Family Plan

STEP 2: Make Preparations

Prepare a personal evacuation plan.
  • Identify ahead of time where you could go if you are told to evacuate. Choose several places- a friend's home in another town, a motel or a shelter.
  • Keep handy the telephone numbers of these places as well as a road map of your locality. You may need to take alternative or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or clogged.
  • Listen to NOAA ( Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Know what to do when a Hurricane WATCH is issued.
  • Listen to NOAA ( Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for up-to- date storm information.
  • Prepare to bring inside any lawn furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants, and anything else that can be picked up by the wind.
  • Prepare to cover all windows of your home. If shutters have not been installed, use precut plywood as described in following pages. Note: Tape does not prevent windows from breaking, so taping windows is not recommended.
  • Fill your car's gas tank.
  • Recheck manufactured home tie-downs.
  • Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water and medications.
Know what to do when a hurricane WARNING is issued.
  • Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so.
  • Complete preparation activities.
  • If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors, away from windows.
  • Be aware that the calm "eye" is deceptive; the storm is not over. The worst part of the storm will happen once the eye passes over and the winds blow from the opposite direction. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and other objects damaged by the first winds can be broken or destroyed by the second winds.
  • Be alert for tornadoes. Tornadoes can happen during a hurricane and after it passes over. Remain indoors, in the center of your home, in a closet or bathroom without windows.
  • Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car and climb to higher ground.
If local officials haven't advised an immediate evacuation:
  • If there's a chance the weather may get worse or flooding may happen, take steps now to protect your home and belongings. Do this only if local officials have not asked you to leave.
Protect your home.
  • Bring things indoors. Lawn furniture, trash cans, children's toys, garden equipment, clotheslines, hanging plants, and any other objects that may fly around and damage property should be brought indoors.
  • Leave trees and shrubs alone. If you did not cut away dead or diseased branches or limb from trees and shrubs, leave them alone. Local rubbish collection services will not have time before the storm to pick anything up.
  • Look for potential hazards. Look for unripe fruit, and other objects in trees around your property that could blow or break off and fly around in high winds. Cut them off and store them indoors until the storm is over.
  • Turn off electricity and water. Turn off electricity at the main fuse or breaker, and turn off water at the main valve.
  • Leave natural gas on. Unless local officials advise otherwise, leave natural gas on because you will need it for heating and cooking when you return home. If you turn gas off, a licensed professional is required to turn it back on, and it may take weeks for a professional to respond.
  • Turn off propane gas service. Propane tanks often become dislodged in disasters.
  • If flooding is expected, consider using sand bags to keep water away from your home. It takes two people about one hour to fill and place 100 sandbags, giving you a wall one foot high and 20 feet long. Make sure you have enough sand, burlap or plastic bags, shovels, strong helpers, and time to place them properly.
  • Remember Houses do not explode due to air pressure differences. Damage happens when wind gets inside a home through a broken window, door, or damaged roof.
  • Cover the outside of windows with shutters or plywood. Use shutters that are rated to provide significant protection from windblown debris, or fit plywood coverings over all windows. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking. All tape does is prevent windows from shattering. Using tape on windows is not recommended.
Protect your valuables.
  • Move objects that may get damaged by wind or water to safer areas of your home. Move television sets, computers, stereo and electronic equipment, and easily moveable appliances like a microwave oven to higher levels of your home and away from windows. Wrap them in sheets, blankets or burlap.
  • Make a visual or written record of all of your household possessions. Record model and serial numbers. This list could help you prove the value of what you owned if those possessions are damaged or destroyed, and can assist you to claim deductions on taxes. Do this for all items in your home, including expensive items such as sofas, chairs, tables, beds, chests, wall units, and any other furniture too heavy to move. Store a copy of the record somewhere away from home, such as in a safe deposit box.
Prepare for high winds.
  • Install hurricane shutters or purchase precut 1/2" outdoor plywood boards for each window of your home. Install anchors for the plywood and predrill holes in the plywood so that you can put it up quickly.
  • Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and damaged limbs, then strategically removing branches so that wind can blow through.
Prepare for those with special needs.

Download our Special Needs Guide { PDF } – Click Here »
The elderly and chronically ill are particularly vulnerable during an emergency such as a hurricane. Power outages can pose serious threats to someone dependent on respiratory devices or other medical devices.

Follow these steps to ease the difficulty of accommodating a special needs family member in an emergency:

  • If a family member needs assistance with evacuation, register with local emergency authorities before hurricane season begins. Emergency response crews will not be able to help you when the storm arrives.
  • Register with your local power company. Most companies do give special priority to homebound patients but it may take time before crews can begin work.
  • Make prior arrangements with your physician and medical supplier if you require medical devices that operate on electricity.
  • If you require oxygen, check with your supplier about emergency plans.
  • If you have to evacuate, make sure to bring any medications, special equipment, walkers, wheelchairs and other aids, along with written care instructions.
  • Help those with special needs by preparing their homes and property for emergencies, shopping for supplies and writing a disaster plan.

If you do not evacuate, have a list of friends and family members with their phone numbers so you can make quick arrangements to stay with them in the event of a power outage. And identify the nearest hospital that could help provide emergency electricity for life-support equipment. Your family members living in a nursing home also need assistance to prepare for a storm.

