How to Create a Family Preparedness Plan

In the natural ebb and flow of life, sometimes the unexpected happens — the power goes out during a storm, our car breaks down during a road trip across the desert, or we experience a natural disaster. Creating a family preparedness plan takes stress out of the equation and offers great peace of mind.  

"Although disasters are rare, prepping for them is one of those crucial 'just in case' precautions, like having smoke detectors," explains Parents advisor Irwin Redlener, M.D., Director of the Center for National Preparedness at Columbia University.

Here are three steps to help make sure your family is ready for anything.

Step 1: Create a Communication Plan

Decide in advance what your family plan will be in various situations. For example, what if a traffic jam makes it impossible to pick your child up from school? Your family can have a designated person chosen in advance who can provide your child with a safe word. It’s important to let the schools know who this person is ahead of time, just in case there’s ever a question.

Another scenario you can plan on is a meeting place other than your home, in case there’s some sort of problem with the roads that prevents you from meeting at your house. You could choose a nearby school, church or park. Walk with your children to the meeting place so they know exactly how to get there. Estrella residents can use this handy community map to help them choose their meeting place.

When you have your plan made, make sure each member of your family has a written copy, with essential phone numbers and details. Don’t depend on electronic devices to store this information, as you might not be able to keep them charged. Set aside a time once or twice a year to go over the details of your plans, to refresh everyone’s memories.

Step 2: Prepare a Just-In-Case Kit

Whether you need a flashlight for a few hours during a temporary power outage, or clothes for a few days because a pipe burst in your kitchen and you have to vacate to a hotel, it’s good to have a portable kit made up with basic essentials that you can grab and go in an instant. Some people will purchase ready-made72-hour kits and add in a few personal items, like changes of clothes and board games for the kids. If you decide to make your own kit, this link is a great resource to help you get started: When considering food items, keep in mind to pack food your family will actually eat — circumstances don’t usually change picky eaters! Choose foods with a long shelf life (camping staples work great!) and schedule regular reminders on your phone to change those items out over time.

Having an individual backpack for each member of the family makes kits a lot more mobile than if you keep them in giant plastic bins. Make sure to leave a little room for in-the-moment items, like a beloved teddy bear or medications. Some families will leave their kits in the car, taking it with them on long road trips, while others will leave them in a cool, dark place at home to preserve it from the elements. Find the place that works best for your family’s needs.

Step 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

It’s great to set up a plan and have everything prepared, but it’s amazing how quickly you can forget what to do in the rush of the moment. That’s why it’s a good idea to not just discuss your preparedness plan with your family, but to practice it, like the fire alarm drills children do regularly at schools.

A great way to test out your just-in-case kit is to take it camping with you. This will let you know if you packed enough food in the right varieties. Anything that’s missing will become obvious after the first night of camping, like extra batteries for your headlamps or an extra blanket to keep you warm. It can also help you figure out what items are more luxury than necessity. And the best benefit of all — you get to have some quality family time to enjoy. If you’re new to camping in Arizona, this guide will get you started.  

Life happens, but with a preparedness strategy in place, families can rest easier knowing they have the plan, resources and skill set they need to stay safe and comfortable through anything.

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