Survival

How to Make a Basic Emergency Plan

plan

If you pay any attention to the state of affairs in our world, it’s easy to see that there is danger around every corner and sometimes right in your own home. There’s really no way to avoid every single dangerous situation.

Emergencies just happen, and to make matters worse, they are so often completely unpredictable. In the case of natural disasters, you may get some advanced warning but are often at the mercy of the weather for your geographic area. Most criminal and terrorist acts are random, without any way to predict them for certain in advance. You have to be ready at all times for whatever comes.

So, if you’ve decided to be more prepared for emergencies and recently discovered the prepping lifestyle, you are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed. In this article, we’re going to outline how to make a basic emergency plan that will keep you and your family safer in dangerous emergency situations.

Most people believe it’s their job to protect their loved ones from danger in the world, right? And of course that’s true. Every person wants their family to be safe, so it IS our job to keep our family safe. But what many people don’t realize is that there’s a difference between protecting your family FROM danger and preparing them FOR danger.

Similar to the feed a man a fish versus teach a man to fish adage, if your family never knows danger, they will always need you or someone else to protect them from it. In today’s world it’s simply impossible for you to be there 24/7 to keep your family away from danger. You must prepare your family for danger in order to keep them safe.

So, the new adage is… if you protect your family from danger, they are safer for today, if you prepare your family for danger, they are safer the rest of their lives.

When you think of it this way, it’s easy to see that preparing is more desirable than protecting. The first step in preparing yourself or your family for danger is to make a basic emergency plan. If you’re overwhelmed with all that prepping entails, a basic emergency plan can definitely help. So, that’s what we’re going to outline for you today.

One thing to keep in mind is that a good emergency plan combines knowledge, skills, and action/practice for each area. In most cases, you will gain the knowledge of a topic, then learn the skills related to that topic, and then take action or practice those skills until you master them.

Step One: Threat Inventory

One of the first things to do when making a basic emergency plan is to figure out the dangers you are most likely to face. Your specific threat inventory will largely depend on your geographic location (climate and terrain), your neighborhood (population density, crime, etc.), and your lifestyle (budget, special needs, family size, etc).

Start by making a list of all the dangers or threats that you can think of. It should be a long list and it should be based on statistics from your local area as well as what you or others have experienced in the area. Consider natural disasters, terrorist acts or looting, other recent criminal activity in your area, potential personal emergencies, etc. Below are just some examples to consider in each category:

Natural Disasters

Criminal Activity

  • Home Invasion
  • Mugging/Robbery
  • Terrorist Acts
  • Rape/Assault
  • Theft
  • Identity Theft/Fraud

Personal Emergencies

  • Unexpected Job Loss and other Unexpected Events
  • Accidental Injury
  • Motor Vehicle Accident (car, motorcycle, ATV, tractor/mower)
  • Boating Accident
  • Extended Illness

Once you have a good list of the potential threats that you will face, prioritize them with the most likely to happen at the top of the list. As you create the rest of your emergency plan, you will keep the top 5 to 10 most likely threats in mind.

Once you’ve prepared adequately for those top 10 threats, you can add anything you would need to be prepared for the additional threats.

Parts of a Basic Emergency Plan

small stockpile

Stockpile

Emergencies, while unexpected often require short term resources. When preparing a stockpile for emergencies, focus on enough supplies for 24 hours without access to government or retail sources. Once you have sufficient supplies for 24 hours, then stockpile for 3 days, extend it to 1 week, then for 3 weeks and so on.

Most experts agree that 3 weeks of stockpiled supplies is sufficient for most emergencies. We’re not talking SHTF preps here, just short term emergencies like a natural disaster or extended power outage.

lean-to shelter

Shelter

The survival rule of three dictates that the average person can only survive about 3 hours without shelter from the elements, especially in extreme weather. Shelter is a critical resource and preparing for shelter should be a big part of your emergency planning. When it comes to shelter, you can either bug in or bug out.

Bugging in means you stay in your existing home or location and ride out the danger there. Bugging out means you evacuate to a new location which in most cases is outside your immediate area or in some way more secure than staying in your home.

Your emergency plan should detail your procedures for securing your existing home in an emergency and for bugging out to an alternate location. All family members should be aware of shelter planning.

house

Existing Home

Take stock of your current shelter situation. What can you improve? Look for ways to reinforce your existing shelter so it will withstand a natural disaster or another emergency.

Identify safest rooms for each type of natural disaster so family is clear on where to take shelter within the house if a tornado, earthquake, or home invasion occurs. Reinforce windows and doors and if feasible make or buy protective shutters for windows and points of entry.

Reinforce your garage door and consider creating an actual reinforced safe room within your home.

Bug Out Location

The safest option for most families is to stay put during an emergency. But there are some natural disasters, such as flooding or wildfires, which will require you to leave your home in order to stay safe.

