How To Create a Family Emergency Plan

It’s once again fire season in my neck of the woods. It’s hot and dry, and has been for a few weeks, therefore it only takes a small spark for entire hillsides to go up in flames, leaving charred remains of homes, farms, and even entire communities behind. Depending on which way the wind blows, a thick layer of smoke can engulf our city (and even the whole state) for up to six weeks at a time. For us, that means it’s time to complete a yearly reassessment of our emergency plan in case we are ever in a situation that requires us to evacuate.

Tip: Preparing for a physical emergency is important, but what about a financial emergency? Grab my FREE Emergency Fund Worksheet to help you plan ahead, so you won’t be caught in a lurch! Find it HERE.

How to Create a Family Emergency Plan

For those of you that live in an area that doesn’t have fire seasons, you probably have something equally as threatening to your livelihood, whether that be tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, or other natural or man-made disasters. Having an emergency plan in place for any possible disaster can provide the entire family peace of mind in an otherwise stressful and anxiety-ridden situation.

Create an Evacuation Plan

Having an evacuation plan in place well ahead of an actual emergency is always a smart practice, especially if you have kids, elderly family members, and/or animals. It’s honestly as simple as asking yourself (and your family) the following questions.

Evacuation Notice

For fire evacuation, there are typically three levels of evacuation notice.

Level 1

Be ready to leave if notified to do so. This is the stage where danger is possible, yet it’s likely still a distance away.

Level 2

Be prepared and ready to leave the house at a moment’s notice. Honestly, for those with young children and animals, this is often the time that many will choose to leave their homes, just as a precaution.

Level 3

Get out of the house now. A Level 3 evacuation only comes when it is probable that the fire will reach your home within a short period of time. Some may even be able to see the flames up close and personal as they drive their cars down the road.

Keep in mind each level of evacuation and the time limit you may have when evaluating the following.

Ensure Safety of People and Animals

It’s critical to determine, well ahead of time, which people and animals you will be responsible for in the case of an emergency.

Family Members

Start by determining who among you will be unable to take care of themselves if an emergency should arise. Typically, this would include young children or the elderly, but could also extend to anyone with special needs, whether those be mental or physical. Dictate who will take care of each of those individuals should an emergency arise, ensuring that they will not be left behind in what will likely be a chaotic situation.


Whether it’s cats, dogs, pigs, horses, fish, iguanas, or another beloved pet, it’s important to make plans for how you will transport (and care for) your animals if catastrophe strikes. For smaller animals, decide early on where you will keep transport carriers so that you can move them safely, and identify which family member will be responsible for each animal. This keeps it simple and, once again, no one is left behind or forgotten.

For larger animals, discuss ahead of time what the backup plan will be as far as boarding and caring for them, especially if it ends up being a long-term situation. Does a friend or a family member have a location that will work for this purpose? Do your research ahead of time so that you aren’t left panicking.

Items You Will Take

Well ahead of any incident taking place, determine what is critical to take in case of emergency, if time allows, of course. A few of my recommendations include the following:

Wallets with Cash and Identification

Hopefully, this is close by so all you have to do is grab it and go. Placing your wallet and keys in the same location each and every time helps with this in case of an emergency.


If time allows, make sure to grab any and all prescription medications, especially if they will be hard to replace on short notice. Include in this any prescriptions that may be necessary for your pets as well.

Important Documents

Gather up any important, irreplaceable documents. Personally, I’ve made a huge effort to keep scanned copies offsite so that we still have copies of everything if something were to happen and I wasn’t able to grab them. If you haven’t done this yet, I highly recommend using Dropbox, Google Drive, or even just scanning them to a flash drive or portable hard drive and storing it offsite.

Some of the documents to consider:

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so think through what you might need if something were to go wrong and you were to lose your home and everything in it.


Our family has gone pretty much entirely digital with photos, and we have them stored offsite. In our case, I’m not even going to think about pictures if something happens and I have to get out quickly. If you have pictures in frames that cannot be reproduced, those may be something you would want to grab if you have time. Make a list and have it handy so you don’t forget anything.


If you still have time after your family members, animals, and important documents are secured and ready for transport, you may choose to grab a few mementos from the past to hold on to. Of course, the larger items will likely have to stay, so keep in mind the space you will have for transport.

Designate a Meeting Space

I cannot stress enough how important it is to designate a meeting place for all family members. When disaster strikes, the power goes out, cell phone towers go down or become overloaded, and it can be very difficult to reach the people you care about most. Don’t leave your loved ones guessing. If someone is at work, or at school, and needs to meet up with you, have a specific rendezvous point for the entire group and don’t leave that point until each family member has either shown up or has been contacted with revised plans.

Places to consider could include:

  • Neighbor’s house or driveway (in case of a house fire)
  • Friend’s house
  • Red Cross shelter
  • Local landmark

The meeting place can be different depending on the severity of the situation, but make sure you have that plan in place ahead of time.

Solidify Your Plan

Now that you’ve determined all of the things to consider when served an evacuation notice, it’s critical that you make a plan as to who will take care of each of those tasks. If you have a plan in advance, it’s less likely that someone or something will be forgotten. Educate each family member on their specific tasks related to the emergency plan. Rehearse if necessary so everyone feels confident that they can carry out their duties.

As I mentioned before, it’s the time of year that we discuss the fire plan for major fires with evacuation notices, but we also discuss our house fire plan on a quarterly basis. Of course, my kids are younger, so they need to have the plan refreshed more frequently. No matter how frequently you choose to review it, whether it be annually, biannually, monthly, or weekly, make sure that each person understands their role and how to stay safe when emergencies take place.

Do you have a plan?

The best way to create this plan is to simply sit down and ask yourself all of the above questions. Additionally, if you haven’t discussed fire safety with your children, there is no better time than now. In fact, one of my favorite activities to do with mine is to have them draw a picture of the layout of our home and what the steps would be if the house was on fire.

I don’t know about you, but while I’d like to believe it will never be a concern my family deals with, I would rather be prepared on the off chance catastrophe strikes.

Tip: Preparing for a physical emergency is important, but what about a financial emergency? Grab my FREE Emergency Fund Worksheet to help you plan ahead, so you won’t be caught in a lurch! Find it HERE.