Get Ready Now.
Emergencies and disasters can strike anyone, anytime and anywhere. They can happen quickly and without warning, and they can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or require you to stay in your home.
It is vital that you understand what a disaster could mean for you and your family. Each person’s needs and abilities are different, but every individual can take important steps to prepare for all kinds of emergencies and to put plans in place.
How to Make a Plan
Talk to your family about the hazards that could affect your area and what you should do if it happens.
- Decide on a place to meet – one in your neighborhood and one outside your neighborhood – in case you cannot return to your home.
- Write down your plan and make it part of your emergency supply kit. Download the worksheets below and fill them out. Have each member of your household carry a wallet card with them.
- Texts, email and social media posts are more likely to get through when cell networks are overloaded.
- Plan for your pets. Most evacuation shelters allow service animals only. (See more about pets below.)
- Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to serve as a point of contact for all the member of your household. Often during an emergency, long-distance calls will go through when local networks are overwhelmed.
- If you are instructed to turn off your home’s utilities, teach family members where and how to turn them off. Keep tools near the location. If you turn off the gas, a professional must turn it back on – do not attempt to do it yourself.
Evacuate or Stay?
The first important decision you will make in an emergency is whether you stay where you are or evacuate the area. You should understand and plan for both scenarios. Read more about how to ready yourself to evacuate or stay.
Download printable worksheets for each member of your household. Everyone should carry a copy.
I am in a
If you’re a parent or guardian, you should know how your child’s school plans to handle all emergencies and disasters. When you find out what the emergency plans are, be sure to enter those disaster plans into your family’s emergency plan
Parents and guardians should ask schools and daycare providers about their emergency plans.
- How will they communicate with you during a crisis?
- Do they store enough food, water and other basic supplies for students if they have to stay in place for an extended period of time?
- Where do they plan to go if they have to evacuate?
- How will you be reunited with your child?
Enter this information into your family’s emergency plan.
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Education provides instructions for creating school emergency plans.
Different disasters call for different methods of preparedness and shelter. Verify what actions you should take if you’re outside during a tornado, thunderstorm, winter storm or heat advisory.
- Crouching doesn’t make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors. Learn the facts from the National Weather Service.
- Be aware of the potential for flooding.
- Avoid tall structures, such as towers, telephone poles, fences and power lines.
- Stay away from rivers, lakes or other bodies of water.
- Try to find shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building.
- If no buildings are close, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
- If you see rising waters or flood waters, move quickly to higher ground.
- Do not walk through flooded areas.
- Avoid loose or dangling power lines. Immediately report them to the power company, police or fire department.
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. (The trapped air between the layers insulates.)
- Wear a hat.
- Cover the mouth with scarves to protect lungs from cold air.
- Mittens, snug at the wrists, are better than gloves.
- Stay dry.
- Do not stay outside for extended periods.
- Cold weather puts a strain on your heart, even without exercise. Be careful when shoveling snow, pushing a car or performing other strenuous tasks. Regardless of your age or physical condition, avoid overexertion in winter weather.
- Avoid strenuous activities. Try to work outside between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Drink plenty of water regularly and often, even if you are not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Use sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat if you must be out in the sun.
- Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Electric fans might not cool the air, but they can help sweat evaporate, which cools your body.
I am in a
If you are in a high-rise building when an emergency occurs, immediately move away from any windows or glass. Listen for instructions on how to proceed and remember to NEVER use elevators during an emergency event in case the electricty shuts down.
During an emergency
- Get under a desk or table if objects are falling.
- Stay away from file cabinets, bookshelves or other items that might fall.
- Face away from windows and glass, and move away from exterior walls.
- Listen for and follow instructions. If no instructions are coming, and the threat is immediate, decide whether to stay where you are or evacuate.
- Find your emergency supply kit.
- Never use elevators. Stay to the right on stairwells to let emergency workers come up.
Learn what to do during an active shooter event.
I am in a
If you’re in your vehicle when a disaster strikes, it is important to listen to the radio for any updates or instructions. Only drive if you absolutely have to and ensure that you have a substantial amount of gas before you leave your home.
Listen to local TV or radio for local weather forecasts and road conditions. If bad weather is forecast, drive only if absolutely necessary. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order with at least a half tank of gas.
- Do not drive through a flooded area – Six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car; 12 inches can make it float away.
- Where floodwaters have receded – Roads may be weak and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- If a power line falls on your car, you are at risk of electrical shock – stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.