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What YOU Can Do to Prepare for an Emergency

American Red Cross emergency preparedness kit with supplies out.

In an emergency, response agencies and public health departments will be managing the crisis and will rely on the public to follow emergency instructions and react.

Below are some ideas for how to make sure your household will be ready.


General preparedness measures

  • Know where and how to get information in the event of an emergency. Have at least one battery-operated radio in case there is a power failure.
  • Make a disaster kit with basic items that household members may need in the event of a disaster. Food and water should last for at least three days.
  • Be alert for environmental or fire hazards around your property.
  • Every adult in your house should know how to turn off electricity, water and gas in an emergency.
  • Have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Check the expiration date to be sure it is working. If you have questions, ask your fire department.
  • Take a CPR and first-aid class so you know what to do in an emergency. Your local health department or Red Cross office can give you more information.

Medical emergency concerns

Be sure your family's vaccinations are up-to-date. Check with your medical provider if you are unsure which ones are needed. For each person in the household, keep important medications and equipment packed and easy to access before a disaster hits. Supplies should last at least three days.

  • Assemble the medical and other supplies you would need in an evacuation, including prescription medication (check expiration dates).
  • Store them in an easy-to-carry container, such as a backpack or duffel bag.
  • Be sure your bag has an ID tag.
  • Clearly label any equipment, such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers, with names and mobile numbers.

Pets or livestock

When preparing for a potential emergency, pets and livestock also require preparation. Here are some ideas for preparing to protect animals during a disaster:

  • Talk to veterinarians about evacuation and emergency care for animals.
  • Identify emergency animal shelter locations nearby: kennels, adjoining farms, state and local fairgrounds, etc.
  • Get to know the policies and staff of your local animal control authority, as well as local nonprofit animal rescue and care groups.
  • Ask neighbors and friends to evacuate animals if a disaster strikes while owners are absent.
  • License companion animals and consider microchipping them so animals and owners can be reunited after a disaster.
  • Keep copies of medical records for pets and livestock in the household emergency kit.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan for livestock. Plans should include a list of resources that might be needed, such as trucks, trailers, pasture and/or feed, as well designating a person who will make facilities/homes with endangered animals accessible to emergency personnel.
  • If animals are left behind in a disaster, a highly visible sign should be posted (on a window or a door) letting rescue workers know the breed and number of animals that remain. Leave plenty of food and water.

Family assembly

During a disaster, it may be impossible for family members to return home. Have a plan for your family. Agree where to meet and what family members or friends to notify. It is very important that you select a meeting point in the community where the members of your household know to come together if home cannot be reached.

Infants, toddlers, and children

Infants and children require special attention during disasters.

  • Emergency supplies should include enough baby formula, baby food, diapers, bottles, toys and games to keep infants safe and comfortable for at least three days after a disaster.
  • If children are at preschool, day care or school, parents or guardians should know the emergency procedures of the school. Information on children's emergency cards should be updated annually or whenever major changes occur.
  • Arrangements should be made in advance for relatives or friends to pick up children from day care or school in the event parents are unable to arrive in a timely fashion.
  • Parents should inform neighbors when older children are left home alone so neighbors can check on them during a disaster, if necessary.

Communicating with children after an emergency event is important.

  • Encourage children to talk about their fears. Let them ask questions and describe how they're feeling. Listen to what they say, as a family group when possible.
  • Reassure them with love. Tell them they are safe, everything will be all right, and life will return to normal again.
  • Keep them informed, in simple language, about what is happening.
  • Emphasize that they are not responsible for what happened.
  • Hold and hug them frequently.

Encourage them to return to school and discuss problems with teachers and to resume playing games, riding bikes and other usual activities.

After an emergency

Even after an event, there may still be many dangers. What seems like a safe distance or location may not be. Stay tuned to your local emergency station and follow the advice of trained professionals. Unless told to evacuate, stay off the roads to allow emergency vehicles access. What you do next can save your life and the lives of others.

  • Keep children and pets indoors. Dangers (live wires, flooded viaducts and pollution) can remain after the immediate emergency ends.
  • Do not call 911 to ask about a power outage. In case of a power outage, use battery-operated equipment or your car radio for updates.
  • Locate a flashlight with batteries to use until power comes back on. Do not use candles: this can cause a fire.
  • Remain calm, and assist family members or neighbors who may be vulnerable if exposed to extreme heat or cold.
  • Do not use the stove to heat your home: this can cause a fire or fatal gas leak.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep contents cold.
  • Turn off sensitive electrical equipment, such as computers and televisions, to prevent damage when electricity is restored.
  • Turn off major electrical and gas appliances that were on when the power went off. This will help to prevent power surges when electricity is restored.
  • If you must drive, use extreme caution. If traffic signals are out, treat each signal as a stop sign. Come to a complete stop at every intersection and look before you proceed.
Last revised September 28, 2022