There are many resources produced by FEMA and ready.gov for creating a personalized family emergency plan for your family. If your family includes children, it can be best to download and fill in an emergency plan template and then discuss the plan with your children once all the decisions have been made.

Once your plan is in place, it’s important to go over it regularly—at least two times a year—especially if you have small children. On that note, be sensitive to the developmental capacities of your children as you explain what they should do. Some children may be upset that such a thing as a fire could ever happen in their own home.

It may be useful to explain how infrequent such occurrences are and focus on the fact that you love them and want to keep them safe. Keep in mind that doing practice runs for emergencies will help children who are especially sensitive to feel more secure if an emergency does ever happen. It’s also important to include a plan for your pets as well.

Once you’ve got your family emergency plan squared away, check into the plan for your office, your daycare, or school as well. There are a few major areas that need to be addressed when making any emergency plan. They are emergency communications, escape routes, and utility shut-off.

Emergency Communications

It’s important for everyone in your household to have a plan for communication in case they are separated during an emergency. It’s important to create a contact card for each child in your household and have them keep it in their backpack or wallet. Make sure everyone knows their address and phone number.

Use a close friend or relative who lives out of state as a mutual contact for all your family members in the event of an emergency. In certain situations it’s easier to contact someone long distance than locally.

Escape Routes

You will want to discuss two escape routes from each room. If your house has multiple stories, plan to use an escape ladder to get out. Make sure all members of your family are familiar with and know how to use it.

Designate a meeting place for when you are at home and away from home. For example, if you are home during an emergency, the meeting place might be the mailbox at the end of your yard. If you are away from home it could be a nearby park or store.

Utility Shut-off

It is important that every member of your household knows how to shut off the natural gas, water, and electricity for your home. This will prevent fires that frequently happen after a disaster. Keep instructions for the shutoff of these utilities close to where the utilities are themselves.