Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. A wildfire can force you to evacuate your home and neighborhood. Where will your family be? How will you find each other if a wildfire comes when some family members are at work and others are at school? How will you find one another?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all families prepare to handle disasters with a “Family Readiness Kit.” They recommend that each family take four steps.

Step one

Find out what could happen to your family where you live. Contact your local Emergency Management Office or American Red Cross. Ask what types of disasters are likely to happen in your area and how to prepare for each, e.g. wildfires, drought, tornadoes, and hail. Learn your community’s warning signals and evacuation plans.

Step two

Create a family disaster plan. Meet with your family and discuss your plan. Without overly alarming them, tell your children that sometimes bad things like wildfires, tornadoes, hail, floods and droughts happen. Sometimes nature provides too much of a good thing—fire, wind, drought, rain, hail. Tell your children that there are many people who can help them in a disaster. Teach your children how to call 911 for help. Create a plan in case you are separated so you can find each other. First choose a place outside your home or neighborhood in case you cannot go home. Second, choose someone out of town to be your family contact. Make sure that everyone, including small children, knows the address and telephone number for both of the above. Make other arrangements for pets because they are not allowed in American Red Cross shelters. To learn more about how to hold an effective family meeting, click on this factsheet.

Step three

Post emergency telephone numbers by each telephone (fire, police, ambulance, etc.). Show and teach each family member how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity at the main switch and cutoffs. Show each family member where your fire extinguishers are and how to use them. Find safe places inside your home for each type of disaster.

Step four

Practice and update your plan every few months—more frequently during the hot, dry, fire season. Test your smoke alarms. Go over your Family Disaster Plan and practice escape drills.