Steps to Build a Successful Family Emergency Plan

The first step to successfully thriving when disaster strikes is careful planning and then taking steps to make the necessary physical preparations. The power is in the plan.

How do I build a successful family emergency plan that fits the needs of my unique family? Begin by first conducting a comprehensive risk assessment, then taking into consideration the special needs of each family member, and reviewing each of the areas of focus to make sure that you address every important aspect of preparing.

Every good prepper needs to build a comprehensive family emergency plan that is uniquely tailored for the risks that his or her family faces. A quality family emergency plan outlines the needs and provides a simple step-by-step way to ensure that your family has what is needed, knows what to do and is physical and mentally prepared to do hard things and survive.

Family Emergency Plan Goals

The goals for our family emergency plan goals are to:

  • Stay safe,
  • Limit losses,
  • Be quickly reunited, and
  • Resume normal life as soon as possible.

Your goals will likely be similar to ours, but make sure that you take the time to establish exactly what your goals are to ensure that the plan you design makes accomplishing those goals possible. Review your completed plan and ask yourself if the plan needs to be tweaked to ensure these goals are achieved.

Personal Risk Evaluation

Conducting a personal and family risk evaluation of the most likely dangers you may face is first on the list. Review our post Prepper Risk Assessment: What Threats Should You Be Prepared to Survive? to get started on evaluating which risks you need to mitigate.

We live several hundred miles away from a coastline so we do not take any steps to prepare for a hurricane or tsunami. Instead, earthquake intervention is one of our top items. Your location and individual circumstances are an important consideration.

Two Essential Family Emergency Plans

Unfortunately, we do not know what challenges or disasters you will face. That makes it critical for you to create two versions of a family emergency plan. One in the happy event that you get to face the challenges from the home front and another in case you are forced to evacuate your family to safety.

Home Family Emergency Plan

Your home family emergency plan will help you to strengthen your fortress building a stash of critical tools and supplies. It will include important skill acquisition for every member of your family. Home gives us the best chance of survival in the majority of scenarios.

Family Emergency Evacuation Plan

As prepared as your home may be, there are situations where your only hope of survival is to evacuate to a safer location. Leaving home is a dangerous option because you immediately become a refugee with limited supplies and resources. Having a quality family emergency evacuation plan will significantly increase your chance of survival.

Home – Stocked and Fortified

Our home provides us the ability to be safe and cared for during events such as:

  • Power outages, both short-term and long-term
  • Personal challenges such as unemployment or illness
  • Widespread challenges including food shortages and economic downturns
  • External dangers such as social unrest and looting
  • Physical protection from severe weather and natural disasters

The majority of challenges that you face will most likely be from your home. The better prepared your home fortress is with tools, supplies, and skills the better your ability to conquer the challenges. As you build your home family emergency plan, take into consideration each of the following categories.

Self-Reliance Skills

What you know is actually more important than the tools and resources that you accumulate. Your family emergency plan should include acquiring and perfecting skills that enable your family to be self-reliant.

Learn how to grow your own food, cook without electricity, complete home repairs, mend clothing, safely use prepper tools, and bake bread using only wheat, water, and salt. The more skills you have the more resilient you will be during hard times.

I think knowledge is the greatest prep we can stockpile because it is one thing that can never be lost, stolen, destroyed, or go out of date. Knowledge is free. You never run out of space to store it and you can take it anywhere.

Bear River Mama

Teach your family how to turn of the electricity, water, and natural gas to your home. Conduct impromptu house fire evacuation drills to ensure alarms are in working order and that every member of your family can safely evacuate if needed. We make basic self-defense defense skills an important part of our family emergency plan.

Survival Food Storage

A well-stocked prepper pantry is one of the most valuable possessions a family can have. One of the best assets to help you survive many short term challenges is to have everything you need already stocked on your pantry shelf.

We strongly encourage each family to include a 3-month supply of everyday foods as well as a long-term survival food supply in their emergency plan. The 3-month supply can buy you a little bit of time and buffer short term crisis. Get some great ideas for building your 3 month supply here.

A long term or survival food supply of basic grains, beans, and dried fruits and vegetables will ensure that your family will be able to have something to eat even if the crisis lasts for an extended period of time. Many of these staple dry goods can be stored for 25 to 30 years under the right conditions.

Home Production

Growing your own food is a great way to increase your nutrition and health today as well as make sure that your family has fresh foods to eat when times get tough. It is a great way to teach children how to work along the side of parents and build relationships.

