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How to create a home safety plan for your family

Prepare your family for emergencies with these six steps.

Family together at home

Having a plan in place will help protect your family during an emergency. 

August De Richelieu/Pexels

A home safety plan is an essential tool for keeping your family safe, as it establishes what to do in case of emergency. All families should prepare for fire safety and burglar defense, but you should also plan for natural disasters. The details of how to prepare depend on where you live. Does your area get frequent flooding? Earthquakes? Hurricanes? Tornadoes?

Regardless of what you need to prepare for, here are the more important steps when making your home safety plan. 

Six tips for making a family home safety plan

1. Identify two safe meeting areas in your home

Choose the two safest areas in your home: One as your primary meeting spot, and the other as your backup. The safest spots are ones without windows and closest to the ground, so if you have a basement or first-floor interior bathroom (or other windowless area), these are often the safest choices. A long hallway can also work.

2. Set two outdoor meeting areas

In case your family is separated during an emergency, also set two safe outdoor meeting spots where you can reunite (primary and alternative). Your outdoor meeting areas will be the primary escape destination during a fire.

3. Draw a diagram

Children are visual learners and often do well with reminders. Draw a color-coded diagram of your various escape routes. Choose a favorite color for the primary safety plan, so your child will be able to easily jog their memory in an emergency. If you have more than one young child, give each their own color-coded plan.

4. Dial 911

Teach your child how to call and talk to 911. As part of basic safety, children should always be able to recite their full address; this is helpful in case of emergency, as they'll be able to call for help if necessary.

5. Know your equipment

Except for very young children, all members of your household should know how to use a fire extinguisher and how to identify the call of a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm. Knowing what's happening means you respond with the right emergency plan. 

6. Practice, practice, practice

The key to emergency preparedness is practice. In the moment, you'll likely experience a mixture of fear, panic and adrenaline. It's easy to act on reflex, so drilling your home safety plan over and over will help you keep a cool head.

Make sure to practice your safety plan during different conditions, and at least once per year at night. Darkness amplifies fear, and in an emergency your children will likely be scared. Practicing in advance gets them better prepared to stay safe.
Finally, practice basic safety measures over and over, like touching a door before opening (to identify the heat of fire) or "stop, drop and roll." If you live in an earthquake-prone area, teach your children (and train yourself) not to run outside -- it's quaking out there, too! -- but to hunker down in a safe spot. If you suffer from hurricanes or tornadoes, drill your family on getting to a safe spot.