Family Emergency Plan

Know what to do before you have to do it. Discuss these things with your family:

  • WHAT will you do in an earthquake, flood, storm or volcanic eruption?
  • WHAT will you take if you have to evacuate your home?
  • WHAT should older children do if parents/care-givers aren't at home?
  • WHO will look after your pets if you can't?
  • WHO can do First Aid (in your family, neighbourhood, workplace)?
  • WHO will collect the children from day care/school if you are unable to?
  • WHERE would you all meet if you can't get home? Discuss if parents are at work and children at school?
  • WHERE would you go to for help if the phones weren't working?
  • WHERE do you turn off the power and water?
  • WHERE do you get drinking water if the pipes are broken?
  • ARE you part of a Neighbourhood Support Group?
  • HOW would you get messages to other family members?
  • KNOW where your Emergency Survival Kit is stored
  • KNOW how you can improvise cooking, lighting and toilet facilities

Your Family Plan must be discussed and tested. You all need to agree on your plan. Download a Household Emergency Plan(PDF, 112KB) to fill in. Survival will be easier if you know these things.

Desirable things to have:

  • shoes under the bed (to protect feet from broken glass)
  • fire extinguisher (know how to use it)
  • smoke alarm (check the batteries every six months)
  • for people who are hearing impaired, consider a flashing light
  • manual can opener
  • gas barbecue.

Basic tips in emergency preparedness for older adults and people with disabilities

The most important things to have:

  • those things listed on the How to be Prepared page and this page
  • one week's supply of medicines (rotated regularly) and instructions for use - dosage, frequency, doctor's name and phone; post this information on your refrigerator under the heading EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS.

Other important things you may need:

  • extra eye glasses, hearing aid, mobility aids, etc (in case of damage)
  • extra blankets (with electricity out, you may not have heat).

Planning tips

  • Develop a "buddy" system with family, friends, neighbours, or co-workers. Plan how you will help each other in an emergency.
  • Prepare an emergency getaway kit that you could grab and take with you if there is a need to evacuate. Include necessary medications, basic toiletries, any special sanitary aids, and a list of whom to contact in emergencies (with phone numbers, addresses and date you wrote the list).
  • Make a list of your medications, allergies, special equipment, doctor's number, and whom to contact in emergencies. People who have difficulty with communication should have other important information written out, such as special toilet needs, or how to lift or move them. Give a copy to each buddy, keep a copy with you, and put a copy in your getaway kit.
  • Make a plan with your personal caregiver. If you use a caregiver from an agency, see if the agency has special provisions for emergencies.
  • Determine at least two usable exits from each room and from your building.
  • Pick one out-of-district and one local friend or relative for family and others to call if separated. Identify a location where you can reunite with family/friends.

Tips for during and after an earthquake

  • If you are in a bed or out of a wheelchair, stay put and cover your head.
  • If you are in a wheelchair, stay in it and go into a doorway that doesn't have a door. Put the brakes on and cover your head and neck with your hands.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks. Turn on your portable radio for instructions.

Issues for older adults to consider in preparing for earthquakes

  • What preparedness advice is offered for older adults who rely on equipment and assistance? (for example, hearing aids, wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, respirators, eye glasses, etc).
    • Keep important equipment in a convenient and secured place so you can quickly and easily locate it.
    • Develop an emergency kit where extra hearing aids, batteries, eyeglasses are kept, to replace damaged or lost equipment.
    • Store extra mobility aids (such as canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs) as a back-up to primary equipment.
  • How can older adults, who rely on personal attendants or caregivers to provide assistance, prepare for the fact this support may not be available after a major earthquake?
    • If you have home care support, discuss with these people a plan for what you both will do in case of an emergency.
    • A critical element to consider in emergency planning is the establishment of a personal support network or buddy system. This network can consist of friends, neighbours or relatives. Their job is to check with you in an emergency to ensure you are okay and to help where needed.
    • Do not depend on any one person, but work out support relationships with several people.
  • As ageing may limit certain self-sufficiency skills, what contingencies should older adults prepare for following an emergency? Evaluate your capabilities, limitations and needs, as well as your surroundings, to determine what type of help you may need in an emergency.

    • Will you be able to independently shut off the necessary utilities (water or electricity)?
    • Can you operate a fire extinguisher?
    • Write instructions for the following (keep a copy with you and share with your personal support network):
      • How to operate and safely move any essential equipment you have.
      • How to safely transport you if you need to be carried.
      • How to provide personal assistance services (toilet, hygiene).
      • How you will evacuate, and where you will go.
  • How can older adults, who may have physical impairments that limit mobility, address these evacuation needs?
    • Arrange and secure furniture and other items to provide multiple paths of escape.
    • Consider and practise using alternate methods of evacuation.
    • If lifts are out and you are above the first floor of a building and cannot use stairs, identify lifting and carrying techniques that will work for you.
  • The need to have important information readily available is critical in case of injury, evacuation, or as a result of shock given the trauma of the event. What information is most helpful to write down?
    • Writing down important life-saving information is vital. Create an emergency health information card to tell rescuers what they need to know about you if you are unconscious, incoherent or if there is a need for your evacuation.
    • The card should contain information about medications, equipment you use, communication, hearing or mobility difficulties, preferred treatment, medical providers and important contact people. Make multiple copies of this card to keep in your wallet, give to people in your personal support network and display on your refrigerator.
    • Other emergency contacts to list include members of your personal support network, equipment suppliers, doctors, family members, and utility companies (power, gas, water).
    • In addition, store copies of family records, wills, deeds, bank accounts in your emergency kit.
  • Given that tap water may be contaminated following a major earthquake, how do we prepare older adults who are more susceptible to dehydration?
    • It is vital that older people maintain a minimum of 12 litres of stored water – four litres per day for a three-day period (2 litres for drinking, 2 litres for personal washing). Store water in sealed unbreakable containers that are easy to handle (such as 2-litre easy-to-open bottles).
    • Replace stored water with fresh water every six months.
  • Many older adults may have hypertension and therefore food should be low in salt. Similarly, diabetic elderly require foods reduced in sugar.
    • When developing a three-day food supply, it is important that older adults pay attention to special foods they require.
  • Being older means feeling more vulnerable. In a major disaster, feelings of acute anxiety, confusion and fear will be issues as critical for older adults as their physical condition. Again, older adults are strongly encouraged to develop a buddy system or personal support network. Someone who can check in following an emergency will become an important ally in reducing stress. Older adults may want individuals who form their personal support network to:
    • Check on them immediately after an emergency (earthquake), and offer personal assistance as needed.
    • Have a spare copy of important keys.
    • Know where emergency supplies are kept.
    • Have copies of relevant emergency documents that specify medication, special equipment, and other life support needs.
    • Have an agreed-upon communications system regarding how to contact each other in an emergency – taking into account the fact that telephones may not work after a major earthquake.
    • Know when each other will be out of town and the subsequent date of return.
    • Learn about their personal needs and how to be of support in an emergency (such as interpreting or making sure food, water, and medications are in place).
  • What special preparedness tips can be offered for older people who take necessary medications?
    • Try to always maintain at least a 7- to 14-day supply of essential medications.
    • Work with your doctor to obtain an extra supply of medication, or prescription.
    • Ask if it would be safe to go without one dosage periodically, until you secure an adequate supply.
    • Keep essential medications and copies of prescriptions with you.

The above is a condensed version of the more comprehensive Earthquake Tips for People with Disabilities Package developed by the Independent Living Resource Centre of San Francisco.