For these types of emergencies, when it’s safer if you leave your home, make sure you can access temporary shelter with friends or family out of the area or in a community shelter if other options fail.

The best laid plans can go awry, especially in an emergency situation. Make sure that you can build emergency shelter, from found materials, if necessary.

Test Your Emergency Plan

One activity that can help you identify what additional supplies are needed in your stockpile and how prepared you are for emergencies is to turn off the utilities to your home temporarily, for 24 hours or even for a weekend.

Try to go the entire period without using public utilities or going to the store. Make a list of anything that you didn’t stockpile that would have been nice to have and make note of anything that went wrong that you didn’t expect. Use your notes to improve your emergency plan.

You should also test your bug out plan, including loading supplies and family members into your vehicle and driving to your desired location. Take notes on anything that goes wrong or that you think of that could happen in a real emergency and then plan accordingly.

Similar to the show “What Would You Do?” you may even want to go so far as to have someone try to get into your home uninvited or try to take your child from a park or another public location.

You’ll want to set some boundaries for your “intruder” so as not to actually do damage to your home or to your child. But see if someone can get inside your home or convince your child to go with them.

Do your kids just let people into the house without checking with you first? Perhaps they gave out the code to your garage door or alarm system to friends or neighbors that are no longer friendly? Will your kids notice someone following them? Do they know what ACTION to take to stay safe?

Other Things to Consider

Sanitation

The one thing that many people often neglect to plan for in an emergency situation is sanitation. We take our flush toilets, running water, and garbage pickup service for granted.

For many of us, and for our children, we’ve never had to live without these necessities. But in an emergency situation that knocks out public utility services, sanitation will quickly become a top priority. Those that have planned for proper sanitation will be better able to keep their home disease free.

It’s a good idea to learn how to flush your toilet without running water as this could work for awhile. It’s also good to plan for a source of water that will be available even if public water is not. This can be rainwater catchment of even jugs of tap water that you stockpile under the bathroom sink, solely for use in flushing the toilet in case of emergency.

Evacuation

As we mentioned above, there will be times when staying in your home may not be the safest option. If you are required to evacuate, will you go? What factors will you take into consideration before making a decision to evacuate temporarily?

How will family members who aren’t at home know where to meet? Make sure to consider what different needs you may have in the categories below:

  • Supplies (make sure they are lightweight, portable, and can be loaded quickly)
  • Transportation (keep gas tank full, perform regular vehicle maintenance, etc.)
  • Gear & equipment (portable radio, gas mask, bug out location or directions to shelter locations, emergency contact info, etc.)

Communication

Another of the services many of us take for granted is our communication network. We have come to rely so much on landlines, cell phones, texting, GPS, and internet service, it’s hard to imagine a life without.

  • Do you know the phone numbers and addresses or directions for family and friends?
  • Does your family know what to do in case of a house fire or other unsafe condition in your home?
  • Are you familiar with how to navigate using a paper map and do you have maps for your county and state?
  • Could you get to your bug out or a relative’s location without internet directions or GPS?
  • Do you have a reliable weather radio that will provide you with news, weather, and emergency services updates if power is out and internet is down?
  • If your loved one is away from home when an emergency occurs, how will you communicate with them to know they are safe?

Defense

Most people learn how to make a basic emergency plan because they want to keep themselves and their family safe in an emergency situation. The unfortunate truth is that emergencies can happen anytime and anywhere.

You could be at home, but you may also be at work, school, or even the grocery store. Family members could be separated when a natural disaster strikes. For this reason, every member of your family who is able, needs to learn defense strategies and techniques including personal self defense, home defense, and even neighborhood defense.

Start with basic self defense, and gradually include skills and weapons (firearms, non-lethal weapons) needed to defend other loved ones, your house, your property perimeter, etc.

Final Word

Does your family have a basic emergency plan? When was the last time you all sat down to review it together? Have you actually practiced any of the procedures outlined in your plan? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below. The time to practice is before you have to rely on the plan to save your life or the life of your family.

basic emergency plan pinterest image

Megan Stewart

About Megan Stewart

A mother of four and grandmother of six, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she's a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.
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2 thoughts on “How to Make a Basic Emergency Plan

  1. Megan,
    This is a rather comprehensive article for things I’ve been doing most of my life. When my wife and I first started dating, nearly 40 years ago, she would be amused when I chose the table in a restaurant, based on being able to watch the entrances and exits, with my back to a wall or more preferably, a blind corner. We both do this now as just normal situational awareness.

    Emergencies just happen, and to make matters worse, they are so often completely unpredictable. In the case of natural disasters, you may get some advanced warning but are often at the mercy of the weather for your geographic area. Most criminal and terrorist acts are random, without any way to predict them for certain in advance. You have to be ready at all times for whatever comes.

