Make an Emergency Plan

Family laughing together.

Make an Emergency Plan

Steps to take to create a household emergency plan include the following:

  • Meet with your family members and discuss the dangers of possible emergency events including fire, severe weather, hazardous spills, and terrorism.
  • Discuss how you and your family will respond to each possible emergency. Know how to contact all family members at all times. Think 24/7 and 365.
  • Discuss what to do in case of power outages or personal injuries
  • Draw a floor plan of your home. If possible, mark two escape routes from each room.
  • Select two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home (a real possibility during the day when most adults are at work and children are at school).
  • Identify an out-of-town friend or relative as your "emergency family check-in contact" for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Make sure all family members have the correct phone number. It is often easier to call out-of-town during an emergency than within the affected area.
  • Post emergency contact numbers near all telephones. Include local police, fire and health departments, poison control, your children's schools, doctors, child/senior care providers and insurance agents.
  • Make sure everyone knows how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services phone number.
  • Install safety features in your home such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Inspect your home for potential hazards - and correct them.
  • Have your family learn basic safety and first aid measures.
  • Keep family records in a waterproof and fireproof safe.
  • Have emergency supplies on hand.
  • Teach adults how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches. If for any reason you do turn off natural gas service to your home, call your natural gas utility to restore service. DO not attempt to restore gas service yourself.
  • Make arrangements for your pets. Most shelters do not allow pets. Prior to an emergency, contact your county or local emergency management office and ask them where you could leave your pet. Have ID, collar, leash and proof of vaccination for all pets. Have current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
  • Practice the plan!

Preparing Yourself At Home

Safety Survey Your Home

Check each room with "earthquake eyes." Sit in each room and ask yourself what would injure you if a major earthquake hit at that moment. Fix any possible hazards.


An unprepared kitchen can be the most hazardous room in the house. Shattered glass, spilled chemicals, gas-fed fires, and falling objects are potential hazards.


Are there any objects that could fall and injure you in bed or block your escape route? Place shoes, flashlight, extra set of car keys, and phone numbers of contacts in a plastic bag under your bed.

Living Areas

Attach tall objects, such as bookshelves and dressers, to wall studs. Place heavy objects on floor or lower shelves. Store most-valuable breakable objects on lower shelves; consider earthquake wax to secure objects. Consider childproof locks on cabinets. Check smoke detectors every month.

Garage and Laundry Room

Water heater should be strapped with lag bolts to studs in wall; one strap 1/3 distance from top and another 1/3 from the bottom. Gas water heater and gas stove in kitchen should use flexible gas lines that will move in an earthquake. Place heavy objects on lower garage shelving, if around car. Store all flammable material in well-marked, unbreakable containers. Properly dispose of any hazardous material no longer needed. Know how to open electric garage door if power is off.


Always keep gas tank ¼ to ½ full. Place emergency supplies in trunk of car. When you get new eye glasses, place old pair in glove compartment. Keep cell phone charger in car.


Keep lawns trimmed, leaves raked, and roof and rain gutters free of debris. Remove any dead wood, debris, and low tree branches within 5 yards of houses. Trim out shrubs and trees within 10 yards. If possible, store flammable materials in metal containers at least 10 yards away from house and wood fences. Get rid of any flammable material that isn't needed and store firewood 10 yards from house. Landscape property with fire resistant plants and vegetation. Visit the BeWaterWise Website for lists of fire resistant plants. Of course, nothing is fireproof, including plants, as the 2003 firestorms showed. But is it possible to have plants that save water and protect against fire at the same time? Absolutely.