Family Emergency Plan [with Checklist Template]

“Be Prepared”, the Boy Scout motto means you are always in a prepared state of mind to do whatever is necessary to do your duty.

Today, that motto holds up well when structuring a Family Emergency Plan.

A Family Emergency Plan is just that, plans designed for what to do in a variety of emergency circumstances like natural disasters, or fires. 

Read on to discover why you should definitely have a plan if you don't already, how to create one, and grab our free checklist template.

Why is a family emergency plan necessary? 

There are a myriad of sources out there emphasizing the need for a plan in case of disasters. Different disasters will require a different plan, but a solid Family Emergency Plan will have plans for nearly every instance.

Storms, natural disasters, and family emergencies all require planning ahead. A plan will give you step by step instructions on what to do in an emergency, as well as options for pets and your family members.

Most importantly though, your family plan is specific to your family and your neighborhood, which means you must be the one to organize and prepare your plan. 

Fewer than 69% of American families have an Emergency Plan prepared, which means that during an emergency, the entire family is caught off guard with no real sense of direction or leadership.

Having a family emergency plan checklist set up and in place for your specific family will ease some of the pressure that comes with an emergency, and could possibly save your lives.

Begin by hosting a family meeting to talk through a variety of disasters and outline basic plans for everyone.

You want to ensure that your entire family is on the same page about why a family emergency plan is necessary before you can begin planning for emergencies specifically for your family.

Discuss the emergencies you’ll prepare for and consider everyone’s options for evacuation and why. 

Make a communication plan in case of separation during emergencies 

In today’s era of constant communication, your next step to your family emergency plan checklist is creating a family emergency communication plan.

Create a card, preferably laminated, with emergency numbers, and ensure that the numbers are memorized. Keep the card wallet sized for ease of use and ensure that it is on each family member whenever they leave the house.

Or grab our downloadable checklist below. 

For each phone, ensure that ICE numbers are on the phones and that the phones are always near full charge. The ICE numbers should also consist of at least one out of state phone number, in case of emergencies.

For the communication plan, it is also helpful to remember that during a disaster, phone towers may not be working, so phone calls may not be able to be placed.

Texting may work, but consider having a back-up emergency plan so people can always reach each other. Spare change and a prepaid phone card on hand would be useful as well as backup for communication.

Acknowledge the usefulness of social media and discuss the advantages of using Facebook to “mark yourself safe” during an emergency, as a last resort.

A family emergency communication plan is a big, but simple step towards preparing yourself and your family in case of emergencies. 

Make three evacuation plans 

​When considering your evacuation plans, consider a variety of emergencies for your specific area. Discuss daily schedules and how an emergency would affect everyone, say if children were in school and parents were working.


How would the children be contacted and who would be responsible for bringing them home? Consider your children’s schools emergency plans and how the school will react in case of an emergency requiring evacuation.


Plan an evacuation floor plan for a nighttime disaster as well as a daytime disasters, creating buddies, giving out jobs (if applicable), and discussing the care of anyone with special needs, and pets. Talk the plans over and remind children particularly that their safety is paramount.

Know your neighborhood and know the best way to navigate it. Better yet, combine your family’s plan with some of your neighbors. Pooling your expertise can save your lives and possibly minimize damage.

Have three designated meeting spots. One near your house in case of a fire where the family can meet in case of a fire. One in town in case of emergency and your family is separated and can’t get home. ​


Having a final meeting spot in case everyone is evacuated separately will ease all of your minds and create a plan in case of a natural disaster. This final meeting spot is best at a friend or relative’s house out of state but near enough that it is easily accessible.

As you plan out your evacuation plan, have a grab bag prepared and ready to go at all times, and ensure that someone’s job is to take it. As you create your family emergency plan, think of all the worst case scenarios and design a safe, reliable means to evacuate and get everyone to safety.

Practise your emergency plans 

As you finalized your plans, have them written up and have family members memorize them.

Test out your plans, so they’re instinctual and so you are all prepared and know what to do. Keep a copy of the plan out, maybe on the fridge, so it can be reread often.

Schedule two days each year where fire alarms and carbon monoxide monitors are tested, so you can be sure they work. Better yet, use these scheduled days as an opportunity to test out your emergency plan for a fire or house emergency.

Replace batteries as they go out as well, so all monitors are up to date and working at all times. Practice out the family emergency communication plan as well and update any emergency numbers should they change. 

Be prepared and think ahead

Emergencies are just that, emergencies, so being prepared is vital. Always keep your exits clear and open. Ensure that doors are locked from within, but can be unlocked easily in case of emergency.

Keep the keys accessible, but out of reach of small children who may hide them. Make sure that there are multiple exits available, and if a ladder is needed to use them, that the ladder is safe and secure, and within easy reach.

Check the dates on your important documents, like passports and driver’s licenses. Make sure that they’re up to date and easily accessible or in your grab bag.

To prevent emergencies, such as fires, turn off and unplug your hot devices like curling irons, hair dryers, hot pots, crock pots, and the like as faulty cords or outlets cause more fires than hot items.

Maintain your appliances, such as your dryer that can catch fire if the lint filter is full or clogged. Know where to turn off the natural gas and water lines to your house. Keep a tool kit handy in case you need it.

Think ahead and use common sense to prevent emergencies and simply be prepared. 

Unique Circumstances to consider 

If you foster children in your house, most states require you to create an emergency plan for foster family homes. Even if your state doesn’t require this, it would be handy to create, so everyone is prepared.

Your fire evacuation plan should consist of a basic map with arrows indicating the safest route out of the house. Many families keep these on the fridge so everyone can stay familiar with the routes.

Whether your state requires it or not, having an evacuation plan that lays out your basic family emergency plan in case your house must be evacuated is also very handy.

Giving a copy of your emergency plan for foster family homes to your social worker is also recommended, whether required or not, so they are up to date on your plans in case of emergency.

For more information about you foster family home emergency plan, contact your social worker for specific instructions.

Various other considerations to take into account 

Planning a grab bag is vital to your Family Emergency Plan Checklist. Cater it to your specific emergencies, but keep basic items such as food, water, a first aid kit, medicine, spare clothing, important documents, and cash.

Have it easily accessible and able to be carried as you’re running out the door. Many families keep a grab bag in their car, with these items in there already, but will also include emergency flags, flares, maps, and a whistle.

You would also want copies of your important documents in your grab bag, but avoid keeping these in your car.

Having an emergency kit prepared at home is important for natural disasters where you would be caught at home and need backup supplies. Like your grab bag, you want this kit to be specific to your family and area.

You can buy emergency preparedness supplies from reliable sources, like the Red Cross, but you will probably need to add in a few extra items to cater to your family.

Consider putting books and games in there to help pass the time if you’re stranded. Have enough items here to survive for three days without backup. Keep in mind that medicine, food, spare glasses or contact lenses all can expire and will need to be replaced routinely so your emergency kit remains up to date.

If you live in a tornado zone, keep this emergency kit in your safe place, so everything is prepared when disaster strikes. 

Creating a Family Emergency Plan may seem daunting, but it is far better to be prepared for emergencies than not. Having a plan and a kit to see you through a disaster can make navigating a disaster easier and in some instances, your Family Emergency Plan can save your life. 

Downloadable Family Emergency Plan Checklist

Link to emergency plan