    While this is all true, one needs to be prepared; but, not paranoid, since the likelihood of an incident happening to any one individual is generally very low.

    So, if you’ve decided to be more prepared for emergencies and recently discovered the prepping lifestyle, you are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed. In this article, we’re going to outline how to make a basic emergency plan that will keep you and your family safer in dangerous emergency situations.

    While we’ve not recently started this lifestyle, I educate and consult with many who are finally waking up and beginning this journey and will present what I teach them at the conclusion of this comment.

    But what many people don’t realize is that there’s a difference between protecting your family FROM danger and preparing them FOR danger.

    This is do true, with most people having normalcy bias, thinking that a credit card, a cell phone, and perhaps a AAA card will get them out of hot water. This is quite often true; but, not thinking beyond this mindset can quickly get you into a bad situation with no easy or fast way out.

    So, the new adage is… if you protect your family from danger, they are safer for today, if you prepare your family for danger, they are safer the rest of their lives.

    I’m not sure I would have used the word ”danger” but even ”unexpected” or ”inconvenience” may be mitigated with a little planning.

    When you think of it this way, it’s easy to see that preparing is more desirable than protecting. The first step in preparing yourself or your family for danger is to make a basic emergency plan. If you’re overwhelmed with all that prepping entails, a basic emergency plan can definitely help. So, that’s what we’re going to outline for you today.

    I have an easy way to do this plan, called the Threat Matrix, with an article on the subject that was once published here; but, appears to be no longer in the archive.
    Test Your Emergency Plan

    One activity that can help you identify what additional supplies are needed in your stockpile and how prepared you are for emergencies is to turn off the utilities to your home temporarily, for 24 hours or even for a weekend.

    We’ve done this in the past; but, now it’s hard to do, since our only outside utilities are electric, cell phones (2 carriers), landline telephone & internet. We have a well & septic, so if we have water (even in buckets) we have basic sanitation, and if we have power, we pretty much have everything. The only way to not have power is to manually shut down the generator, and then turn off the breaker to the transfer switch, which we have done a few times. Even without power or generator running, most of our electronics keep running, since most or all are powered by UPS units or directly by batteries.

    The one thing that many people often neglect to plan for in an emergency situation is sanitation. We take our flush toilets, running water, and garbage pickup service for granted.

    As long as we have water we can flush and the dumpster only gets emptied every 4-6 weeks or less often if we use the burn barrel.
    All of this preparedness has BTW taken decades, so one must be patient and keep chipping away at it.

    For many of us, and for our children, we’ve never had to live without these necessities.

    As a child we had a cottage with an outhouse (two holes) and taking kids primitive camping is a great way to teach them how to live with less than perfect conditions. These steps can make a short term event, more of an adventure than a problem, keeping in mind, that if the adults are calm & cool, the kids will most likely be the same.

    It’s a good idea to learn how to flush your toilet without running water as this could work for awhile. It’s also good to plan for a source of water that will be available even if public water is not. This can be rainwater catchment of even jugs of tap water that you stockpile under the bathroom sink, solely for use in flushing the toilet in case of emergency.

    Unless the jugs are large, they may not be a good flush source. Most modern toilet is 1.6 gallons for a flush, and most jugs are one gallon, so I recommend a 5-gallon bucket with a loose fitting lid. Filled with water the loose lids will keep out dirt & bugs and the 5 gallons will provide 3 flushes (1.6 x 3 = 4.8)

    Evacuation

    As we mentioned above, there will be times when staying in your home may not be the safest option. If you are required to evacuate, will you go? What factors will you take into consideration before making a decision to evacuate temporarily?

    It will of course depend a lot on the event causing the evacuation. A Category 5 hurricane bearing down on your location would be a good time to not hesitate too long.
    In our case it would be an upwind Hazmat spill or a house fire; but, I can think of no others. They key is to know your threats and be able to deal with them quickly should they arise.

    Communication

    Another of the services many of us take for granted is our communication network. We have come to rely so much on landlines, cell phones, texting, GPS, and internet service, it’s hard to imagine a life without.

    All true; but, depending on the problem, you are likely to have landline telephone service well into any event, since that system is extremely robust. I worked in telephony for 1/3 of my career and those systems are designed for a 40 year life time with huge battery banks in the central offices to ride out most power problems. GPS OTOH will also most likely be working for anything short of a large scale HEMP, since both the satellite constellation and the handheld units are independent of most other infrastructure.

    As an amateur radio operator for more than 40 years, I have more ways to communicate than I can count. With no Morse code requirement and hand held radios now available for less than $50.00, I would urge everyone to get licensed and get involved. Once licensed, there are many activities and people available to help with learning more and since emergency communications is a large part of the hobby, many self reliant people are already involved.

