Before an emergency

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Preparedness is everyone’s job because disasters can happen anywhere at any time. Being prepared and knowing what to do can greatly reduce the fear and anxiety that accompany an emergency event. Some of the things you can do to prepare, such as making emergency kits and developing family plans, are the same for naturally occurring, accidental, or purposeful terrorist events. There are important differences among potential emergencies that will influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.

Reading this guide and following the tips is a good start toward individual and family preparedness. This guide will help you learn more about the actions you can take before, during, and after emergency events or disasters.

Get a Kit

When creating your emergency supply kits, think about the things you will need for basic survival: fresh water, food, clean air, and warmth. Depending on the size and complexity of the event, local responders may not be able to reach you immediately. Remember that they still need to respond to day-to-day emergencies in addition to emergencies that are a result of the disaster. It may be necessary for you to be self-sufficient for three or more days.

We highly recommend that you prepare the following before an emergency:

  • Emergency supply kit for your residence, sometimes referred to as a “72-Hour Kit”
  • Emergency car kit for each vehicle
  • Emergency “Go Bag” in the event of an evacuation

Kits should contain enough supplies for a minimum of three days for each person in your household. By using items in your residence and shopping at sales or thrift stores, the kits can be assembled inexpensively. Additionally, a wide variety of pre-made kits are available for sale.

Family Records and Financial Recovery

If you quickly evacuate your residence, you may not have time to gather important documents before leaving and it may be days or weeks before you are able to return. The recovery process can be smoother if you take steps to protect and ensure timely access to important vital records and financial information. Many community, government, and disaster-relief organizations offer assistance after an event. Having back-up records and documents will make a significant difference during this process.

See the Important Documents checklist from READYColorado for a list of information you may need to file insurance claims, pay bills, and take care of injured family members.

Additional considerations beyond the checklist may include:

• School records for children currently enrolled.

• Back up of important computer data.

• Maintenance of a written and photographic inventory of your possessions. Include model and serial numbers so you can estimate the value of your property for insurance or tax purposes if it is damaged or destroyed.

• Copies of important documents scanned and stored on an external storage device such as a flash USB drive and stored in your emergency supply evacuation kit or a safe deposit box.

The nonprofit organization HOPE Coalition America, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), created the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) in 2004 to help individuals and families collect and organize critical financial, medical, and household contact information.

The EFFAK has four sections, each of which includes a checklist of important documents and forms to compile relevant information:

  • Household Identification
  • Financial and Legal Documentation
  • Medical Information
  • Household Contacts

This guide also offers suggestions on safeguarding and storing the EFFAK, as well as information on protecting your family, property, and other resources. For more information on HOPE Coalition America, please visit For information on personal disaster preparedness or FEMA disaster assistance, please visit and

Sign Up for Electronic Benefit Payments

A large-scale disaster can disrupt mail service and the delivery of benefit payments for days or even weeks. If you receive Federal benefit payments, the U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to ensure receiving these benefits during an emergency event:

  • Direct deposit to a checking or savings account is the best option for people with bank accounts. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or at
  • The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks for people who do not have a bank account. Sign up by calling toll-free at (877) 212-9991 or sign up online at

Signing up for direct deposit or the Direct Express card is a simple but important step that can help protect your family’s access to funds in case the unthinkable were to happen. If you or those close to you are still receiving Social Security or other federal benefits by check, consider switching to one of these options.


Additional information is available at,, and also provides helpful instructional videos.

Make a plan

Your family may not be together when a disaster occurs so it is important to make plans in advance. Loved ones worry about each other during disaster situations. This guide contains a tool to help you complete your Family Communication Plan. Be sure to identify an out-of-town contact to share the information with your loved ones. When everyone checks in with the contact person, worry and anxiety will be reduced.

You should check into emergency plans at work, schools, and daycare centers. If you live in an apartment or condominium, ask the management about emergency plans for the community. Another thing you could do is to talk with your neighbors about how you can work together in the event of an emergency.

Individual and Family Plans

Preparedness starts with gaining knowledge to become informed and then taking appropriate action prior to an emergency. An excellent way to get your family involved is to dedicate a few hours for everyone to gather supplies and assemble kits together. This provides a great opportunity to discuss what everyone will do during an emergency event, whether you are evacuating or sheltering-in-place. The time together will allow you to develop your emergency plans, discuss access and functional needs, and plan for your pets or animals.

Some of the basics to help you get started:

  • Hold a household meeting and develop an emergency plan.
  • Draw a floor plan of your residence and mark two escape routes from each room.
  • Develop a Family Communications Plan
  • Complete a family contact information card and ensure each family member has one.
  • Complete the Access and Functional Needs Plan if you have a household member with a disability or access and functional needs.
  • Practice your plans.
  • Safeguard your financial recovery.
  • Learn how and when to turn off all of your utilities at main switches.

