Protect Your Family: Create a Family Emergency Plan

You may not be with your loved ones when a disaster strikes, that’s why it’s important to create a family emergency plan.   A few years ago, I decided that I was going to take the initiative to create my family’s emergency plan.  I spent several weeks reviewing the information made available online by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross.  As my research continued, I began to gather emergency supplies from bright red backpacks to first aid kits to hand-crank radio flashlights.

By the holidays, I had assembled enough emergency backpacks for each household in my family throughout the state of California.   The diagrams that I will be sharing with you in this week’s post are the diagrams from my family’s emergency plan that were printed on heavy weight card stock paper and included in the backpacks. Note: The names and contact information found in the diagrams have been modified. 


Establish Family Meeting Points  Discuss with your family, or members of your household, how to prepare and respond to emergencies that may take place where you live, work, and play.

In case you are separated during an emergency,  the American Red Cross recommends that you identify TWO places to meet:

  • Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire
  • Outside your neighborhood in case you are unable to return or are asked to evacuate

Determine Exit Routes  Below is the evacuation plan for my previous residence.  Primary and secondary exit routes have been identified and noted in the floor plan diagram.  If you have elderly, children, or pets it’s important to ensure that their special needs are met and that a member of the household is assigned to the task.

condo floor plan4SmartDraw Tip: To create this diagram, several layers were used.  In order to identify the elements of the emergency plan into the floor plan diagram, an additional layer was created.  To create a new layer, navigate to the Page Ribbon.  In the Layers drop-down menu, select New Layer.   In the Add a New Layer dialogue box, enter the appropriate name in the Name field.  Click OK.  The name of the new Layer will appears below the Work Area.  


Identify an Out-of-Town Contact It’s important to identify an out-of-town emergency contact person.  During an emergency, you may find it easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service.  Everyone should have the information in writing or programmed in their cell phones.  The “How to Use the Household Phone Tree” flowchart diagram (below) outlines detailed instructions for two urgent scenarios: (a) family news or (b) emergency.

Create a Family Phone Tree  Although the concept of having a phone tree can easily be resolved with a simple status update to any number of social media sites or group text message, there are a number of relatives in my family who are not quite tech savvy.  For instance, several of them have feature phones.  The term “feature phone” refers to any mobile phone that is not a smartphone.

How to use Phone Tree1

SmartDraw Tip: Two fill types were used in the flowchart diagram.  The blue start/end symbols are shaded in.  The dark grey symbols are colored in solid.  To shade in a symbol, begin by selecting the shape.  In the Home Ribbon, navigate to the Fill drop-down menu and select the appropriate color.  The color will automatically fill according to the theme that is applied to the shape.  To color the shape in solid, simply repeat the shade in procedures using the same color.

PhoneTree3SmartDraw Tip: This particular diagram was created from an Org Chart template.  In order to convey that certain households had only one contact, I create “ghost” symbols.  To create a “ghost” or blank symbol, begin by selecting the appropriate shape.  Navigate to the Fill drop-down menu and select white.  In the Effects drop-down menu, navigate to the Shadow drop-down menu and select No Outside Shadow.  Lastly, in the Line drop-down menu navigate to the Thickness option and select None.  


Devise a Plan to Leave Town  Determine where you and your family would go and what route you would take to get there.  You may choose a particular hotel, friends or relatives to stay with or go to an evacuation shelter.  As a best practice, the American Red Cross recommends that you practice your evacuation plan twice a year.  They recommend that you and your family drive your planned route and plot alternative routes in case roads are impassable.

Since my relatives live and work in close proximity to one another, I thought it would be beneficial to plot everyone’s locations.  As noted in the diagram, each family member is to ensure that family member in their respective areas have transportation prior to leaving their work or home.  When I created the diagram, I was able to capture live data from Google Maps with the option to display roads, terrain, and even satellite images.  SmartDraw also has the ability to plot locations automatically with a simple data import.


SmartDraw Tip: A table was added to a Data Map to create the diagram above.  In the Left Panel of the Category Screen select Maps.  In the Maps Sub-Category menu select Data Maps. In the SmartPanel, click Select Map.   To create the map, enter the appropriate address, zip or location name into the Search field.  Click Go.  Using the Format controls modify the map.  Click Import to SmartDraw.  

To add a table, navigate to the Table Ribbon.  Select the appropriate values in the Rows and Columns drop-down menus.  Click the Tables control and the table will appear in the Work Area.  Click and drag the table to the appropriate location.


There’s a lot to consider when developing an emergency plan which is why I pulled together information from FEMA and the American Red Cross to create this checklist.  Learn more about SmartDraw’s Emergency & Disaster Planning templates, take a look at a previous post entitled, “Do You Have an Emergency Evacuation Plan?

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