Prepare yourself and your family for a disaster by making an emergency plan.
Download the Family Communication Plan for Parents and Kids (PDF – 1.2 Mb), print the pages and fill them in offline.
Your emergency planning should also address the care of pets, aiding family members with access and functional needs and safely shutting off utilities.
You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Read more about school and workplace plans.
Once you’ve collected this important information, gather your family members and discuss the information to put in the plan. Practice your plan at least twice a year and update it according to any issues that arise.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another. Think about how you will communicate in different situations.
Complete a contact card for each adult family member. Have them keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse or briefcase, etc. Additionally, complete contact cards for each child in your family. Put the cards in their backpacks or book bags.
Check with your children’s day care or school. Facilities designed for children should include identification planning as part of their emergency plans.
Family Communication Tips
Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management web site.
GET TECH READY
According to The American Red Cross, the internet – including online news sites and social media platforms – is the third most popular way for Americans to gather emergency information and let their loved ones know they are safe.
Through the use of everyday technology, individuals, families, responders and organizations can successfully prepare for, adapt to and recover from disruptions brought on by emergencies and/or disasters. With effective planning, it is possible to take advantage of technology before, during and after a crisis to communicate with loved ones and manage your financial affairs.
FEMA TEXT MESSAGES
Use your cell phone’s text messaging capability to receive text message updates from FEMA (standard message and data rates apply).
Here are basic commands to get started:
- To signup to receive monthly preparedness tips: text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA)
- To unsubscribe (at any time): text STOP to 43362 (4FEMA)
Keep your contacts updated across all of your channels, including phone, email and social media. This will make it easy to reach out to the right people quickly to get information and supply updates. Consider creating a group list serve of your top contacts.
- Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Text messages and the internet often have the ability to work in the event of a phone service disruption.
- Keep extra batteries for your phone in a safe place or purchase a solar-powered or hand crank charger. These chargers are good emergency tools to keep your laptop and other small electronics working in the event of a power outage. If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger because you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.
- Program “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts into your cell phone so emergency personnel can contact those people for you if you are unable to use your phone. Let your ICE contacts know that they are programmed into your phone and inform them of any medical issues or other special needs you may have.
- If you have a traditional landline (non-broadband or VOIP) phone, keep at least one non-cordless receiver in your home because it will work even if you lose power.
- If you are evacuated and have call-forwarding on your home phone, forward your home phone number to your cell phone number.
- If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
- Prepare a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact that may be better able to reach family members in an emergency.
- Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio or television available (with spare batteries).
The following are additional tips when making phone calls and using your smartphone during or after a disaster:
- Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to convey only vital information to emergency personnel and/or family.
- If you are unsuccessful in completing a call using your cell phone, wait ten seconds before redialling to help reduce network congestion.
- Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using that draw power, unless you need to use the phone.
- If you lose power, you can charge your cell phone in your car. Just be sure your car is in a well-ventilated place (remove it from the garage) and do not go to your car until any danger has passed. You can also listen to your car radio for important news alerts.
- If you do not have a hands-free device in your car, stop driving or pull over to the side of the road before making a call. Do not text on a cell phone, talk, or “tweet” without a hands free device while driving.
- Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1.
- For non-emergency communications, use text messaging, e-mail, or social media instead of making voice calls on your cell phone to avoid tying up voice networks. Data-based services like texts and emails are less likely to experience network congestion. You can also use social media to post your status to let family and friends know you are okay. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can use resources such as the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well program.
Store your important documents such as personal and financial records in a password-protected area in the Cloud or a secure flash or jump drive that you can keep readily available. This flash drive can be kept on a key ring so it can be accessed from any computer, anytime, anywhere. Remember important documents, such as:
- Personal and property insurance
- Identification: Driver’s license/passport (for family members, as well)
- Banking information
Don’t forget your pets!
- Store your pet’s veterinary medical records documents online.
- Consider an information digital implant.
- Keep a current photo of your pet in your online kit to aid in identification if you are separated.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance. Create an Emergency Information Document to record how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.
- Make sure to share this document with family members, friends and co-workers who will also need to access it in an emergency or crisis.
- When handling personal and sensitive information always keep your data private and share it only with those who will need access in case of emergency.
Include these sites in your Emergency Information Document to ensure that you can quickly access them from any computer or smart phone.
- Download the FEMA App to access disaster preparedness tips, build your personal emergency kit, and look for open Disaster Recovery Centers along with open shelters (if you’re a disaster survivor). Also, stay informed with the FEMA blog.
- Local emergency management officials often have notification systems. Opt-In to a distribution for your community. To find out if your community offers such services, contact your local office of Emergency Management.
- Signup to receive a monthly preparedness tip from FEMA’s text messages program.
- Bookmark important mobile sites:
- Bookmark important online sites:
- Save your meeting locations on your phone’s mapping device.
- Follow FEMA and Ready on line:
- In addition to using your cell phone and other technology, tune into broadcast television and radio for important news alerts. If applicable, be sure that you know how to activate the closed captioning or video description on your television.
- Important: In an emergency, you still need to call 9-1-1 for help. Remember that you cannot currently text 9-1-1. If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 9-1-1. If your area offers 3-1-1 service or another information system, call that number for non-emergencies.
For information on how web users increasingly rely on social media in disasters, please visit the Red Cross.