Checklists are provided at the back of this guide to assist you and your family in accomplishing your plans.

Planning for Infants, Toddlers and Children

Disasters are traumatic for children even if they know what to do. Talking with your children, practicing your plans, and giving them guidance are important steps in reducing their fear. If your family needs to evacuate and daily routines are changed, children may become anxious, confused, and/or frightened. In a disaster, children will look to you and other adults for leadership and to help them cope with the situation. How you react to an emergency gives them clues on how to act. If you are fearful, sad or angry, a child’s emotions could be intensified.

You can help prepare your children:

  • Make sure every family member knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Identify at least two ways to exit from each area in your residence.
  • Agree on a meeting place in the event family members are not together.
  • Practice your plans.
  • Ensure your children know their phone number and residence address, including nearby cross streets and landmarks.
  • Teach them to stay in touch. Make sure they check in with a parent or guardian immediately when they get home from school or other activities.
  • Make sure they know how to contact you at work.
  • Talk to your child about how and when to call 911.
  • Do not actually call 911 to practice with your children. Help your children practice talking to 911. 
  • Identify places that are safe for children and teens to go in an emergency. Safe havens may be a friend’s house, fire or law enforcement station, school, library, or place of worship. Make sure your children know the phone numbers and addresses for their safe havens.

Infants and toddlers require special attention:

  • Your preparedness kit should include enough baby formula, baby food, diapers, bottles, clothing, blankets, toys, and games to keep infants safe and comfortable after a disaster.
  • Toddlers may need small packets of food and juice. Include clothing, toys, games, and a favorite blanket or pillow in your kit.
  • Be sure to rotate the formula, food and juice regularly. When your child grows into a larger size, exchange the diapers and clothing in the kit too.
  • If children are at preschool, daycare, or school, it is important that parents or guardians know the emergency procedures of the school. Review and update information on your child’s emergency card as needed.
  • Make sure you authorize someone nearby to pick up your children in case you are unable to travel to the school after a disaster.
  • Include copies of your children’s birth certificate and immunization records in your emergency supply kit.

Planning for Military Families

As part of our Nation’s military, whether on active duty, reserves, civilian employee, or family member, you play an important role in ensuring the welfare of our homeland. It is also important to prepare yourself and your family for all types of emergencies so you can increase your personal sense of security and peace of mind.

Considerations for all military personnel and families:

  • After relocating, learn the types of emergencies likely to affect the area and update your emergency supply kit and plan with new materials if necessary.
  • Public warning systems may differ by community. Messages could be transmitted by outside speakers or sirens, telephone alert, or some other system or procedures.
  • Establish an emergency plan with an out-of-town contact you and your family members can reach.
  • If you live off base, threat levels or other circumstances may keep you from getting back on base for day-to-day activities following an emergency. Know alternative places to shop or obtain things you normally get on base.
  • Collecting and recording important personal and financial documents is already a part of preparing for deployment. Be sure to include these documents in your family’s emergency supply kit.
  • During or after an emergency, you need to report to your command. Learn and follow the established procedures.

Additional resources for military families:

Source: FEMA

Planning for People with Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs

Millions of Americans have physical, medical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities that cause emergencies to present a great challenge. Similar challenges may also apply to infants, elderly persons, or other individuals such as being a single working parent, speaking with limited English proficiency, or having limited access to an automobile.

This section of the guide provides additional information to consider as you build your emergency supply kits and develop your plans. By evaluating your own personal needs and making plans, you can be better prepared for any situation. If you or someone close to you has a disability or access and functional need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency.

Create a support network

One of the most important actions you can take to prepare for emergencies and disasters is to build a personal support network. Your network might include family, friends, co-workers, or caregivers. Develop a written emergency plan and share it with everyone in your network. If you need assistance creating the plan, ask someone to help.

Planning considerations:

  • Consider how a disaster might affect your individual needs.
  • Check for hazards in your residence. Items that can move, fall, break, or cause fire are hazards. Look at your surroundings for anything that could block your escape path during a disaster.
  • Plan to be self-sufficient for at least three days.
  • Identify what kind of resources you use on a daily basis and what you might do if they are limited or not available, such as medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and other specific items you will need.
  • Make sure everyone in your support network knows how you plan to evacuate your residence or workplace and where you will go in a disaster.
  • Make sure that someone in your local network has an extra key to your residence and knows where you keep your emergency supplies.
  • Teach the individuals who will help you to know how to use any lifesaving equipment and how to administer medicine in case of an emergency.
  • Practice your plan with the people in your network.
  • Ensure pets are included in your evacuation plan. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside.
  • Consider sheltering alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.
  • Know the location and availability of more than one facility if you are dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
  • Make arrangements to prepare for scheduled or unpredictable power outages if you are on electric powered life support systems by calling Colorado Springs Utilities at (719) 448-4800 and asking about the Life Support Notification Program.

