Make a Plan

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. The sections below list information that you should consider in developing your emergency plan and even a few links to some online tools that will help walk you through developing your plan.

Planning to Stay or Go

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay where you are or evacuate. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is an immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for information or official instruction as it becomes available. 

For information on staying put or sheltering in place.

Family Emergency Plan

The following items should be considered when developing your family emergency plan. Make sure to include all members of the family in the planning process to ensure that they understand the plan. Your plan should address each member of your household and any specific needs they have, places you spend the most time, family pets, emergency contact numbers, and emergency meeting places.

  • If family members have specific medical conditions or need specific medications, you should address where you would get those resources in a disaster or plan to have added on hand in case supplies run short.
  • Include a copy of shot records and veterinarian information for pets that you would evacuate within the event of a disaster.
  • Identify an out-of-town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
  • Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
  • Teach family members how to use text messaging (also knows as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
  • Register for our Garland Alert System to receive calls to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. 

Online Emergency Planning Tools

Starting to develop a plan from scratch can be a daunting task. There are some online resources that will help walk you through the process of developing the plan. They will even allow you to print a copy off at the end for each of your family members. You need to have the information mentioned above readily available, and it will take about fifteen minutes to complete.

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Emergency Plans for School & Work

You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare, and school. Like individuals and families, schools, daycare providers, workplaces, neighborhoods and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to your co-workers or other parents about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance.

Schools & Daycare

If you are a parent, or guardian of an elderly or disabled adult, make sure schools and daycare providers have emergency response plans.

  • Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis.
  • Ask if they store adequate food, water, and other basic supplies.
  • Find out if they are prepared to "shelter-in-place" if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away.
  • For more information on developing emergency preparedness plans for schools, please visit the U.S. Department of Education website.


If you are an employer, make sure your workplace has a building evacuation plan that is regularly practiced.

  • Take a critical look at your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to determine if it is secure or if it could feasibly be upgraded to better filter potential contaminants, and be sure you know how to turn it off if you need to.
  • Think about what to do if your employees can't go home.
  • Make sure you have appropriate supplies on hand.