U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Prepare for an Emergency

The Basics

Planning ahead can help keep you and your family safe if there’s an emergency, like a natural or man-made disaster. Examples of emergencies include:

  • Natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes
  • Flu pandemics (flu outbreaks that spread around the world)
  • Blackouts (where large areas lose power)
  • Terrorist attacks

Emergencies can happen at any time, so it’s important to make sure you and your family are ready. Here’s what you can do:

  • Get an emergency supply kit.
  • Make a family emergency plan.
  • Learn what to do in different types of emergencies.
Take Action!

Take Action!

Don’t wait – make a plan with your family today.

Make an emergency supply kit.
Gather supplies like water, medicines, and blankets. You won’t have time to search or shop for these supplies during an emergency, so put together your kit now. Make sure your kit includes:

  • Water for at least 3 days. You’ll need at least 1 gallon of water a day for each person. Don't forget water for your pets, too!
  • Food for at least 3 days. Choose foods that don’t need to be kept cold, like energy bars, peanut butter, crackers, and canned fruit (don’t forget a can opener). Find out how to keep food safe during an emergency.
  • Prescription medicine that you take every day, like heart or diabetes medicine.
  • A first aid kit to treat cuts, burns, and other basic injuries. Find out what to put in your family’s first aid kit. (You can also buy first aid kits at many stores.)
  • A battery-powered radio with extra batteries or a hand crank radio.
  • A flashlight and extra batteries.
  • A whistle to call for help.

Keep your emergency supplies together in a backpack, bag, or easy-to-carry container. Use a waterproof container if possible. Store your supplies in a place that’s easy to reach.

For more help putting together your kit, print out this emergency supply kit checklist [PDF - 163 KB].

Make a plan.
It’s important to make a plan in case your family members aren’t in the same place when disaster strikes. Consider a plan where each family member calls the same friend or relative if there’s an emergency.

Print this Family Emergency Plan [PDF - 520 KB]. Sit down and fill it out together so that everyone in your family knows what to do.

Some people may need extra help in an emergency. Find out about resources for:

Find out about plans at school and work.
Places where you and your family spend the most time, like school and work, may have their own emergency plans. Ask your employer and your child’s school for a copy of their emergency plan.

Get questions to ask school or work about their emergency plan.

Know what to do during different types of emergencies.
Contact your state’s emergency management office to find out about the different kinds of disasters that might happen in your area. Ask if your community has an emergency response plan.

Plan ahead for how you could take action in different types of situations. For example:

Always listen to local warnings to help you decide what to do.

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