you’re a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbors’ special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents can’t get home.

If Disaster Strikes

  • Remain calm and patient. Put your plan into action.
  • Check for Injuries
  • Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
  • Listen to Your Battery-Powered Radio for News and Instructions
  • Check for Damage in Your Home…
  • Use flashlights. Do not light matches or turn on electrical switches, if you suspect damage.
  • Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly. Shut off any other damaged utilities. (You will need a professional to turn gas back on.)
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, and other flammable liquids immediately.

Remember to…

  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Call your family contact–do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.
  • Make sure you have an adequate water supply in case service is cut off.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • To get copies of American Red Cross community disaster education materials, contact your local Red Cross chapter.

For households with one or more disabled member, NHEST and Penobscot REACT suggest these additions.

  1. Make sure emergency supplies are kept in the same place at all times. Check frequently and make sure all members of the household realize the importance of this placing.
  2. Label supplies according to sensory abilities, ie, Braille or other touch method for blind, color for dyslexic, etc.
  3. Good advice for all is to keep food, water, and medical supplies fresh. Rotate on a regular basis.
  4. Make special arrangements for any service animal in the household.
  5. Seek advice and suggestions from agencies or organizations with whom you work.
  6. Use the abilities of all. If the lights go out in an emergency, ask the blind member of your household for guidance. He/she will be used to operating without sight.
  7. Use a simple family service 2-way radio set to maintain links to others in your neighborhood. Practice the links and check the batteries in the radios regularly. Choose a channel all can operate on. This will help you to protect yourself and your neighbors. Use care and select a model that you can operate easily.
  8. Consider volunteering to assist your community in times of emergency. Write us . Blind and visually impaired people serve their communities with great skill and dedication in communications and other areas. But your first job is to see to the security of your home and family.

Remember that the better prepared you are, the better your chances will be of coming through a disaster unscathed. And you will help your community at the same time.

dividing line

  • Top of page
  • (Radio Emergency Associated Comunication Teams)
  • (Amateur Radio Emergency Service)
  • (National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster)
  • NHEST homepage
  • Site index