A disaster can happen at a moment’s notice, leaving your family stranded and searching for a way out. It’s important to have a plan in place to know what to do and to be prepared when a disaster occurs.

The IAFF has prepared a public safety toolkit on disaster preparedness to share with the media, the public and your members.​​

These are ready-made posts/tweets/quotes or advice to have on hand when talking to the public or the media if you are asked about disaster preparedness:

  • Everyone should be familiar with natural disaster risks in their community.
  • Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Grab your emergency kit, just like you would in a real emergency, then drive your planned evacuation route. Plot alternate routes on your map in case roads are impassable. Make sure you have locations and maps saved on devices, such as cell phones and GPS units.
  • Plan ahead for your pets. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes. Remember, if it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for your pets either.
  • Think about emergencies that may require your family to shelter in place (such as a winter storm) versus emergencies that may require evacuation (such as a hurricane).
  • Choose your meet-up place now.
  • Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should carry emergency contact information saved on their cell phones. Make sure places where your children spend time also have these contact numbers, like at school or daycare.
  • Your plan should account for family members who may live elsewhere during the year, such as members of the military on deployment or students away at college, or those who travel frequently.

Download a Sample Press Release – Ready made and written for you, just add in your local and a spokesperson.

Share infographics like this one (using the hashtag #IAFFSafetyTips), with suggested posts/tweets:

  • Don’t wait to plan for the worst. #IAFF #IAFFSafetyTips
  • Have a “go bag” prepared to grab in case of emergency. Don’t wait until it’s too late. #IAFF #IAFFSafetyTips​​
  • April 30 is #NationalPrepareathonDay. You can never be too prepared. #IAFF #IAFFSafetyTips
  • ​Do you have a plan for your pet in a disaster? #IAFF #IAFFSafetyTips
  • ​Does your family have a plan if the worst happens? #IAFF #IAFFSafetyTips

Disaster Preparedness Printable PDF: Print out this PDF (that contains the information below with added graphics) to hand out, email or send to the media.

More Infographics here.

"Go-Bag"

If you have to evacuate in an emergency, you aren’t going to have much time to hit the outdoor supply store and pack. One way to protect your family is to keep a “go-bag” packed for these events.

A go-bag is similar to your emergency preparedness kit, but on a smaller scale because you need to be able to grab and go when an evacuation is called. It will contain first aid items, tools and emergency power, among other things. This should be always packed and ready to grab at a moment’s notice.

If you’ve never packed a go-bag, figuring out what you need in it may feel overwhelming. Here are some tips on what to pack:

  • Flashlight with fresh batteries (check them regularly)
  • Emergency weather radio
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Spare batteries (check them regularly)
  • Emergency stash of cash in small denominations
  • Pocket knife
  • Butane lighter or matches
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and trial sizes of personal care items
  • Permanent market, tape and paper
  • Two to three bottles of water per person / per day
  • Non-perishable snack foods and a can opener
  • Extra house and vehicle keys
  • Food and water for pets
  • Change of clothing (consider changing climates)
  • Local maps (Internet-based maps and GPS service may be disrupted in an emergency)
  • Dust masks
  • Moist towelettes
  • Garbage bags
  • A small first aid kit
  • Infant formula and diapers (if needed)
  • Feminine supplies (if needed)

Food and Water

  • At least one gallon of water per person per day for three days
  • Non-perishable food items (and rough expiration date)
    – Boxed potatoes (6 months)
    – Dry crackers (6 months)
    – Powdered milk (6 months)
    – Dried fruit (6 months)
    – Canned foods (1 year)
    – Peanut butter and jelly (1 year)
    – Cereals that are unopened (1 year)
    – Dried corn, pasta and rice (many years)
    – Coffee, tea and cocoa (many years)
    – Bouillon products (many years)
    – Beef jerky (many years)

Avoid these foods:

  • Foods that will deplete water in your body (caffeinated or highly salted foods)
  • Foods that expire quickly (fresh fruits and vegetables)
  • Foods that must be frozen or refrigerated
  • Foods that require a lot of prep
  • Foods with little nutritional value (candy, fruit snacks, chips)

First Aid Kit

Most ready-made, cheap first-aid kits do not even begin to cover what you may actually need, and it is highly recommended that you create your own.

Here’s what the Red Cross recommends you have in a first aid kit for a family of four:

  • Absorbent compress dressings (2)
  • Adhesive bandages (25 or more)
  • Adhesive cloth tape (1 roll)
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes or spray
  • Aspirin
  • Tweezers
  • Non-latex gloves
  • A blanket
  • Disposable thermometers
  • Instant cold compress
  • 3-inch-wide roller bandage
  • 4-inch-wide roller bandage
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Scissors
  • Breathing barrier for CPR
  • Triangular bandages
  • First aid instruction booklet
  • Hand sanitizer

Power

  • A generator – Although costly, a generator can keep your home up and running if the emergency did not do structural damage to your home. This can buy you time while you wait for electricity to be restored.
  • An emergency weather radio – Make sure you know what is going on with the weather and any disaster recovery efforts with an emergency weather radio. Consider a hand-crank type, so you are protected even if you can’t get batteries. Look for one with a “public alert” feature.
  • Hand-crank emergency cell phone charger – Make sure you have a way to contact people, and keep the phone charged, with a hand-crank emergency cell phone charger.
  • Propane – If you have a lot of propane-powered items, consider keeping some extra propane on hand to keep them powered.

As you’re considering power for an emergency, know what to avoid as well. You probably won’t need:

  • Tons of batteries – Batteries have a limited shelf life. Consider buying a few, but relying on recharging generators for the majority of your needs. If you do add batteries to your emergency preparedness kit, make sure to check them regularly for signs of corrosion.
  • Anything that must plug in or relies on fuel – Electricity and fuel may be in short supply. Look for manually or solar-powered sources of power rather than those fueled by electricity or gas.

