WTF is a Disaster Plan?

Monkey Robot GIF
Don’t worry, monkey robot. All will be made clear.

If your mind goes blank and you enter a shame spiral when people talk about their emergency and disaster plans, we’ve got your back.

Disaster preparedness relies on the right gear, planning, and practice.

An emergency plan or disaster plan is a detailed guide for you and your family to follow during an emergency. These plans don’t have to be complicated to work, but they’re sometimes daunting since different emergencies require different plans.

You should develop a plan for each emergency so your family knows exactly what to do, no matter what’s going on.

Keep your family ready for anything by practicing your plans every year.

Rule of Thumb

Ideally, you could just tell your family, “Go to the basement/innermost section of your house” to avoid a tornado, but you’ll likely have more success if you set clear instructions based on your home’s layout and features.

Be as honest with yourself as possible about how your kids (and spouse?) act when they don’t have specific instructions.

To craft a perfect emergency plan, consider your family’s specific needs. Think about things like age, dietary and medical needs, disabilities, and pets. If you have a three-year-old, she won’t be able to make it to a safe place on her own. In your plan, put someone in charge of getting her to safety. The less you have to think about and coordinate during a disaster, the better your chance of survival.

Woman thinking at her laptop
Can I put my five year old in charge of saving our cats? Maybe not.

This guide gets into the nitty gritty details of disaster planning, from choosing safe meeting locations to assigning responsibilities to each family member in the event of specific disasters. If you already know you don’t have the time to get that specific right now, we totally understand. We don’t want you to walk away without getting started on your disaster planning, though!

We’ve made a quick and dirty version of a disaster plan that will help you cover your bases without taking too much time away from your already busy life. If you’re ready for the full monty, press on and we’ll break it down for you so nothing falls through the cracks.

Create Five Types of Emergency Plans

If you want to create detailed plans that cover specific disasters, check out our Elements of a Disaster Plan guide to make the most comprehensive plan. If you think categorical plans on a single sheet would work better for your family, five columns should cover your bases. When disaster strikes, use only the relevant plans and customize them to fit each scenario.

  • Shelter at home: How to get to your safe place and what to do once you’re there. The safe place and sheltering instructions will vary depending on the disaster.
  • Evacuation: How to get out of your home. Include a place for everyone to meet up once outside.
  • Bug out: How to get out of your neighborhood, county, or even state. Don’t forget about supplies and shelter.
  • Get home: What to do if you’re away from home when disaster strikes.
  • Communication: How to contact loved ones during an emergency. Remember to include a backup plan if phones and computers don’t work.

Use this method to create a quick, customized plans for each type of emergency. For example, you can use the same bug-out plan for hurricanes, floods, and wildfires requiring a major evacuation. But remember, these aren’t just “plug and play.” Each disaster is slightly different. The more detailed and customized your plan is, the higher the chance of success.

If you’re looking to really dig in to creating comprehensive disaster plans, the best way forward is with our Disaster Bundle, which has all of the info, templates, guidance, anecdotes, and mildly humorous musings to make your disaster planning a breeze.

Learn more about the specifics of different disasters and how you should plan for them with our handy guides.

Car parked on the side of rural road
When it’s time to really bug out, you’ll be happy you had a plan.

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.

Professional worrier. Mom, entrepreneur. Lifetime student of brain science. Passionate about surviving what's coming (climate change, wtf) and staying as sane as possible. Determined to make the best of the end of the world.