Making a Personalized Emergency Plan

You’ve probably heard that it’s important to have an emergency plan in place before a disaster strikes. But how do you create an emergency plan? What should it include? Where should you start?

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) wants to share a step-by-step guide to help Californians create their own personalized emergency plans and be ready for any disaster—from wildfires, floods, to earthquakes and anything in between.

Start the conversation

The first thing you should do is start discussing the idea of an emergency plan with your family, roommates or anyone else living in your household. If you live alone, consider collaborating on an emergency plan with a friend or neighbor.

Cover the basics

Before you begin to create your emergency plan, there are some basics you should cover. These questions can help get you started.

  • Is your area particularly prone to certain disasters?
    • Some areas may be more vulnerable to floods, earthquakes or wildfires—make sure you know if any of these are likely to occur near you.
    • You can find this information by visiting
  • Do you know disaster ready basics or know how to find those resources?
  • Are there any specific needs you should include in your plan?
    • For example, think about any dietary or medical needs, accessibility, age, language, cultural or religious considerations for members of your group.
  • Are you registered to receive local emergency alerts?
    • Visit to sign up for text, phone and email alerts from your county.
  • In the event of a power shutoff, do you know how to get information from your local utility company?
    • Make sure you know how to receive updates from your utility company, such as alerts about public safety power shutoffs or estimated service restoration times.

Begin creating your plan

Below are components you should build into your emergency plan. It’s a good idea to have someone write the plan down so you can access it or update it when needed.

  • Collect contact information
    • During an emergency, who do you want to contact?
    • What methods will you use to contact them?
    • It’s also a good idea to include out of town contacts who will not be affected by your local disaster.
    • You can also make a “Local Resource Directory,” or a list of contact information for local organizations who can help you in an emergency.
  • Create a basic communications plan
    • If you’re split up from your loved ones, how will you get into contact with one another?
    • Consider a backup plan or two for your primary method of contact, just in case.
  • Think about possible evacuation routes—these may look different for different types of disasters.
    • Learn a few ways to get out of your community quickly.
      • If there’s a flood in your area, for example, you’ll want to choose an evacuation route that bypasses bodies of water and takes you to higher ground.
      • It’s also helpful to learn local street names and get familiar with reading physical maps.
    • Make a list of meeting places and places to stay
      • Think about places you can meet up with your loved ones during different disasters, especially if you’re split up when it happens.
      • You can also create a list of possible places to stay if you’re unable to return to your home for a while—this can include a friend’s home away from the disaster area, local shelters, etc.
    • Determine roles and responsibilities
      • Who will be responsible for certain tasks before, during and after an emergency?
        • For example, decide ahead of time who should be stocking the Go Bag and Stay Box, handling the pets, choosing the evacuation route, etc.
      • Put together a Go Bag and a Stay Box
        • If you already have them, take inventory and replace items as needed.
        • Some good things to keep in your Go Bag include:
          • Copies of identification and insurance and any other important documents
          • Photos of family and pets
          • Cash
          • A map
          • List of medications
          • Flashlight
          • First aid supplies
        • Some good things to keep in your Stay Box include:
          • Water and food for up to three days, for both humans and pets
          • Trash bags, ties and a bucket in case you’re unable to use your toilet
        • Don’t forget your furry friends
        • Learn how to manually open your garage
          • In case of an emergency where you need to evacuate in a vehicle but the power has been shut off, it’s essential to learn how to manually operate your garage.
            • With the door closed, unplug the overhead mechanism that operates the garage door. Then, pull the emergency red cord that disconnects the mechanism from the garage door. Finally, manually lift the garage door.

Practice your plan

  • Now that you have a plan in place, try it out with the people who will be with you during an emergency.
  • Reviewing your plan gives you a chance to work out any problems before a disaster occurs. Knowing what to do before disaster strikes can help reduce your stress in the moment and keep you safe.

Once you get prepared, make sure you stay prepared

After you create your emergency plan, the preparation isn’t over—there are a few things you should continue to do to make sure you’re always prepared for a disaster.

  • Review contacts and make sure they’re all up to date.
  • Check your Stay Box and Go Bag. Replace items like food and water or add a few helpful items, as needed.
  • Practice your plan again, so everyone remembers what to do.

Check out these resources to help you create your own emergency plan.