Disasters, both natural and man-made, can strike at any time. It's important to be prepared and have plans for anything that may arise. Here you can find tips for preparing and information on how to make plans.
Planning for an Emergency
Always Remain Calm
Be prepared to adapt this information to your personal circumstances and make every effort to follow instructions received from authorities on the scene. Above all, stay calm, be patient, and think before you act. With these simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected.
Develop a Family Communications Plan
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town. Have a family member or friend who lives in another location be a designated contact if this is the case. Be sure each person knows the phone number and has coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. Getting through may be tough so be patient. Cell phones are another option.
FEMA's Ready.gov site can help you prepare a family plan with details and downloadable materials on their Make a Plan page.
Deciding to Stay or Go
Use common sense and available information to determine if there is an immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. You should watch TV, listen to the radio, and check the websites of news organizations and government officials often for information or official instructions as it becomes available.
Staying Put and "Sheltering in Place"
If you see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated, you may want to "shelter in place" (staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside). Plan in advance where you will take shelter. Choose an interior room or a room with as few windows and doors as possible.
Quickly bring your family and pets inside, lock doors, and close windows, air vents, and fireplace dampers. Turn off air conditioning, forced air heating systems, exhaust fans, and clothes dryers. Seal off all windows and air vents in the room with heavyweight garbage bags or plastic sheeting and duct tape.
If you chose to evacuate, plan in advance how you will assemble your family and anticipate where you will go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency. If you have a car, keep at least a half tank of gas in it at all times, or store an extra gas can in a safe location. Become familiar with alternate routes as well as other means of transportation out of your area. Take pets with you if you are going to evacuate. However, if you are going to a public shelter, keep in mind that they may not be allowed inside. Research ahead of time for pet-friendly locations or what shelters will allow pets and what kinds they will allow. Also, contact your local animal shelters. Many of them will have the ability to provide you with information on what can be done with your pet in cases of emergency.
For more information on planning for an evacuation, visit the "Evacuating Yourself and Your Family" page.
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least ten days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a ten-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and an NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger
Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following items:
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for your pet; put together a Pet Emergency Kit
- Cash or traveler's checks and change
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
- Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this website
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted (nine parts water to one part bleach) bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children
In any emergency, a family member or you yourself may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt.
Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. You may consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection and assist in decontamination.
- Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
- Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
- Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Burn ointment
- Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
- Eyewash solution to flush the eyes or as a general decontaminant
- Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine, and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
- Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
- Non-prescription drugs:
- Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
- Anti-diarrhea medication
- Other first aid supplies:
- Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricants
Pet Emergency Kit
Put together a kit of pet emergency supplies. Just as you do with your family's emergency supply kit, think first about the basics for survival, particularly food and water.
- Food: Keep at least ten days of food in an airtight, waterproof container
- Water: Store at least ten days of water specifically for your pets, in addition to water you need for yourself and your family
- Medicines and medical records: Keep an extra supply of medicines your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container
- First aid kit: Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet's emergency medical needs. Include a pet first aid reference book. Most kits should include:
- Cotton bandage rolls
- Bandage tape and scissors
- Antibiotic ointment
- Flea and tick prevention
- Latex gloves
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Saline solution
- Collar with ID tag, harness, or leash: Your pet should wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification at all times. Include a backup leash, collar, and ID tag in your pet's emergency supply kit
- Important documents: Place copies of your pet's registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents, and medical records in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container and also add them to your kit
- Crate or other pet carriers: If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation take your pets and animals with you, provided that it is practical to do so
- Sanitation: Include pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet's sanitation needs. You can use bleach as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency, you can also use it to purify water. Use 8 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water, stir well and let it stand for 30 minutes before use. Do not use scented or color-safe bleaches or those with added cleaners.
- A picture of you and your pet together: If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
- Familiar items: Put favorite toys, treats, or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.
Consider two kits. In one, put everything your pets will need to stay where you are and make it on your own. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you and your pets have to get away.
Make a Plan for What You Will Do in an Emergency
Plan in advance what you will do in an emergency. Be prepared to assess the situation. Use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and ensure your pet's safety during an emergency.
Evacuate. Plan how you will assemble your pets and anticipate where you will go. If you must evacuate, take your pets with you, if practical. If you go to a public shelter, keep in mind your pets may not be allowed inside.
Secure appropriate lodging in advance depending on the number and type of animals in your care. Consider family or friends outside your immediate area who would be willing to take in you and your pets in an emergency.
Other options may include a hotel or motel that takes pets or some sort of boarding facility, such as a kennel or veterinary hospital that is near an evacuation facility or your family's meeting place. Find out before an emergency happens if any of these facilities in your area might be viable options for you and your pets.
Develop a buddy system. Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Talk with your pet care buddy about your evacuation plans and show them where you keep your pet's emergency supply kit. Also designate specific locations, one in your immediate neighborhood and the other farther away, where you will meet in an emergency.
Talk to your pet's veterinarian about emergency planning. Discuss the types of things you should include in your pet's emergency first aid kit. Get the names of vets or veterinary hospitals in other cities where you might need to seek temporary shelter. Also, talk with your veterinarian about microchipping. If you and your pet are separated, this permanent implant for your pet and corresponding enrollment in a recovery database can help a veterinarian or shelter identify your animal. If your pet is microchipped, keeping your emergency contact information up to date and listed with a reliable recovery database is essential to you and your pet being reunited.
Gather contact information for emergency animal treatment. Make a list of contact information and addresses of area animal control agencies including the Humane Society or ASPCA and emergency veterinary hospitals. Keep one copy of these phone numbers with you, and one in your pet's emergency supply kit. Obtain "Pets Inside" stickers and place them on your doors or windows, including information on the number and types of pets in your home to alert firefighters and rescue workers. Consider putting a phone number on the sticker where you could be reached in an emergency. And, if time permits, remember to write the words "Evacuated with Pets" across the stickers should you evacuate your home with your pets.
Be Prepared for What Might Happen
Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an emergency supply kit for yourself, your family and your pets, is the same regardless of the type of emergency. However, it's important to say informed about what might happen and know what types of emergencies are likely to affect your region.
- Be prepared to adapt this information to your personal circumstances and make every effort to follow instructions received from authorities on the scene. With these simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected.
- Those who take the time to prepare themselves and their pets will likely encounter less difficulty, stress, and worry. Take the time now to get yourself and your pet ready.
Knowing the actions to take for each type of threat will impact the specific decisions and preparations you make. By learning about these specific threats, you are preparing yourself to react in an emergency. Visit our "Prepare for an Event" page to learn how to prepare for specific threats.