Creating a Family Emergency Plan

Notebook and pencil.

An emergency, by definition, comes to us unexpectedly. When disaster strikes, it’s vital that families have a plan of action in place so that each family member is able to deal with the situation safely.

Family emergency plans only take about twenty minutes to complete, and can make real life emergencies much less stressful. Use our guide to help create a detailed emergency plan for your family.

Before You Begin

Before you start creating your plan of action, you will need to take a few moments to think about the following points:

  • Do you know your own and your family members’ health and insurance information?
  • Do you have emergency contacts, both within your town/city and outside of it?
  • Do you have a designated person(s) that will pick your child up from school in case you are unavailable during an emergency?
  • Do you know where to safely exit from your home and neighborhood in case of an emergency?
  • If you have pets, can your emergency plan accommodate them?
  • Do you know the specific emergency risks in your region (such as floods or earthquakes)?
  • Do you know the location of your water valve, gas valve, electrical panel, fire extinguisher, and floor drain?

Keep these in mind as you go through each step while creating your plan. Use a plain pen and paper or a notebook, or open up a new document in your word processor of choice, and make note of the following:

Establish Emergency Exits

The first step in creating your family emergency plan is to identify and plan an escape route from your neighbourhood, should you need to evacuate.

Then, identify emergency escape routes from every room in your home – preferably two different passages for each room.

Remember: families living in apartments should avoid using elevators in their emergency escape plan.

Identify a Meeting Place

The next step is to establish a place where you and your family will meet once you have escaped from your home.

In order to avoid crossing a busy street during an emergency, where traffic, ambulances or fire trucks may be present, make sure that your meeting place of choice is on the same side of the street as your house.

Make a Plan for Your Kids

If you have children, you should identify contacts in case there is an emergency during school hours. Identify at least two persons that can pick your children up from school or daycare in case of an emergency – make sure your child’s school or daycare has the most recent contact information of these individuals.

Identify Special Health Needs

If you or any family members have any special health concerns or needs, it’s important to keep these in mind when creating your family emergency plan.

Write down the contact information of your emergency contacts, as well as the details of your allergies, any surgeries you’ve had, a brief family medical history, any medications you’re taking, your most recent vaccinations, and any medical conditions.

Make sure that your relatives, friends, neighbours, and health-care providers understand your needs.

Don’t Forget About Pets

If you have pets, remember to include them in your evacuation plan. Keep in mind that, since some hotels or public shelters prohibit pets, you should make plans in advance – for example, bring them with you to a friend’s or relative’s house.

Record Your Local Emergency Numbers

Your plan should include several local emergency numbers, including your local police and fire departments, ambulance, as well as a nearby health clinic.

Establish an Out-of-Town Contact

Besides recording local emergency contact numbers, be sure that your plan includes the phone number and/or e-mail of at least one out-of-town contact. Be sure that your contact lives in an area that’s far enough away that they would not be affected by an emergency event in your town.

Include the home, work, and cell number of your contact, as well as their e-mail and full home address. In the event of an emergency, each family member should phone or email this same out-of-town contact.

Be Safe Within your Home

It’s vital to have working fire extinguishers and smoke detectors in your home year round – however, in an emergency situation, the importance of these is paramount.

Write down and share with your family the location of the following emergency items:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Family emergency kit – for a list of essential items, see our guide on how to put together a home emergency preparedness kit.
  • Water valve
  • Electrical box
  • Gas valve
  • Floor drain

Protect Your Home and Its Contents

Besides creating your family emergency plan, it’s important to keep your home and its contents safe in case the unexpected were to occur. Choose a home insurance policy that’s right for you and your family – Desjardins offers home insurance policies tailored to fit your unique needs, and offers benefits such as free identity theft assistance and multi-line discounts.