Why Prepare?

Basic Preparedness
Getting Informed
Planning and Checklists
Special Needs
Disaster Supplies Kit

Natural Hazards
Thunderstorms and lightning
Winter storms and extreme cold
Extreme heat
Landslides and debris flow

Technological Hazards
Hazardous materials incidents
Household chemical emergencies
Nuclear power plant emergencies

Biological threats
Chemical threats
Nuclear blasts
Radiological dispersion device events

Recovering from Disaster
Health and safety guidelines
Returning home
Seeking disaster assistance
Coping with disaster
Helping others

Emergency Planning and Checklists
Now that you’ve learned about what can happen and how your community is prepared to respond to emergencies, prepare your family by creating a family disaster plan. You can begin this process by gathering family members and reviewing the information you obtained about hazards, warning systems, evacuation routes and other plans). Discuss with them what you would do if family members are not home when a warning is issued. Additionally, your family plan should address the following:
  • Escape routes
  • Family communications
  • Utility shut-off and safety
  • Insurance and vital records
  • Special needs
  • Caring for animals
  • Safety Skills

How can I Make and Use Escape Routes?
Draw a floor plan of your home. Use a blank sheet of paper for each floor. Mark two escape routes from each room. Make sure children understand the drawings. Post a copy of the drawings at eye level in each child’s room.

Where Should We Meet?
Establish a place to meet in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Examples:

Near the Home
 Next door neighbor’s telephone pole
Outside the Immediate Area
Grocery Store Parking Lot

How do I plan for Family Communication during a Disaster?
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another. Think about how you will communicate in different situations.
Complete a contact card for each family member. Have family members keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse, backpack, etc. You may want to send one to school with each child to keep on file. Pick a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe.

How do I handle Utility Shut-off and Safety?
In the event of a disaster, you may be instructed to shut off the utility service at your home.

Below is some general guidance for shutting off utility service:
Modify the information provided to reflect your shut off requirements as directed by your utility company.

Natural Gas

Natural gas leaks and explosions are responsible for a significant number of fires following disasters. It is vital that all household members know how to shut off natural gas.

Because there are different gas shut-off procedures for different gas meter configurations, it is important to contact your local gas company for guidance on preparation and response regarding gas service in your home.

When you learn the proper shut-off procedure for your meter, share the information with everyone in your household. Be sure not to actually turn off the gas when practicing the proper gas procedure.

If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home.

CAUTION - If you turn off the gas for any reason, a qualified professional must turn it back on. NEVER attempt to turn the gas back on yourself.


Water quickly becomes a precious resource following many disasters. It is vital that all household members learn how to shut off the water at the main house valve.

Cracked lines may pollute the water supply to your house. It is wise to shut off your water until you hear from authorities that it is safe for drinking

The effects of gravity may drain the water in your hot water heater and toilet tanks unless you trap it in your house by shutting off the main house valve

Preparing to Shut Off Water
Locate the shut-off valve for the water line that enters your house

Make sure this valve can be completely shut off. Your valve may be rusted open, or it may only partially close. Replace it if necessary

Label this valve with a tag for easy identification and make sure all household members know where it is located


Electrical sparks have the potential of igniting natural gas if it is leaking. It is wise to teach all responsible household members where and how to shut off the electricity.

Preparing to Shut Off Electricity
Locate your electricity circuit box

Teach all responsible household members how to shut off the electricity to the entire house

FOR YOUR SAFETY: Always shut off all the individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit breaker.

How do I guarantee My Insurance and Vital Records?
Obtain property, health and life insurance. Review existing policies for the amount and extent of coverage to ensure that what you have in place is what is required for your family in any hazard.

Flood Insurance

If you live in a flood-prone area, consider purchasing flood insurance to reduce your risk of flood loss. Buying flood insurance to cover the value of a building and its contents will not only provide greater peace of mind, but will speed the recovery if a flood occurs. You can call 1 (888) FLOOD29 to learn more about flood insurance.

Inventory Home Possessions

Make a record of your personal property, for insurance purposes. Take photos or a video of the interior and exterior of your home. Include personal belongings in your inventory.

You may like to download the free Household and Personal Property Inventory Book from the University of Illinois at Vista Abstract to help you record your possessions.

Important Documents

Store important documents like insurance policies, deeds, property records and other important papers in a safe place--such as a safety deposit box away from your home. Make copies of important documents for your disaster supplies kit.


Consider saving money in an emergency savings account that could be used in any crisis. It is advisable to keep a small amount of cash or traveler’s checks at home in a safe place where you can quickly access them in case of evacuation.

How do I Plan for Special Needs in the family for an emergency?
If you or someone close to you has a disability or a special need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency.