Disaster Preparedness Planning

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services--water, gas, electricity, or telephones--were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.

Families can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed to create your family's disaster plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

1. Find Out What Could Happen to You

  • Contact your local Red Cross chapter, Fire Department or the Office of Emergency Services.
  • Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen. 
  • Talk with neighbors and learn the history of your area.
  • Learn about your community's warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them. Such as Solano County’s (City-Watch), an emergency telephone notification system.
  • Ask about animal care after a disaster. Animals are not allowed inside emergency shelters because of health regulations.
  • Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons, if needed.
  • Find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or day care center, and other places where your family spends time.

2. Create a Disaster Plan

  • Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for a disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.
  • Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.
  • Pick two places to meet:
    1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
    2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
  • Ask an out-of-state friend to be your "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone number.
  • Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.

 3. Complete This Checklist

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
  • Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 for emergency help.
  • Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main source.
  • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
  • Get training for family members on how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it's located. Ensure that it is inspected once a year.
  • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
  • Conduct a home hazard hunt.
  • Stock emergency supplies and assemble a disaster supply kit
  • Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home as well as a remote meeting place. Find two ways out of each room.
  • Find the safe places in your home for each type of disaster.

4. Practice and Maintain Your Plan

  • Quiz your kids every six months so.
  • Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
  • Replace stored water every six months and stored food every six months.
  • Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly and charge the batteries at least once a year.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help arrives. If you're a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbors' special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for childcare in case parents can't get home.

Home Hazard Hunt

During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. Anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire is a home hazard. For example, a hot water heater or a bookshelf can fall. Inspect your home at least once a year and fix potential hazards.

Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.


  • Evacuate immediately if told to do so:
  • Listen to your battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your disaster supply kit
  • Lock your home.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities--don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.

If you're sure you have time:

  • Shut off water, gas, and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so.
  • Make arrangements for your pets.

 Emergency Supplies

  • Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. Assemble an emergency kit with items you may need in an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle bags, or covered trash containers.


    • A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.
    • One change of clothing and footwear per person, and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
    • A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.
    • Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
    • An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler's checks.
    • Sanitation supplies.
    • Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
    • An extra pair of glasses.
    • Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Keep a smaller kit in the trunk of your car.


  • Locate the main electric fuse box, water service main, and natural gas main. Learn how and when to turn these utilities off. Teach all responsible family members. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Remember, turn off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if you are instructed to do so. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.

If Disaster Strikes

  • Remain calm and patient. Put your plan into action.

Check for Injuries

  • Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.

Listen to Your Battery-Powered Radio for News and Instructions

  • Evacuate, if advised to do so. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.

Check for Damage in Your Home...

  • Use flashlights. Do not light matches or turn on electrical switches, if you suspect damage.
  • Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities. (You will need a professional to turn gas back on.)
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, and other flammable liquids immediately.

   Remember to...

  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Call your family contact--do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.
  • Make sure you have an adequate water supply in case service is cut off.
  • Always stay away from downed power lines

 Each of us needs to be confident that we have developed a family emergency plan that will keep our families together and safe during a time of crisis.  In addition to preparing for emergencies it can also reduce the anxiety in families, particularly in children.  Should an emergency or disaster strike, knowing what to do is your responsibility and best protection.