Tools

  • Tools for food – Make sure you have a manual can opener and utensils, preferably disposable, you can use to eat the food you have stashed.
  • Pocket knife – Make sure you can pry open items and cut through small debris with a pocket knife.
    Scissors – They’re easy to forget about until you don’t have them, but make sure your emergency preparedness stash has some scissors.
  • Non-electric fan or heater – Protect your family in extreme weather, but make sure you can power the fan or heater you purchase.
  • Basic tool kit – You never know when you will need a wrench, hammer or screwdriver, so stash a small, high-quality tool kit in your emergency preparedness kit.
  • Rope – From rescues to tying down supplies, a rope is handy to have on hand.
  • Collapsible shovel – From digging latrines to digging out of rubble after an earthquake, a shovel can come in handy in an emergency.
  • Fixed-blade knife – Sometimes a pocket knife or scissors aren’t going to cut it, but a sturdy fixed-blade knife can get you through an emergency.
  • Tent – If you can’t stay in your home due to safety, a tent gives you some shelter.
  • Fire extinguisher – A dry chemical fire extinguisher can protect your home if fires pop up after an emergency.
  • Tarp – Use this to cover broken windows or holes in the roof.

Pets

  • Get a Rescue Alert Sticker – This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers.
  • Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. They may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Note that not all shelters accept pets, so it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time. Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities. Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets. Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets. Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
  • Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to also write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.

Documents

Family Documents
Do you have all of the documents your family will need to set up residence somewhere else temporarily? If the problems at home get bad enough, or your house is completely destroyed, will you have all of the necessary documents? Here are some you will want to have:

  • Birth certificates – Copies are fine, but have your birth certificates in the disaster preparedness kit to ensure you can prove who you are and where you are a citizen.
  • Marriage and divorce papers – These prove the marital status of the head of the household, and could be important in the future.
  • Adoption papers – If you have adopted a child, these are important to prove that the child is part of your family.
  • Social Security cards – Getting a new copy of your Social Security card takes time and may not be simple if your area is devastated in a natural disaster, so keep copies of the cards for all members of your household.
  • Passports and driver’s license – If anyone in your family has a passport, make a copy of it. Also, copy all driver’s licenses. These will provide a starting point for replacing these important forms of identification if they are lost in a tragedy.
  • Photographs of family and pets – Keep a recent photograph of all family members and pets so you can get help finding each other if you are separated.
  • Pet microchip numbers – If you have pets that are microchipped, keep a copy of the microchip tag number.

Why are these documents crucial? If you are involved in a natural disaster that is bad enough to destroy your home, all of these important documents will be destroyed along with your home. Should you need them again in the near future, you will be at the mercy of the office that issued them to get you copies. Having a copy of your own will help you be ahead of the curve as you get reestablished somewhere else.

Financial Documents

  • Tax information – Make a copy of the last year’s tax returns, so you can prove your income should you need to. Also, make a copy of your personal and business property tax statements. Should you need to get a new loan or apply for assistance based on your income during your recovery period, you will need this information.
  • Financial account numbers – Have copies of statements from all bank or credit union accounts you have so you have access to the account number and the bank’s contact information. Also, make copies of a credit or debit card statement for the same information. You want to be certain you have access to your money in the event of a disaster.
  • Income verification – In addition to the tax statements, have copies of recent pay stubs in your disaster kit so you can provide proof of income if needed.
  • Insurance information – All insurance policies you have, including life, car, homeowners and health insurance, should be copied and placed in your disaster prep kit. This will ensure you can get coverage or file a claim even when away from home.
  • Information about bills and obligations – If you have obligations, like mortgages, utility bills and loans, that you need to pay monthly, make a copy of the bill or statement to put into your disaster kit. This will ensure that you can access your account or the contact information to keep current with your payments.

Legal Documents
If your home burns down or is leveled in an earthquake, would you have to start all of your end-of-life planning from scratch? Here are some important legal documents to copy for your disaster preparedness kit.

  • Will – If you’ve crafted a last will and testament, put a copy of it into your disaster preparedness kit. If you have not created one, consider doing so immediately. This is the very minimum you need to have for a solid end-of-life plan.
  • Living will – A living will is a document outlining the medical treatments you wish to have or not have if you are seriously injured or suffer a terminal illness. The living will also names the individual who is allowed to make medical decisions when you can’t do so for yourself. Have one of these made, and put it in your kit.
  • Power of Attorney – A power of attorney document provides someone with the power to act on your behalf for financial or legal concerns if you are not able to do so, such as if you are hospitalized in a coma. This should be part of your kit and your end-of-life plan.
  • Trust documents – If you have a trust, make sure you have copies of all of the documents relating to it.
    Titles and deeds to property you own – From the car to your home, order copies of your titles and deeds, and place them in your disaster prep kit. Make sure these are actual copies from the appropriate government entity, not photocopies, so you can have legitimate proof of ownership.
  • Naturalization or citizenship documents – If you were not born in the United States, make sure you get a copy of your naturalization or citizenship papers for your disaster prep kit.

Medical Documents

  • Insurance information – If you have medical insurance, put a copy of your policy numbers and your insurance card in your kit, so you can get the appropriate coverage in an emergency.
  • Immunization records – Keep the immunization records of your children and pets in this kit, so you know what they are protected against should you have to evacuate.
  • Allergy information – If anyone has serious allergies in your family, have a record of this information in your kit.
  • Medications list – If anyone in your family takes medications on a regular basis, list the medications, doses and the doctor who prescribed them, and put this in your kit. Don’t forget to list medications for pets.