Ask health care providers if they are ready for disasters or emergencies.
Preparations should include:

  • Transportation agreements that are renewed every year.
  • Maps with highlighted evacuation routes.
  • A disaster plan annually reviewed by staff and administration.
  • Emergency training for employees on a regular basis.
  • An identification method for residents that includes names, ages, medical conditions and medications.
  • A list of items and care procedures for each resident in the event of evacuation.
  • A list of volunteers who will help in an emergency.
  • Transfer forms to authorize admissions to hospitals if necessary.

The best arrangement may be to include special needs family members in the evacuation.

Prepare in advance. Shop for supplies and store for emergency use. Secure the home when an emergency occurs. Teach those who may need to assist in an emergency how to operate necessary equipment a special needs family member may need. If a personal care attendant is a part of your family's support system, discuss emergency planning with his/her employer as well as the attendant. Will services be provided in other areas should an evacuation be necessary? If a special needs shelter is an option, will the caregiver go with your family member? If hearing aids, electric wheelchairs or other battery-operated equipment are used, store aids and batteries in easily accessible places. For the hearing impaired: Consider carrying a preprinted card that reads, “I speak American Sign Language.” At home (or in a nursing home), create and post a list of friends and family and phone numbers to call for help should the need arise. Include at least one (1) out-of-state and one (1) local friend or family member.

Homebound, Life Support or Home Health Care Patients
Patients who are on homebound, on life support or are home health care patients, know this - during many emergencies, emergency vehicles will not be able to pick you up. If you are going to evacuate, make arrangements early. Notify your home health agency where you will be during an emergency, or contact your physician if you are not under the care of a home health agency. Check with your oxygen supplier about emergency planning. Locate the nearest hospital that can provide emergency power if you have electricity-dependent equipment and electrical service may be interrupted.

Nursing Home Patients
Those in a nursing home: Are your family member’s health care providers prepared for a disaster or emergency? Look for annually reviewed and in-place disaster emergency plans and ongoing, in-house staff emergency preparedness training; patient identification plans (name tags, wristbands, medical conditions, etc.); transfer forms and transport plans for evacuations; maps with evacuation routes noted; and list of supplies and medicines that are to accompany your family member in the event of an evacuation.

Medical Special Needs Shelters
These shelters are intended for those who need assistance that cannot be guaranteed in a regular shelter (for example, medication that requires refrigeration, power for special equipment, etc.), and have no other resources.

Those who qualify for a Medical Special Needs Shelter cannot be ill and must:

  • Be able to provide for their own basic care.
  • Have a chronic, debilitating medical condition that requires intermittent or occasional assistance.
  • Be dependent on electricity on an intermittent basis for medical treatments or refrigeration of medicines.
  • Meet the criteria and be a candidate for services supported in the shelter.
  • Those found to be acutely ill will be referred to local hospitals.

If you move to a Medical Special Needs Shelter, remember to take:

  • Medications and equipment needed to administer
  • Written instructions regarding your care
  • Walker, wheelchair, cane or other special equipment
  • Bedding
  • Identification, insurance, health and Social Security cards
  • Batteries
  • Nonperishable food including that needed for special diets (five [5]-day supply)
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Clothes
  • Air mattress
  • Drinking water (one [1] gallon per day)
  • Extra glasses
  • Flashlight
  • Garbage bags
  • Food for guide or service dogs (if applicable)
  • Style and serial numbers for medical devices (such as pacemakers)
  • Draw sheets (if appropriate)
    • Plastic hospital-type urinal (if needed)

A caregiver must stay with a special needs family member while in the shelter.

Caring for Pets During An Emergency

FEMA - Animals and Emergencies
Locate PET-FRIENDLY Hotels & Motels

Don't forget your pet when preparing a family disaster plan.

Contact your veterinarian or local humane society for information on preparing your petsfor an emergency.


  • Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
  • Have a current photograph.
  • Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
  • Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal - carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
  • Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet! Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster. If you plan to shelter your pet - work it into your evacuation route planning.


  • Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have: Proper identification collar and rabies tag, proper identification on all belongings, a carrier or cage, a leash, an ample supply of food, water and food bowls, any necessary medications, specific care instructions and news papers or trash bags for clean-up.
  • Bring pets indoor well in advance of a storm - reassure them and remain calm.
  • Pet shelters will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Call ahead and determine availability.


  • Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home - often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
  • If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.
  • After a disaster, animals can become aggressive or defensive - monitor their behavior.


  • Proper identification including immunization records
  • Ample supply of food and water
  • A carrier or cage
  • Medications
  • Muzzle, collar and leash

Plan for your pets

Animal ownership is a personal responsibility and properly caring for your animals during a storm and possible evacuation takes careful preparation and planning ahead of time.

Make sure your pets have proper identification – preferably something permanent like a microchip or tattoo and collars with identifying tags.

Important items concerning pets to take along during an evacuation: health records, 3-day food and water supply, pet carriers, leashes, harnesses, muzzles, special medications.

Exotic pets, like snakes and lizards, should be contained at all times and owners need to bring extension cords for plugging in heat rocks and lamps.

Take digital or film pictures of any identifying marks on the pet in order to prove ownership.

Plan for cattle and horses
Cattle and horse owners should move their livestock on their property that is least likely to flood where a herd can quickly and easily be moved when a hurricane threatens the area.

Owners of expensive or genetically superior breeding stock should consider transporting their animals with them during an evacuation.

It's important for livestock owners who plan to evacuate with a trailer of animals to leave as early as possible. During hurricane evacuations it is not unusual for routes to close to trailer and towing traffic.

Bring health records, food, special medications, bridles, leads, rope, etc. For horses, be sure to bring proof of EIA testing.