Family Preparation for Natural Disasters in Four Easy Steps | DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

Keeping your family safe and getting your life back to normal following a natural disaster depends on advance planning and time and energy devoted to preparation.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP) — four comprehensive steps to prepare your family for disasters, prevent personal injuries and promote safety readiness.  Taking time as a family to prepare for the unexpected not only helps to ensure everyone’s safety, but models responsibility.  Use the following tips in your own preparation, courtesy of the AAP:

1. Find out what the risks are in your area.

Find out from your local emergency management office, health department, or American Red Cross chapter

  • What types of disasters are likely to happen and how to prepare for each
  • What your community’s warning signals sound like and what to do if you hear them
  • How to help the elderly and people with special needs

2. Create a family disaster plan.

Hold a family meeting; keep it simple and work as a team.

Plan Talk about the dangers of the disaster(s) with your family.

  • Have a plan in case you are separated. – Choose a place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot go home (A). – Choose someone out of town to be your family contact (B). Each family member and any babysitter must know the address and phone number for A and B.
  • Fill out the local emergency phone numbers and child identification cards. Fill out an Emergency Information Form (EIF) for each child with special health care needs. (See
  • Become familiar with the specifics of your child’s child care or school disaster plan as you could be separated from your child during a disaster.
  • Plan what to do if you are asked to evacuate.
  • Plan several escape routes.
  • Plan how to take care of your pets.

What to Tell Children

It is important to educate children about disasters without overly alarming them. Use the following guidelines:

  • Tell children that a disaster is something that could hurt people or cause damage. Explain that nature sometimes provides “too much of a good thing” – fire, rain, and wind.
  • Explain how important it is to make a family disaster plan.
  • Teach children – How to call for help – When to call each emergency number – To call the family contact if separated – To keep personal identification information in their possession at all times


If you are told to evacuate, take these steps:

  • Leave right away if told to do so.
  • Listen to your battery-powered radio for instructions from local officials.
  • Wear protective clothing and shoes.
  • Shut off water, gas, and electricity if told to do so.
  • Leave a note telling when you left and where you are going.
  • Call your family contact to tell him or her where you are going.
  • Take your family emergency supplies (listed below).
  • Lock your home.
  • Use routes suggested by officials.

3. Complete this checklist.

___ Put emergency phone numbers by each phone.

___ Show everyone how and when to turn off the utilities.

___ Make sure you have enough insurance coverage (for example, flood, fire,   earthquake).

___ Do a home hazard hunt for items that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire.

___ Stock enough emergency supplies to last 3 days.

___ Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.

___ Plan home escape routes – 2 from each room.

___ Find safe places in your home for each type of disaster.

___ Make 2 copies of important documents and keep the originals in a safe-deposit box. Keep 1 copy on hand and give the second to your out-of-town contact.

4. Practice and maintain your plan.

Every month… Test your smoke alarms.

Every 6 months… Go over the family disaster plan and do escape drills. Quiz children. Replace stored food and water.

Every year… Replace the batteries in smoke alarms (unless your smoke alarm uses long-life batteries).

Neighbors Helping Neighbors Meet with neighbors to plan how you can work together during a disaster.

  • Talk about who has special skills (eg, medical, technical).
  • Make plans for child care in case parents cannot get home.

Utilities Do the following so you will be ready if told to turn off your utilities:

  • Find the main electric fuse box, water service main, and natural gas main.
  • Learn how and when to turn these off, and teach family members.
  • Keep a wrench and flashlight near gas and water shut off valves.
  • If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.

Important Documents Make 2 copies and keep the originals of the following in a safe-deposit box or waterproof container:

  • Wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, investments
  • Passports, social security cards, immunization records, EIF
  • Bank account numbers/credit card account numbers
  • Inventory of valuable household goods
  • Family records (eg, birth and marriage certificates) and photos
  • Documentation to assist in identifying children who may be separated from their parents (eg, photos, adoption records, birth certificates)

Emergency Supplies List

  • Signal flare
  • Map of the area and important phone numbers
  • Special items for infants and the elderly (diapers, formula, medication)
  • Three gallons of water per person
  • Three-day supply of ready-to-eat canned or packaged food
  • Manual can opener
  • Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Toiletries (10 day supply of prescription medication, hand sanitizer)
  • Cell phone batteries and/or phone charger
  • A change of clothing, rain gear, and sturdy shoes for each family member

Put the following supplies in an easy-to-carry waterproof container:

  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and manual and prescription medications
  • A credit card and cash
  • Personal identification
  • An extra set of car keys
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses
  • Matches in a waterproof container

Visit the US Department of Homeland Security Website ( and AAP Children, Terrorism & Disasters Website ( for more information.

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