Emergency preparedness checklist

From flash floods and landslides to wildfires, climate-related emergencies can arise anywhere, anytime. Safeguard your family by preparing in advance an evacuation plan you can follow no matter where or when action may be needed.

A solid plan and the right supplies will help you feel calm and assured in an emergency, which can go a long way in keeping yourself and others safe. The following are key action items to handle now so that if evacuation becomes necessary in the future–whether it’s the middle of the night or the middle of the work or school day–you know how to get yourself and your loved ones to safety.

DO: Stay alert for local threats

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S., while other threats may be more or less likely depending on where you live. From seasonal wildfires in the West to hurricanes along the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf Coast, it’s important to know which types of emergencies you most likely may confront in your area.

Also see: Everything you need if a hurricane is forecast for your area

Here are a few ways to monitor your local situation:

  • Pay attention to local weather alerts.
  • Many communities have a local emergency notification system – sign up for it.
  • Know the difference between a hazardous weather watch, advisory, and warning. A watch is issued when conditions are ripe for extreme weather. An advisory means hazardous conditions are actively occurring or imminent. And a warning means more extreme conditions are actively occurring or imminent.
  • Learn the signals of natural disasters that could occur near you. For example, warning signs of a landslide may include loud sounds of trees or boulders cracking against each other, or there may be suddenly muddy water in a stream that routinely was flowing clear.
  • Visit Ready.gov to learn more about potential disasters including floods, hurricanes, and wildfires.

DO: Prepare an evacuation kit in advance

If evacuation becomes necessary, you won’t have the luxury of much time to pack a bag. According to the Red Cross, wildfires, for instance, can move at a rate of up to 14 miles an hour. And flash floods and damaging mud slides can occur within a few minutes or hours of heavy rainfalls.

To prepare in advance for such possibilities, you can keep it simple and buy a three-day emergency preparedness kit from the Red Cross or learn how to make your own.

Below is a partial list of some basics to include in your “go-bag” or other container:

  • Three days supply of water and non-perishable foods;
  • First aid kit and prescription medicines;
  • A cell phone if you have one and the companion charger;
  • Flashlight, radio, and extra batteries;
  • Copies of important documents and emergency plans (see below);
  • Essential pet supplies;
  • Weather-appropriate clothing (for example, in case of fire, you’ll need long-sleeved cotton shirts and pants, and heavy shoes or boots);
  • Learn more about building a kit at Ready.gov.

DO: Create and print an evacuation plan

Forced evacuations are stressful and happen amid challenging conditions, from smoke-darkened roads and highways to heavy rains, power outages, and downed phone lines and cellular towers. Prepare family members and yourself to navigate those challenges by discussing, creating, and printing out and sharing a plan now.

The Red Cross recommends these basic steps:

1. DISCUSS with your family and neighbors potential disasters, shared needs and resources, and ways to coordinate roles and strategies.


* Establish emergency contacts and choose two places to meet up with others in your household if an evacuation is ordered at a time when you’re not all together. Print out local maps and highlight the route you’ll take, along with a backup route if some roads are blocked.

* If you have children at school or senior relatives in a group home, find out their institutions’ evacuation plans. If you have pets, determine how you can best handle and protect them quickly, and also create backup plans in the event you are not home to do so yourself.

* Disaster can strike any time, so make different plans for different scenarios, including if you’re at home, school, or work, or otherwise out and about.


* Do “dry runs” – Go through the exercise of escaping from your home twice a year, including with pets and emergency supplies.

Having a good plan, developed and exercised in advance, and staying calm in the face of emergency can help protect you and loved ones and also others sharing the path to safety.

For more information and resources, visit Ready.gov’s Make a Plan page and/or download a Red Cross Emergency App.

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...