Does your family have an emergency plan? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Almost half the adults in the U.S. are unprepared for an emergency. Not having a plan or adequate resources could put you, your family and your pets at risk. Advanced planning can seem complicated and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some things that you can do right now to get started.


Take Steps to Stay Informed

You want as much advance warning of a disaster situation as possible. Many people rely on cell phones or computers for warnings and alerts. But there may be situations when the power is out, the internet is down or your cell phone isn’t charged. Here are some ways to stay informed.


Get an emergency radio powered by batteries, a hand crank or solar energy. Tune in to your NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) station. Not only do the broadcasts cover natural events, such as weather and earthquakes, they include environmental hazards and public safety alerts.

Stock extra cell phone chargers and keep them charged. A solar charger is also a good option. Download mobile apps that send out local alerts. The FEMA mobile app will send real-time alerts from the National Weather Service. The app includes emergency safety tips for over 20 types of disasters and will help you locate emergency shelters. Other helpful apps are available from the American Red Cross and the Weather Channel.


Build Emergency Kits

The CDC recommends you have an emergency kit with enough supplies to last 3 days for each person. Each person needs a gallon of water per day and a 3-day supply of nonperishable food. Your emergency kit should also include a first aid kit in case someone is injured. For what to put in a basic kit, go to Go to to learn about a kit for your car.


Know Where to Go to Evacuate

Plan alternate routes for evacuation. You may need to evacuate on foot or use public transportation. Identify somewhere to stay if you need to evacuate. You may stay with family or friends, at a hotel or other lodging, or in a shelter run by a disaster relief group. Be aware that some places may not allow pets. Search for open shelters by texting SHELTER and a ZIP code to 43362 (for example, SHELTER 78701). Go to to learn more.


Plan Ahead to Protect Your Pets

Talk to your vet about a microchip and how to enroll your pet in a recovery database. A microchip is a tiny computer chip that is implanted under the animal’s skin. Each chip has a registration number. Owners must contact the registry service vendor to add their name and contact info. Then if a pet is lost, shelters and vets can scan the pet with a chip reader and locate the owner.


Gather copies of important pet documents, such as adoption papers and shot records. Keep them with your pet emergency kit. Take a picture of you and your pet together to help you prove ownership or help others locate your pet. Make sure your pet’s collar or harness has an ID tag and rabies tag.

Locate emergency lodging options for your pet in case of evacuation. Some shelters and hotels won’t allow pets. Have a leash and pet carrier or crate available. Have at least a 3-day supply of food and water for each pet. Store the food in a waterproof container. Don’t forget your pet’s medicines. For more information, see the “Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information for Pet Owners” brochure, available at


Develop a Family Emergency Communication Plan

Your family may be in different places during a disaster. Plan how to communicate with each other and where to meet up. Go to for complete details. FEMA recommends the following:


  1. Collect contact information your family will need. Post a copy in an easy-to-view location, such as a bulletin board. Print a wallet-sized version and put it in your child’s backpack. Carry one in your wallet or purse.


  1. Identify someone outside your community who will act as a central point of contact. In a disaster, local phone lines can be jammed. Direct family members to send texts if calls don’t go through.


  1. Decide on emergency meeting places for different situations — indoors, in your neighborhood and outside your neighborhood. A safe indoor location might be a closet or bathroom. A meeting place in your neighborhood could be the corner store, a park or a neighbor’s house. If you can’t get back to your neighborhood, choose a place such as a library, church or friend’s home.


  1. Practice the plan. Have your child practice texting or calling. Talk about what the text should say, such as “I’m at Grandma’s house and I’m OK.” Practice gathering at emergency meeting places. Teach children when to call 911.


Know the Odds

According to Disaster Ready Austin, the top five disaster threats for the Austin area are flash floods; wildfire; severe weather that disrupts vital services; pandemic (flu); and release of hazardous materials.


Brenda Schoolfirld is a freelance medial writer who splits her time between Austin and Seattle.

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