From Awareness to Action: Making It Easier for Families to Prepare for a Disaster


Two weeks ago, FEMA shared research about the state of family preparedness in America. The good news is that a large number of American families are aware of the importance of preparing for emergencies. The bad news is that awareness doesn't always translate into action. In fact, roughly half of all Americans have not discussed, or developed an emergency plan with their family about where to go and what to do in the event of a local disaster.

That's just not good enough.

During National Preparedness Month, FEMA, in coordination with partners all across the country, is asking everyone to take one simple, free step toward being prepared during an emergency like a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake: Make a family communications plan.

Why does this matter? Having a family communications plan on hand can literally mean the difference between being with the ones you love the most during a disaster, or the anxiety of frantically trying to find and reunite with your children and loved ones. Think about it: Emergencies don't always happen when your family is all together. Your kids may be at school. Your spouse may be at work. You may be traveling out-of-town.

Having a family communications plan can help even when there isn't a large scale disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane. They're also helpful for day-to-day routines when things can be unpredictable. For example, how would you get in touch with your family if cell phone networks are down or your cell phone runs out of battery life?

Fortunately, creating a family communication plan is simple: Just sit down as a family and ask yourselves about different things that could happen, think through the specific steps you all may need to take, and write down the information you all need to have. We even have a free family communication plan template at to help get the discussion going. Once you have a basic communication plan done, keep going with the conversation and consider other vital questions like: "Is our insurance coverage up to date?", "Do we have copies of important documents we may need if we can't access our home?", and "Do we live in an evacuation zone?" All of these conversations, when taken together as a family, can help you all be better prepared.

To build on our efforts to improve the state of preparedness in America, FEMA, in partnership with the Ad Council, has released powerful and emotional new Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that illustrate the harsh reality of what can happen when a family communication plan isn't in place before a disaster or emergency strikes. Created pro bono by New York-based ad agency Deutsch, a new series of ads depict the aftermath of a disaster and show two families; one set of parents who have safely arrived to a shelter with all of their children, and one set of parents who are frantically searching for theirs. Through these PSAs, families are faced with what can happen when you don't have an emergency plan in place before a disaster or emergency strikes.

To further encourage Americans to take action, National Preparedness Month will also culminate with America's PrepareAthon! a national grassroots day of action. On September 30, people in all 50 states will come together to take actions around the hazards their communities could face with drills, conversations, and exercises in their schools, workplaces, houses of worship and organizations. We hope more Americans will consider joining us for this national day of action, National PrepareAthon! Day. To learn more you can go to

While we can't prevent all disasters, it's important we all do what we can to prepare for them--and creating a family communications plan and registering for an America's PrepareAthon! event are great places to start.