Creating an Emergency Plan for your Home

You've thought about it dozens of times. You've laid awake at night planning, visualizing each step  that you would take if the unthinkable happened. What if you encountered an intruder in the middle of the night? What if there was a house fire? What if an unpredictable natural disaster struck(tornado, earthquake, wildfire, etc..)? Would you know what to do? Would everyone else in your home know what to do? If you have thought about these questions, congratulations - You have taken the first step towards emergency preparedness. What should follow is a tangible, practical plan that not only you, but the rest of your household has memorized so that each person would know exactly what to do if the there was an emergency. 

It would look different for every household based on family size, the layout of your home, whether you have a yard or not, if your house has multiple floors, and other variables; but I've laid out some blueprints of the basics which you can build on for your own use. You should discuss these plans for different times of the day, not just at night. What if the kids were at school? What if you're at work and it takes hours to get home in traffic? What happens if the family is separated at the time of the emergency? What if there was no cellphone coverage? Where should everyone meet? 

Below are some ideas to discuss and plan for. In my home we have a comprehensive plan, including a floorplan of our house which shows exit plans and shelter-in-place plans for different emergency scenarios. For each step, I have stressed to leave belongings behind because often in a home emergency seconds count. But what we have told our kids, is to plan ahead and know what you would grab so that you don't lose any time trying to take things that aren't important. The best plan, if you can, is to have a "Go Bag" for each member of your family. A "Go Bag" is a small duffle or backpack which is kept ready and is somewhere accessible and has things such as: a change of clothes, extra pair of shoes, medication, satellite phone(if you have one), important documents(IDs, hard drives, computer backups, checkbook, etc), first aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, toiletries, non-parishable food items, charging cables for phones, etc..., anything you might need if you have to spend the night elsewhere or if your home is destroyed.

Take this list and modify it to reflect your own home. 

House Fire

When alarms sound:

  • Touch doorhandles to see if they’re hot, if they are, DO NOT OPEN!
  • Get out as fast as possible, meet in driveway and wait. Do Not go back inside the house! 
  • Leave belongings behind (or grab your Go Bag)
  • If you are on the second floor, make sure you have a ladder or way to get down if necessary. 
  • Before opening any windows, make sure doors are closed behind you.


If severe earthquake occurs:

  • Don’t go through house looking for anybody
  • Stay away from windows
  • Leave belongings behind (or grab your Go Bag)
  • Get out of house as soon as possible
  • Meet in driveway(or a place you've chosen), Do Not go back inside the house! 


  • If told to evacuate, leave!
  • If you haven't been told to evacuate but feel unsafe, leave!
  • Grab your "Go Bag", or necessary items.
  • Have a pre-determined safe place to meet, like a friend's or family member's house.
  • Have a to-do list to check off before leaving house, like turning off utilities, taking pets, or valuable items if you have time. 
  • Lock up your house when leaving. 

Home Intruder

  • Run, Hide, or Fight.
  • If you have a home defense plan, discuss in-depth what everyone should do and where they should go. 
  • If a quick escape is possible, Run! Run to closest neighbors and call 911.
  • If a quick escape is not possible, Immediately lock & barricade door. Look for alternative exit, yell out window, or use phone to call for help. 
  • If cornered with no escape route, Hide!
  • If hiding place is found, Fight!
    -Throw things, whatever is in reach. 
    -Scream! Your voice is a weapon. 
    -Bite, Punch & Kick


Nobody wants to imagine these frightening scenarios, but realizing that they could happen to anyone and knowing what you would do if they were to happen to you is the first step to choosing not to be a victim. Have a family meeting to discuss your Emergency Plan once or twice a year (or even better, monthly!), it is important so that everyone knows their part. When we had our first emergency meeting with our kids we reminded them that discussing these things doesn't mean walking around constantly afraid, it means walking around feeling ready and prepared for anything at any time. People often think: "that could never happen to me"... Until it does. Knowing what to do, where to go, and how to respond is vital to the safety and survival of everyone in your home should disaster strike.

What are some things you do to prepare for emergencies? Are you ready?