Consider what you may be able to produce on your own property that you may be able to trade or barter with others. Get creative and develop a few streams of income that may come in handy in the future.

Power Outage Cooking

The ability to cook food and boil water during a power outage is a critical skill. It is important to accumulate the fuel, tools, and knowledge well in advance to make sure you don’t go hungry.

Perfecting alternative cooking techniques like roasting marshmallows over an open fire, barbequing, Dutch oven cooking, or cooking on a wood-burning stove can be great fun for family activities. Learning how to start and manage fire is a skill that everyone should master.

You should include several cooking options in your plan. Think about and plan for each of these options.

  • Cook safely indoors.
  • Cook effectively outside.
  • Cook in an evacuation scenario.

Water Storage and Purification

Water is a critical resource. You can only survive for 3 days without safe drinking water. Store as much water as you physically can. Plan for a minimum of 2 gallons per person per day for at least 2 weeks if at all possible.

Learn more about building your water storage at How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness.

Diversify your water storage so that you have some that is portable in the event that you need to evacuate. We have part of ours in 250-gallon totes, 55-gallon barrels, gallon jugs, and disposable water bottles.

Stored water will only last for so long. Develop a plan that includes where you can obtain more water when your stored water supply runs out. How will you transport the water to your home?

Make sure that you have a good water filter and the supplies and knowledge to help you purify the water you collect and make it safe to drink. Check out the post: Making Water Safe to Drink: 7 Disinfection Techniques to get started.


Emergency sanitation is frequently overlooked when creating a family emergency plan. Statistically more people die from unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation after a disaster than actually die in the initial event. Learn from this statistic and put emergency sanitation high on your list.

Take time to consider how you are going to manage without running water and a working sewer. How will you stay clean? How will you dispose of human waste without spreading disease?

You may want to explore these helpful resources about emergency sanitation to get started.

Emergency Lighting

It is important to decide exactly how you will light your world if the power goes out. Consider task lighting, area lighting, and personal lighting needs. Little ones are often comforted by individual flash lights or glow sticks. Use great caution with open flame.

You will find some great detailed examples at Brilliant Ideas to Literally Light Your World During a Power Outage.

Communication Plan

One of our top goals is to be quickly reunited with our loved ones. Your communication plan and devices may be instrumental in accomplishing this goal. Take the time to think through your communication plan. Don’t overlook the value of social media to help you connect. You can find an action plan to help you get started here.

Medical Supplies and Knowledge

Disasters are frequently accompanied by injuries. A well-stocked first-aid cabinet and advanced first aid skills can be very important. Don’t overlook the need to care for loved ones who are sick with a variety of illnesses.

Keep a well-stocked prepper cabinet with basic medications in it to ensure you have the medications you need when you need them. Check out this post for a list of medications you may want to stock.

Fuel Storage

You need fuel to heat your home, cook your food, fuel transportation, and light your world. As you decide which alternative heating and cooking devices you plan on using, make sure that you safely store enough fuel to see you through a crisis.

Financial Reserves

One of the best gifts that you can give your family is a debt-free life. You can avoid many of the challenges of economic downturns, unemployment, illness, and other financial crises simply by living within your means and saving for a rainy day.

It is easy when prepping to think that you need all of the latest and greatest toys in order to protect your family. Not true. There are ways to accumulate what you really need on a modest budget.

Let’s look at food storage. Purchasing a little extra each week and stocking up on sales will significantly reduce your grocery bill while still having a full pantry. At least initially, build your long term food storage on inexpensive grains and beans instead of the more expensive freeze-dried instant meals.

Keep a stash of emergency cash in small bills securely tucked away at home. A couple of credit cards without balances just may give you emergency purchasing power when you need it most.

Home Security

Your home and supplies are assets worth protecting. We have some great ideas to stimulate your thought process at The Prepper’s Guide to Securing Your Home.

Critical Documents

Organizing critical documents such as birth records, trust documents, bank records, etc. into one location is worth the time that it takes to do it. Check out How to Organize Critical Documents for Emergency Evacuation to help you get started.

Family Emergency Evacuation Plan

Now that you have secured your home and made it into a homesteaders dream, there is still the possibility that you may need to leave all this at a moment’s notice and flee for safety.

A family emergency evacuation plan must be carefully planned with great attention to detail to ensure the safety of each person.

