Sara Schmidt

The Benefits of a Family Action Plan

If a disaster struck today, out of the blue with no warning, would you know what to do? Would you be prepared? Would your family be prepared? Sure you might have extra canned food in the pantry, a flashlight with extra batteries; maybe you even have a fire-proof safe to guard your important documents. But have you considered all of the possibilities? Maybe an evacuation is necessary. Where will you go? What will you take with you? Perhaps a loved one falls ill. How will you care for them? Are you physically, mentally and financially prepared to handle an emergency? All emergencies? In a world full of unpredictable hazards, severe weather events, terrorism, sicknesses, nuclear disasters, and fires to name a few, emergency preparedness can mean the difference between life and death.

At this point you might feel pessimistic, even doubtful, about your ability to consider all of the possibilities, to plan for any circumstance. Is it even possible to be 100% prepared? Well, we can certainly try. One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to develop a detailed and comprehensive family action plan. A family action plan identifies and acknowledges the risks, prepares for them, mitigates, or lessens, the effects of the risks, and is practiced by every member of the family to ensure its effectiveness. It should include pertinent information for each family member: where they work or go to school, how to contact them in case of an emergency, who should be contacted for them, any allergies and medications; essentially, any information that would be valuable in a time of emergency. Perhaps someone in your family has a disability that requires additional attention? Include it in your plan.

It might seem daunting, but a family action plan should be included in everybody’s emergency planning.  Just as you use smoke detectors to warn you about potential fires, a family action plan provides protection from unforeseen circumstances. According to PEMA, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the first step in creating a plan should be discussion (How to). Get the family together and talk it out. Who will be responsible for what in case of an emergency? Who will be your emergency contacts? Where will you evacuate? These are all important questions to consider. PEMA suggests that you keep the plan as simple as possible, so that everyone can remember the most important details (How to).

In order to plan for all risks, let us first consider the possibilities. The top ten hazards in Pennsylvania, as designated by PEMA, are as follows: floods, fires, terrorism, winter storms, dam failures, influenza pandemic, hazardous materials incidents, earthquakes and landslides, nuclear facility accidents, and tropical storms, tornadoes, and thunderstorms (10 Potential). Consider these when creating your plan. How will your family respond to any of these events? A good plan identifies the risks and develops strategies for handling them. You’ll want to consider other events as well. Maybe you are out of work and struggling financially. How will you respond? Perhaps someone falls ill and needs constant care. Are you able to provide that? What about your place of employment? Are you equipped to handle an emergency there? What about your car? An all-hazards approach to preparedness creates the strongest plans.

Your plan is complete. It’s time to pack it away and pull it out ten years down the road when an emergency strikes? Wrong. Practice your plan. Practicing the plan is key to identifying potential hang-ups and ineffectiveness. A practiced plan also establishes familiar routes and protocols. Imagine a house fire. Pre-acknowledgement and drills of escape routes save time and potentially lives. Also, set a routine to review the plan and make any necessary revisions. Phone numbers change. Schedules change. Circumstances change. Plan on incorporating your family action plan in your preparedness routines. Changing your smoke alarm batteries? Pull out the plan and review it. Checking the expiration dates on your go-kit canned tuna? Pull out the plan and review it. Your plan should always be as current as possible.

“I live in a safe area? Do I still need a family action plan?” Everyone stands to benefit from a plan, and nowhere is completely safe. An effective family action plan creates an environment of preparedness. It forces all individuals to consider what hazards exist and how they can handle them. It identifies emergency contacts and routines and establishes procedures. When disasters hit, panic and confusion are common. Having arrangements in place alleviates the burdens and pitfalls of last minute planning. The benefits of creating a family action plan are numerous, but the biggest benefit is piece of mind.

Works Cited

10 Potential Emergencies. (2014, January 1). Retrieved October 27, 2014, from

How to Make a Family Emergency Plan. (2014, January 1). Retrieved October 27, 2014, from