Basics of a Disaster Plan


Because your family may not be together when a disaster strikes it is important to create a plan in advance. Every member of the family will have a role during an emergency, so it is important to share ideas, responsibilities and work as a team when you create your plan.

Preparedness is defined by DHS/FEMA as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response.”

A disaster emergency plan is “a comprehensive statement of custom actions (learning, preparing, planning, equipping, training, and evaluating) in an effort to ensure an individual, group or organization has developed a state of readiness to minimize loss or contain the effects of a disastrous event to life, injury, and property.”

Include Common Emergency Scenarios When You Plan

  • Plan for the emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live
  • Plan what to do in case you are separated during an emergency
  • Plan what to do if you have to evacuate
  • Plan for everyone in your home
  • Plan to let loved ones know you’re safe

Adapt Plan for Each Hazard

Terrorism is not like natural hazards or even other man-made hazards. Thus, a disaster plan does not literally mean being prepared for any and “all hazards” that might manifest themselves and never covers everything that might be required in a disaster.

Indeed, the requirements for evacuation for flood or a volcanic eruption may differ significantly from those required for evacuation during a hazardous materials spill.  Plans need to be adaptable to circumstances, be innovative, and when necessary, improvisational.

Although your disaster plan should be comprehensive, each disaster emergency is unique, and knowing the actions to take for each threat will impact the specific decisions and preparations you make. Adapt your plan accordingly for each hazard potential.

Develop Plans for Alternative Locations

While making sure that your family has a plan in case of an emergency, find out about the emergency plans at your workplace, your church, your children’s schools and/or day cares, and other places where your family spends time, such as sports facilities, scout troop centers, etc.

Develop communications and pickup plans for these locations just in case an emergency occurs when one or more members of your family are there.

Plans for Prevention

Although the effects of many disasters can be mitigated, some effects can be prevented completely. Careful analysis of potential hazards can be used to stop future disasters before they start:

  • At the community level, housing can be restricted on flood plains, earthquake or fire resistant building codes can be strictly enforced and hazardous materials stored away from residential areas.
  • At the individual level, fire risks can be eliminated, first aid and safety supplies stocked and a household evacuation plan established.



  1. Image Source: [Accessed June 21, 2013]