Evacuation Location

Conduct a careful risk evaluation that includes any events that may require you to leave your home. It is a good idea to brainstorm this with the family. Talk about what your destination options might be for each event.

Be very careful not to scare your spouse or children. We plan so that it becomes a “no-big-deal event.” We know what to do and we will be okay.

Create Personal Survival Kits

A survival kit can be referred to as a Bug Out Bag, 72 Hour Kit, Emergency Kit, and more but it all comes down to a personalized survival kit that is designed to provide you with the essentials that you need if you are required to evacuate.

Create a unique survival kit for each family member. Go to How to Create the Perfect Survival Kit to learn how to get started. Remember the survival kit should be designed with your destination and transportation in mind.

Written Plan with Contact Numbers

In a world of cell phones, it may not occur to you the importance of having written contact information. It is a good idea to update each family member’s cell phone with current contact information and includes important addresses. If the cell phone works, it can be a great asset.

Place a written copy of the family plan (with details, photos, and contact information) in each family member’s survival kit. We post one on the back of our entry door and place them in each vehicle so that all our bases are covered.

Emergency Meeting Places

It is important to establish a meeting place for each of the possible risk scenarios you have identified. Make sure that you make advance preparations so that the needed supplies and accommodations are ready and waiting.

Primary Meeting Place

The primary meeting place should be right outside of your home. This meeting place might be used in the event of a house fire or another event which requires you to evacuate immediately.

Secondary Meeting Place

Your secondary meeting place should be away from your home but still in the area. This meeting place might be used if your home is evacuated due to a police evacuation, localized flooding, HAZMAT spill, etc.

Out-of-Area Meeting Place (Bug Out Location)

Out-of-Area Meeting Place is a meeting place at least 100 miles away that would not be affected by the same event. It is important to map out several alternative routes in the event that one route is blocked or unsafe.

Higher Ground Meeting Place

A higher ground meeting place to gather to if you are at risk of flooding or tsunami. This should be somewhere that would be out of danger but close enough to get to quickly.

Plan for Pets and Livestock

Our pets are often members of the family. Decide now whether they would stay or go. They are not allowed in some public shelters and must be properly restrained.

If they are staying, make sure that you can provide for their needs until you return. This can be quite challenging and requires advanced preparations.

Plan and Practice

A family emergency plan is a dynamic document. It is always changing as the situation and needs of each family member change. It should be updated regularly. Each time you practice your plan you will discover flaws that should be corrected, enabling you to perfect the plan.

As you prepare with your family, be very careful that you do so with an overall sense of empowerment and not fear. Remember the plan will help you to weather the storm and emerge victoriously. Don’t cause unneeded anxiety and stress because you approach this with an attitude of fear.

We prepare out of love for our family and a desire to see them make it safely through life’s challenges. Be sure that your prepping reflects that.

Game Time – What If?

A great way to mentally prepare your family and to perfect your plan is to play the “What If?” game. We play this game by spontaneously throwing out a scenario and talking through the possible courses of action. Carefully listen to the responses and gently steer them to the safest course of action.

  • We are driving in the car and I ask, “What if the two cars ahead of us got into an accident? What should we do?”
  • We are stopped at a light and I ask, “What would we do if that man walking across the crosswalk suddenly tried to get into our car?”
  • We are walking on the side of the road and I ask, “What would you do if that black truck pulled up next to you and tried to engage you in conversation?”
  • We are waiting in line at the bank and I ask, “What would you do if that man in the blue shirt pulled out a gun and yelled for everyone to get down?”
  • We are driving home from school and I ask, “What would you do if I didn’t show up at school to pick you up? What if I didn’t answer my cell phone?”
  • We are watching a movie late at night and I ask, “What would you do if the power went out right now? Where is the flashlight?”
  • Dinner table conversation may include, “I understand you had an active shooter drill at school today. What did you learn? What would you do if you were in the classroom and could hear the gunman pounding on your door?”

Remember as you listen and gently guide the responses, this is a teaching moment. It is important to make sure the scenarios always end in success and safety for your family.

Now Create the Perfect Emergency Plan for Your Family

We have created basic templates for a family emergency plan that you can find here. Use it to help get you started. Click here to get a PDF of the action plan. Make sure that you write it down, review it with your family, and practice, practice practice!

Don’t let this plan overwhelm you. Just take small, steady steps and every day you will get a little bit closer to your destination. Any steps you take are better than no steps at all. You can do this. We have created some great resources to help you on your journey. Take advantage of them.

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones


Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.

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