Medications and medical supplies:

• Make sure you have what you need to make it on your own for one to two weeks, if you take medicine or use a medical treatment on a daily basis.

• Make a list of prescription medicines including dosage, treatment, and allergy information.

• Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you need to prepare.

• Talk to your service provider about their emergency plans if you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital, or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment, or transportation. Work with the providers to identify back-up services and incorporate them into your personal support network.

• Consider other personal needs such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and batteries, wheelchair batteries, and oxygen.

Additional emergency documents:

• Have copies of your medical insurance and medicare cards readily available.

• Keep a list of the style and serial number of medical devices or other life-sustaining devices and include copies of the owner’s manual.

• Include the names and contact information of your support network, as well as your medical providers.

• Be sure your emergency information notes the best way to communicate with you if you have a communication disability.

• Make sure that a friend or family member has copies of the documents.

• Keep the documents in a waterproof container for quick and easy access.

Plan to evacuate:

  • Have a plan for getting out of your residence, worksite, or building.
  • Have an escape chair and ensure multiple family members, neighbors, and coworkers are trained on its use and are able to assist you.
  • Ask property management to mark accessible exits clearly and to arrange to help you leave the building.
  • Plan two evacuation routes because roads may be closed or otherwise impassible during an emergency event.
  • Keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, prescriptions, food for service animals, and any other items you might need.
  • Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration.
  • Keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require.
  • Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to identify your disability.

Additional resources for people with disabilities and access and functional needs:

  • Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs (FEMA 476) provides disaster preparedness information specific to people with disabilities and other needs, including the elderly.
  • Find links to additional preparedness information, grants, assistance, government policies, initiatives, and much more.
  • Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities. Available from the American Red Cross or FEMA.

Preparing For Pets and Other Animals

As you make supply kits and emergency/evacuation plans for your household, be sure to make plans for your pets, service animals, or livestock. Many emergency shelters will not allow pets other than service animals. If you are unable to evacuate your animals, post a visible advisory on the front door so emergency workers will know there is a pet inside. Inside your residence, post your contact information and evacuation destination in a prominent place, such as the refrigerator. Be sure that each animal has at least a 3-day supply of food, water, and other essentials.

People who use service animals

Service animals are guide dogs, signal dogs, or other animals individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability or access and functional need. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Service animals are a critical component of an emergency preparedness plan for users of service animals. Emergency preparedness plans should address the health, welfare, and safety of the service animal, as well as ways to have the service animal assist the individual in emergencies.

Additional resources for animals:

Be Informed

How to Prepare In Your Community

Schools, daycare providers, workplaces, and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans. Ask about plans at the places where your family spends time such as work and school. If none exist, consider volunteering to help develop one. You will be better prepared to reunite your family and loved ones safely during an emergency if you think ahead, and communicate with others in advance.

Schools and Daycares

If you are a parent or a guardian of an elderly or disabled adult, make sure schools or daycare providers have emergency response plans. Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis. Do they store adequate food, water, and other emergency supplies? Find out if they are prepared to stay put if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

A community working together during an emergency can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how you can work together. Find out if anyone has specialized equipment like a power generator or special skills (e.g., medical, technical) that might help during a crisis. Decide who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors. Make back-up plans for childcare in case parents cannot get home. Get to know each other; become a connected community before a disaster occurs.

Join, start, or reinvigorate a Neighborhood Watch program. This is a great way for you to share the information in this booklet and develop neighborhood plans. Participate in your community association and introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Encourage your neighbors to take training, such as the Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) to better assist your community with its preparedness efforts. The American Red Cross, area hospitals, and community colleges offer different types to training that will help you be more knowledgeable and ready for a disaster.

Individual Preparedness in the Workplace

An emergency can happen anytime. You and your coworkers should know what to do if one occurs at work. Even if you think you are not in a disaster-prone area, something like a chemical tanker truck overturning or a snowstorm can prevent you from getting to or from work. Workplace violence, pandemic influenza, bomb threats, and severe weather are other emergency or disaster events that may interrupt business as usual in the workplace.

What employees should do to prepare:

  • Learn and practice emergency plans.
  • Know at least two exits from each room.
  • Be able to escape in the dark by knowing how many desks, cubicles, or doorways are between your workstation and two of the nearest exits.
  • Know the post-evacuation meeting location.
  • Know the location of fire extinguishers and how to use them.
  •  Make a list of important personal numbers. Keep a printed list at your desk or near other phones. Do not rely on electronic lists, direct-dial phone numbers, or computer organizers that may not work in an emergency.
  • Gather personal emergency supplies in a desk drawer. Include a flashlight, walking shoes, dust mask, water, and non-perishable food.
  • Report damage or malfunctions to the fire alarms or other safety systems.
  • Never lock or block fire exits or doorways.
  • Keep fire doors closed to slow the spread of smoke and fire.
  • Determine how you will help each other in the event that public transportation is unavailable or roadways are impassable.
  • Consider offering to temporarily house, transport, or feed your co-workers in case of emergency.

