Update your Family Disaster Plan

Kathi Larkin
Summit CERT

Imagine being off the mountain when the next major earthquake strikes or another wildfire breaks out. Imagine not being able to communicate with your family by land line, cell phone, or Internet and not being able to get home for several days. Mountain people know that there is more to preparing for a major disaster than making a supply kit. An equally important element of preparedness is the family disaster plan. Think of this as your communication plan.

Refer to the following excellent websites for detailed advice and ideas about creating your family disaster plan:



Create and discuss your plan with your loved ones.

  Talk through the possible hazards we face: earthquake, wildfire, etc. Keep it age-appropriate for the younger ones.

Call the people you want to include in your plan.

Ask them if they would be willing to help out, when needed, if they are able. Be sure to include local neighbors, relatives, and friends, as well as two agreed-upon out-of-state contacts. You may need to call on someone locally to check on your pets, or give you information on your home, road, or area. If local phone service is down or jammed, long-distance phone service may still be working. Those predetermined long-distance contacts can act as a relay system, helping you pass on information about your health and well-being after a big event.

Write down the plan.

Imagine counting on someone else to help you, your home, your pets, or your loved ones, who may be in need of medical care. This is when details matter the most. You will need lists and a written plan.  


Your names, home and business addresses, phone numbers (home, cell, work), and email addresses.

Names, addresses, phone numbers (home, cell, work), and email addresses of the local people you can call on, as well as two out-of-state contacts.

Names and ages of your children, their cell-phone numbers, email addresses, and the addresses and phone numbers of the schools they attend.

Medical and dental insurance information. Names, addresses, and phone numbers of your doctors, dentists, and preferred hospitals.

Plan for your pets. Think through their food and water needs. Keep their vaccination records, leashes, and carriers handy. Try to prearrange possible animal shelters for them.

Ask your school, workplace, and daycare about their disaster plan. Incorporate this information into your family disaster plan. Use the same information on your family disaster plan when you fill out your child’s school emergency card.

Pick two places to meet: one safe, open spot right outside your home; and a meeting place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home, perhaps the home of a friend in town. You might add a place on each side of the hill. This will help make family reunification easier.

Think through your evacuation planning. It is better to have done this in advance, in a calm atmosphere, than in the middle of the night when fire threatens and you only have minutes to act. Plan two or more escape routes out of your neighborhood. 

Practice fire and evacuation drills with your family.

Physically practice the act of getting out in the dark and loading up your most important documents, valuables, supplies, people, and pets. This will help you make needed adjustments to your plan. Done in the right spirit, children can help and feel confident that their grown-ups have a plan. Knowledge, preparation, and skills can be empowering.

 Make copies of the plan and distribute copies to everyone involved.

Your plan is useless if it is stuck in your computer and no one has access to it. Print out your plan and make paper copies. Give a copy to your out-of-state and local contacts. Ask them to keep it with their own disaster supply kits. Keep a copy in all your vehicles (along with your mini-disaster supply kit) and another one in your home-disaster supply kit. Make a few extra copies so you can leave a copy with your children when they are away on a play date, sleepover, or with a babysitter.

Back-to-school is the perfect time to think through and update your plan. Take a weekend before the busy school year starts to think these things through with your family. You and your loved ones will take great comfort knowing you have a plan.

Next month, Summit CERT will announce details about our next round of Community Emergency Response Team training. Remember, you do not have to join the team to take the classes. Our goal is to help create a culture of preparedness on the mountain. Be sure to bookmark our preparedness blog:



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