Make Plans

Your top priority during an emergency will probably be finding your loved ones. How will you communicate and where should you go if you're separated? Get everyone together now to have this conversation.

How to Make an Emergency Plan


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Example (PDF)


A family sits on a sofa and discusses their emergency plan. A young woman shows some documents to an older man and woman. The older woman is leaning on the man, who is holding a folder.


Young Caucasian boy stands on a suburban street. He is holding a hand-drawn map of his neighborhood with his house and a meeting spot labeled.



Agree on Several Meeting Places

Talk with your loved ones. Think about where you spend most of your time. Discuss how you'd deal with different situations. What if you’re at work and the kids are at school? What if you're running an errand or on vacation? What if you can't cross the bridges? For each scenario you discuss, agree on a meeting place. Then come up with another meeting place in case the first one isn't safe or you can't get to it.

Pick Local and Out-of-Area Contacts

Think of friends, family, and neighbors who might be able to help during an emergency if they are nearby. Next, select one or two contacts that don't live on the West Coast. Local telephone connections often fail when a lot of people are trying to make calls at once.

Update Emergency Contacts Regularly

If you have kids, provide their school with several emergency contacts. Choose people who are usually close to the school during school hours. Make sure they know they are listed as emergency contacts. Talk to them about your expectations. Do the same for loved ones in a retirement home, medical facility, or other facility.

Write It Down and Make Copies

You're likely to forget the plan if you're upset. Make sure everything is written down and everyone has a copy with them at all times. Include phone numbers and addresses of all people and locations involved in your plan, as well as various ways to stay informed

Print this blank form or create your own customized plan on a blank sheet of paper. Include whatever is helpful for you and your situation. Consider the additional needs of yourself, your loved ones, and your pets. You can also print instructions and an example family plan

Make copies for yourself and everyone involved in your plan. Put copies in your emergency kits. Stick one to your refrigerator so everyone can see it. Keep one in your car and one in your child's backpack. Take a picture of it and keep it in your cell phone.

Share and Practice Your Plans

How will you make sure everyone is cared for if you can't get to each other? Share your plans with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and caregivers. Include anyone who might play a role in caring for your loved ones if you can't get to them. Include children in this discussion as well.

Walk to your meeting sites regularly. Talk about the plan. Remind your emergency and out-of-state contacts about it. Pick dates to practice and update your plan. Put them in your calendar. Set reminders.

Leave a Trail

You may need to change your plans during an emergency. But you may not be able to call, text, or email. If you decide to leave your agreed upon meeting place, leave a note telling people where you’re headed.

Plan for Everyone, Everywhere


Thumbnail photos of many types of people with additional needs.



Consider Everyone's Needs

Many of us have additional needs. We are caring for children, aging, have disabilities, are pregnant or breastfeeding, rely on medicine or medical supplies, use public transportation, or rely on the help of others to meet our basic needs. Planning ahead will ensure that we get our needs met during a disaster. Visit the Involve Children and Additional Needs pages for more information.

Plans for Your Animals

For many of us, our pets are an important part of our family. For some of us, livestock are an important part of our livelihood. When preparing for an emergency, plan for animals too.

When Visiting the Coast

When you visit the California, Oregon, or Washington coast, make sure you're ready for an earthquake and tsunami. Be familiar with local tsunami evacuation routes. And have a portable emergency kit with you at all times.