If you own or operate a business and want ideas on business disaster preparedness, resources are available at FEMA Ready Business at or the Small Business Administration at

Get Involved

Knowledge and preparedness go hand-in-hand in making stronger families and more resilient communities. There are numerous training opportunities, both in person and online, that will assist you in developing your plans and enhancing your level of preparedness.

American Red Cross

The Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross is a great resource for preparedness information and training. Training is available in various levels of first aid and CPR certifications. Courses that train individuals to respond as part of a team to local and national disasters are also available. The Chapter carries a wide variety of preparedness brochures and other informational resources. Contact them at 719-632-3563 or

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security, and offers a variety of free independent study classes on their website at Participants will receive a certificate of completion.

Neighborhood Watch

A Neighborhood Watch is a group of neighbors who are willing to communicate with each other and pass along information. The group fosters education on crime prevention, watches for suspicious activity, and reports suspicious activity to law enforcement.

A Neighborhood Watch group involves all the houses on one street facing one another, cul-de-sacs and greenbelts, which usually consists of 10-25 households. Each Neighborhood Watch group has a block captain who is a direct liaison with the Police Department through the Division Crime Prevention Officer. Your Division Crime Prevention Officer can provide crime prevention information, current crime statistics for your neighborhood, and a list of all registered sex offenders living in your area. The block captain also distributes information from the Police Department to the neighbors.

For more information or to start a Neighborhood Watch program in your area, schedule a meeting with your Division Crime Prevention Officer.

  • Crime Prevention Officer Falcon Division, 719-444-7246
  • Crime Prevention Officer Gold Hill Division, 719-385-2117
  • Crime Prevention Officer Sand Creek Division, 719-444-7276
  • Crime Prevention Officer Stetson Hills Division, 719-444-3168

Source: Colorado Springs Police Department

Community Animal Response Team

The Community Animal Response Team (CART) is looking for volunteers to work with equine/large animals, small animals and pets. CART volunteers may be called upon to assist in emergencies requiring rescue, evacuation, and sheltering of pets and/or livestock. CART meets regularly and members receive training on a regular basis. CART volunteers may also receive training to operate in the Emergency Operations Center for the City of Colorado Springs and/or El Paso County. Anyone interested in volunteering for the emergency sheltering of animals, please find additional information on the internet at or contact the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region at phone 719-473-1741.

Community Advancing Public Safety (CAPS)

The City of Colorado Springs Police and Fire Departments and the Office of Emergency Management have joined forces, creating opportunities for citizens to take an active role in our community’s public safety efforts. The CAPS program can match your interests, experience, and skills with a meaningful and unique opportunity to contribute to your community. Whether you want to be out in the field or work in internal operations, you CAN make a difference.

For more information contact CAPS at


The Pikes Peak area is fortunate to have a wealth of volunteer opportunities at various organizations. Volunteer your time and talents or provide support to others. Check with local organizations or government entities, civic organizations, or an online volunteer matching website.

Additional resources: Volunteer Pikes Peak at


  • Be alert. Get to know your neighbors. Be aware of unusual or abandoned packages or vehicles and of suspicious activities that should be reported to law enforcement.
  • Develop a list of emergency services and their phone numbers and addresses. Share with your neighbors.
  • Find out about community emergency plans where you work, worship, or volunteer.
  • Make sure schools and workplaces have updated emergency contact information, including cell phone numbers, for your family.
  • Be knowledgeable about school emergency plans at your children’s school. You need to know if your children will be kept at school until a parent or designated adult can pick them up. Be aware that the school may designate another nearby location for pickup.
  • Make a plan to meet with family members if an emergency happens while your family is separated. Establish an out-of-town contact that everyone can call. Make sure the contact agrees and that everyone has the number and knows how to dial it. Consider prepaid calling cards and emergency contact lists for your children. Identify places to meet both close to your residence and at some distance away.
  • Plan for what you may need if you are away from your residence during an emergency.
  • Keep an emergency car survival kit in your car (page 59). Always keep your fuel tank at least half-full. Remember that if electricity is interrupted, gas pumps do not work.
  • Research organizations in your community that work on preparedness efforts. Find out what you can do and volunteer to do it.
  • Join, start, or reinvigorate a Neighborhood Watch program. It would be a great way to share the information in this booklet and develop neighborhood plans. Find out if your area has a community association and join.