Preparedness plans are not always the first thing that come to mind when you decide to work on a comprehensive emergency survival program.
For many, the first thing they do is run off to the grocery store for baskets of extra food.
But creating down-to-earth, well-considered preparedness plans is a much more fruitful way to begin. Do them right, and you can save yourself tons of headaches—and money—down the road.
What is a disaster preparedness plan?
It’s a written document that identifies how you and your family will respond to an emergency or disaster so that you can minimize loss of life or bodily harm, mitigate trauma, and prevent as much financial pain as possible.
In an emergency, with turmoil all around you, it will be difficult to remember every best practice or contingency.
But with a well-thought-out preparedness plan at your fingertips, all you need to do is follow the procedures and steps you identified in calmer times.
So if you’re a beginner prepper, hold off that grocery run for the moment. A much better step is to make strategic plans that cover critical points of concern for just about any type of disaster.
Here are 10 important plans that leading emergency planning experts recommend as the very heart of your disaster planning program:
#1: Map Out Your Water Plans
Water is essential to survival. A person can survive only a few days without it. So it makes sense that, should some kind of manmade or natural disaster cut off your water supply, you need a plan in place to replenish it.
As part of your plan, you need to consider how much water you should have in storage well before the emergency happens. Experts recommend that, as a minimum, we keep at least one gallon per person per day for 3 days to cover drinking and sanitation.
Your plan needs to identify:
- How to gather and store the water amounts you will need for the emergency period.
- Where to find safe containers.
- How to sanitize the water (bleach, sanitation pills, etc.).
- How long to keep stored water before replacing it.
- Where to find replacement sources (stores, rivers, lakes, etc.)
Check out this downloadable government emergency water supply plan document for more details.
#2: A Plan for Securing, Growing and Storing Food
Along with water, food is one of the most important needs should a disaster cut off your normal food resources.
When you plan in advance, you can store up your supplies gradually rather than do a panic run down to the local food mart—where you compete with your panicked neighbors for fast-disappearing food items.
A good emergency food plan will address the following questions:
- What foods are you going to store and how long will they last in storage?
- What is your budget for both food and supplies?
- What resources do you already have in hand?
- What do you need for short-term versus long-term food shortages?
- Where will you store these foods?
- Is the food ready to eat or does it need to be cooked?
- What are the dietary restrictions of your family?
#3: A Plan In Case You Have to Bug Out
In some disaster circumstances, you may be forced to leave your home and head to a safer place. Exactly how will you do that? You need a plan.
- What criteria determine whether you shelter in place or have to leave?
- Who will be in your bugout group—family, friends, neighbors, or just yourself?
- Where will your bug out group meet in an emergency?
- What supplies do you have to begin gathering for your bugout bags?
- If forced to leave your home, what safe place can you travel to?
- Should your safe place become inaccessible, what’s your backup location?
#4: A Self-Defense Plan for Each Family Member
A good self-defense plan involves a lot more than just having access to a weapon. A gun alone is not a plan.
If you have a family to protect, your plan should cover a wide range of considerations:
- What kinds of defense resources will your family have access to—guns, knives, bazookas? What are they willing to handle?
- What training might each family member go through to maximize family security?
- How often will your family practice with each weapon?
- Do you have a family rendezvous place where separated family members can gather after an emergency event?
- What does your home security program look like—locks, safe rooms, window & door security, etc.?
- Is there a neighborhood security network (e.g., Ring doorbell networks) that you can connect with?
#5: A Disaster Communications Plan
Recognizing that there’s safety in numbers, it’s a good idea to set up a plan that lays out how you would communicate with neighbors or local officials in a disaster.
- Create a non-digital list of family, friends and neighbors along with phone numbers, email/text accounts and addresses.
- Have an emergency contacts list that includes fire, police and ambulance services. Keep in your cell phone and near your land phone.
- Make sure everyone in your family knows how to send a text message. Texts can often work around network disruptions when phone calls cannot.
- Subscribe to an emergency alert service for weather or other disaster messages.
- After a disaster, register yourself and your family as “safe and well” on the American Red Cross website to let family and friends know you are safe.
#6: A Weather Emergency Plan
Severe weather such as tornadoes can spring up quickly and out of nowhere. By creating a weather emergency plan, you can help your family understand how to best preserve their safety when things turn south.
Here are some considerations to include in your plan:
- Acquire a battery operated weather radio and keep it handy should weather forecasts predict severe weather in your community.
- Create a disaster supply kit that can provide essentials like water, food, and first aid items directly after a destructive event like a tornado.
- Determine where your family should gather in your home during a severe storm. Do you have a basement or safe room? If not, in which interior room should everyone gather to keep away from outside windows and doors?
- Create a list of backup supplies such as batteries, candles, matches, blankets, etc., that could be very helpful during and after an event.
#7: A Financial Plan
It’s not uncommon that, after a disaster, money is hard to come by. Banks and ATM’s may be closed or inoperable. So what can you do in advance?
- Build an emergency fund. Only 4 in 10 adults can cover an unplanned $1000 expense. Save $1000 as soon as you can, then expand it to at least 3 to 6 months of your current expenses.
Have some of that cash on hand at all times.
- Repair existing damages to your home before a disaster hits. The stronger your home, the better it can withstand a natural onslaught of wind, hail, water, etc.
- Review your insurance homeowners policy to ensure you’re well-covered in case of a disaster. Check that you’re covered for events like floods, high winds, earthquakes, etc.
#8: First Aid and Fitness Plans
Some of the worst disasters are threats to your health. Most people overlook the risks they face should an unexpected disease or injury overtake them.
For maximum peace of mind, we recommend you have a plan that covers your physical health as well as all the above threats to your personal security.
What should be included in this plan?
- Review your health insurance plan to make sure you’re protected from serious catastrophic illnesses that can wipe out all of your financial assets. Sit down with your insurance agent and verify that you have the coverage you might need.
- Commit to physical health through a good personal fitness program. You could sign up with your local gym, for example, or simply start a daily walking or jogging routine. The point is, you need to move!
What are you willing to commit to? Make it part of your plan.
#9: Emergency Pet Plans
Don’t forget your furry friends. You need a plan to provide for their safety during a natural or manmade disaster. Here are some starter ideas:
- Create an evacuation plan for your pet. Many hotels, motels or public shelters do not allow pets, so identify where you can take your pets should a disaster become imminent.
- Get your pet microchipped. If you get separated, chances of successfully recovering your pet are greatly increased if the pet can be identified with your contact information.
- Develop a buddy system. If things get dangerous, plan with neighbors or friends who might care for your pet should you have to evacuate, or who could take the pet with them if you have to remain in place.
#10: Always Have Contingencies
Even the best of plans cannot cover everything. Try as you might, something you did not plan for crops up and instantly changes your entire plan.
So as you approach your planning process, the more you plan for the unexpected, the stronger your plan will be.
Why create contingency plans?
Increased awareness. When you evaluate every possible scenario and ramification, you are forced to utilized strategies and resources you might otherwise have overlooked.
Improved peace of mind. When you understand the full picture, you can concentrate upon building a well-rounded plan without fretting over what ifs.
Less panic. When you already know what to do should something completely out of left field crops up, you can stem panic in its tracks and simply follow the contingency path you’ve already planned for.
Ready to Begin Your Disaster Emergency Plans?
Remember the famous Abe Lincoln quote: “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.”
Those 4 hours are like your disaster plans. Invest the time and energy in creating solid plans, and the rest of your task will be brief and successful. Start planning today!