Practice Your Emergency Communication Plan

"Help I've fallen and can't get up" phone GIF
I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

You just watched the main highway in your town wash away in a flash flood. Who are you supposed to call?

Emergencies are high-stress situations that trigger our fight, flight, or freeze instincts. People do all kinds of weird stuff instead of what they’re supposed to do.

The best way to avoid turning a disaster into a complete catastrophe is to practice what you’d do in various situations. That includes practicing your emergency communication plan.

1. Carry out practice drills

Every three months, practice your emergency communication plan by testing your family on what they should do in example scenarios. This will help everyone remember the plan.

Practice traveling together to your safe meeting locations to build your family’s confidence about traveling alone in the event of an emergency. Enjoy a treat together on the way home to make everyone feel more at ease.

Get creative with your examples to make it more fun (people are more likely to remember practicing if it was fun), but make sure you practice the most likely scenarios each time as well.

2. Teach your kids to dial the right numbers

Most 21st century kids are smart enough to use a mobile device on their own. Have you seen those babies pinching pictures in books to try to zoom in? We’re either doomed or saved.

But what if they have to use a landline or even a pay phone? Both are pretty intuitive, but it’s best to give them some guidance and time to practice.

Check out our Phone Tips for Emergencies to learn more.

If there are still pay phones in your town, consider yourself blessed.

3. Practice calling, texting, and sending group messages

During emergencies, time is of the essence, so being quick about your calls and texts is key. Practice can help. Abbreviations can be confusing during crisis, so if you plan to use them, make sure everyone knows what each one means.

Text replacement (Apple, Android) is a great tool for an emergency. You can design a message that will autofill based on an acronym of your choice. This will allow you to quickly enter the entire emergency communication plan in your text thread, if you like.

Most phones will allow you to send group texts as well. If you don’t already have a household group chat, now is the time to create one! Messaging your elderly family members more often will help them practice in case they need text instead of call. If they’re new to using their phones, give them a tutorial to make sure they understand how to use what they can do with it. Many emergency alerts are delivered by phone, and other services may also be easier to access online.

Rule of Thumb

Texting is an important skill for an emergency, since cell phone calls can be blocked easily during a disaster, but texts are less likely to fail.

4. Try marking yourself safe on Facebook (or other platforms)

If you have a Facebook account, log in and check the process for marking yourself safe at Facebook’s Help Center. It’s pretty easy, but if you don’t use social media frequently, it’s a good idea to check the process and consider bookmarking it on your computer or phone for easy access later.

5. Make sure everyone in the household knows how to communicate with the differently-abled members.

If there are people with special needs in your family, make sure they’re able to communicate about emergencies to the best of their ability, and that everyone else in the household knows how to communicate with them.

If they’re limited communicators, practice responses that focus on location and safety. “Safe at home” and “Need help at school” or similar messages may be good ones to practice.


If your special needs family members have more independence, make sure they know how to safely ask others for help, in case they’re not with a family member when a problem occurs.

Keep your plan updated

Depending on how malicious AI becomes or how quickly the ice caps are melting, you might also come across more emergency scenarios. Review your plan every time you drill and revise it as needed.

In addition to your usual quarterly reassessments, you should update your plan whenever:

  • Someone is added to the household
  • Someone moves away from home or passes away
  • Someone’s contact details change
  • There’s a change in school/workplace/university/daycare/etc.
  • Your out-of-town contact is replaced or their contact details change 
  • Your doctor’s or emergency service contact numbers change 
  • You move to a new location

Make sure the copies are updated on the cloud and new physical copies are made. If your plan isn’t changing, but anyone’s copy is getting ratty, print a new one. Don’t make them squint during an emergency.

Keep on practicing, and you’ll do great!

If you’re not done learning, we have more tips for you.

Two friends taking a selfie at a coffee shop
“Safe at the cafe” — A picture is worth a thousand words, so send photos whenever possible.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.