    Does your family know what to do in case of a house fire or other unsafe condition in your home?

    With only two of us here, that would be yes.

    Are you familiar with how to navigate using a paper map and do you have maps for your county and state?

    Also yes along with compass and land navigation (orienteering) skills that I sometimes teach others.

    Could you get to your bug out or a relative’s location without internet directions or GPS?

    We have no bug out location; but, relatives are in walking distance if required and there is not likely to be any survivable event that stops GPS from working.

    Do you have a reliable weather radio that will provide you with news, weather, and emergency services updates if power is out and internet is down?

    Many of those and some that could allow me to directly communicate back to NWS and local authorities.

    If your loved one is away from home when an emergency occurs, how will you communicate with them to know they are safe?

    My wife is the only one where this could happen, and cince we are both local EMA members, there are numerous places where we could go for shelter and to relay status. It pays to get involved with your local first responder community.
    Defense

    You could be at home, but you may also be at work, school, or even the grocery store. Family members could be separated when a natural disaster strikes. For this reason, every member of your family who is able, needs to learn defense strategies and techniques including personal self defense, home defense, and even neighborhood defense.

    As a martial artist for more than 50 years, a shooter for almost 60 and a certified firearms instructor for nearly 30, we are in pretty good shape. Our local community has MAG members, all of whom are shooters and are welcome here as a rally point in a real SHTF situation.
    The property is equipped with perimeter sensors and solar powered motion sensor lighting and a 200 foot clear field of view around the house.

    Assuming you have taken the first step in the preparedness journey, that being to do something other than think about it, here’s your second step.

    ”The Threat matrix revivited”
    Something you might want to do to organize your start is a technique called
    ”The Threat Matrix” , that I will describe here. This tool is not hard or complex; but, will take some clear and honest thinking as you create it, and once it’s completed, you’ll have a map to start you on your way with some semblance of organization, and perhaps a little less stress. You can use paper and pencil, a dry erase board or Post-it Notes, or a spreadsheet or word processor, if you’re comfortable with one of those tools. Here is how you construct the one for your situation.
    Start with a list of threats in prioritized order, with loss of your income, death in the family, or sudden acute illness at the top. Add global nuclear war and life ending asteroid strike at the bottom. Fill in the middle with the threats you and your family could actually face. As an example, in my location we can have blizzards and tornados; but, are not concerned with earthquakes or hurricanes and generally not much with floods or wildfires at my actual physical location, so be honest with yourself for your area, location, and situation.
    Next, starting at the most likely / highest priority event, make a list of the resources required to mitigate that threat. A resource in this case would be Materials, knowledge, and/or skills.
    Keep in mind also that often people confuse information, knowledge, and skills with each other. There is; however, a simple way to understand the difference and that is the application of each to your own situation. A library with all of its books or the internet with all of its web pages, podcasts, & videos, contains absolutely no knowledge. That content is only information. When you apply that information by reading, listening, or watching, then you gain knowledge when you start to understand the concepts.
    That act of absorbing and understanding information does not however make a skill until you then apply that knowledge by ”doing” something to create a skill, and then practice that skill to become proficient. One additional concept to keep in mind is that the old maxim, ”Practice Makes Perfect” is only partially correct, since only ” Perfect Practice Makes Perfect” , especially when doing things that could be dangerous, like chopping or splitting wood or running a chainsaw, so take your time.
    Once you have made your threat list, and added the knowledge, skills, and resources required to mitigate that threat, move on down to the next one on the list. What you will find is that as you move down the list, you start needing to add fewer & fewer items, since they have already been covered in the levels above. Once the matrix is complete, you have a plan with a map for the supplies, knowledge (books and other information), and skills to acquire, and like any journey, it just gets easier with a map to the destination.
    Also, note that as you prepare your way down this list, other things you missed will pop into your head; but, be assured that this is normal, and as you move on this journey in an organized fashion, you should occasionally stop and smell the flowers, looking back for just a minute to see how far you’ve come. Always looking ahead will only tend to disappoint you, because this journey like life itself never has a final destination. I’ve been seriously on this journey and lifestyle for 50+ years, and still on occasion wonder what I’m missing.
    Your journey forward into preparedness will be constantly changing as you acquire new resources or skills, many of which will then equip you to think of and ask questions that might not even have been thought of at the start, since we are often sometimes to ignorant to even ask the right questions. One of those resources are the incredible people here who are not too proud to admit ignorance and ask a question and often have the knowledge or skills to answer one., so don’t be shy and ask or answer.
    Sometimes not knowing what we don’t know is our biggest problem; but, as you move forward, often very obvious things will pop into your head, at which point you go back and rework the matrix; but, I think you’ll find that it will only get easier and you will eventually gain some peace of mind

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