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Disaster Preparedness Plan And Checklist

October 20, 2023 6-minute read

Author: Victoria Araj

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Natural disasters can devastate you, your community and your property. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the total costs of these damaging weather events since 1980 exceed $2.630 trillion. Catastrophic weather events can cause injury, displacement and more, making it essential to draft an emergency disaster plan for your family and home.

While some risks are worth taking, being unprepared in the event of potential destruction isn’t one. Disaster can strike at any moment, and it’s important to prepare for it.

Natural Disaster Survival Basics

A natural disaster can upend your life and your surroundings in a few short minutes. Preparing for the unexpected can help minimize destruction and devastation.

In preparation for a natural disaster, it’s important to understand how life can be affected immediately after. Consider the following scenarios when creating a disaster preparedness plan:

  • Utilities may not work, and access to water, electricity and communication may be sparse.
  • The time to prepare before disaster hits can vary from days to hours and even minutes or seconds in the case of an earthquake.
  • Danger can linger after a catastrophic event in the form of aftershocks, debris or floods.

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Disaster Preparedness Checklist

Preparing for natural disasters can reduce health and environmental risks. Consider the most likely hazards in your area, the line of communication for warnings, insurance coverage and evacuation routes.

  1. Prepare an emergency kit: You may not be able to contact emergency services right away. Ensure your home emergency kit has enough supplies for each member of your household to survive for at least 3 days. And don’t forget to make proper accommodations for your pets.
  2. Set a plan: Set an emergency plan with your entire household. Include information for evacuation areas, shelters and means of communication and designate an emergency contact who ideally lives in a different area.
  3. Understand emergency alerts: Not every emergency alert is the same. For example, learn the difference between thunderstorm warnings and thunderstorm watches so you know what to do as the weather event approaches. Know where to go to get important information in the event of an emergency before, during and after a disaster.
  4. Check your insurance coverage: Homeowners insurance typically covers theft and damage caused by people. It generally doesn’t cover natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires. Reach out to your insurance agent and find out what your policy covers.

Checklist on table with mask, canned food and macaroni

Interactive Button: Press to download the disaster preparedness checklist

What Should Be In A Home Emergency Kit?

Creating an effective home emergency kit begins with storage. You need a large, watertight container to keep the natural elements out of your emergency supplies. Regularly check your supply levels and expiration dates and restock as needed. As a general rule, keep enough food, water and supplies for each person in your household to survive for at least 3 days.

Here are some survival kit essentials:

  • Water (1 gallon per person for at least 3 days)
  • Nonperishable food
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Blankets
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes
  • Multi-tool
  • Flashlight
  • Flares or whistle
  • Extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Local maps
  • Cellphone and battery-powered charger
  • Copies of important documents

Earthquake Survival Kit

Most earthquakes occur in four regions: the circum-Pacific seismic belt along the Pacific Ocean, the Alpide earthquake belt running along the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Himalayas and the mid-Atlantic Ridge. If you live in an earthquake-prone region, add these items to your survival kit and consider buying earthquake insurance:

  • Mask
  • Goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Duct tape

Hurricane Emergency Kit

The regions most prone to hurricanes are along the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Pacific Ocean. The aftermath of a hurricane can include floods, storm surges and high surf for days and weeks. When preparing your emergency kit, consider including:

  • Life jackets
  • Water filter
  • Glow sticks
  • Sunscreen

Tornado Survival Kits

Tornados are the result of opposing winds and drafts colliding and are most common in central United States. Because tornado winds can reach up to 300 miles per hour, it’s crucial to get to a reinforced building or proper shelter in the event of a tornado warning. If you can’t buy a shelter, develop a plan for getting to a tornado safe shelter like a school. Consider keeping these supplies on hand to make repairs to your home after a tornado:

  • Plywood
  • Steel or aluminum
  • Duct tape

Fire Emergency Kit

Wildfires can happen anywhere. They usually occur in dry climates where vegetation is susceptible to catching fire. Wildfires are typically ignited by lightning or human activity. Consider the following items in preparation for a fire emergency:

  • Full coverage goggles
  • Respirator
  • Long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Mask

First Aid pouch next to a first aid kit checklist

Interactive button: Press to download home emergency kit checklist

Disaster Planning With A Disability

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends additional steps for people with disabilities to consider when preparing for a disaster.

Here are suggestions on what to include in your emergency evacuation plans and emergency supply kits if you’re a person with a disability or live with a person with a disability:

  • Stay informed: Learn which disasters are likely to impact your community so you can create an appropriate disaster preparedness plan. Stay informed about weather-related emergencies by enabling Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on your mobile device or listening to your local radio station.
  • Include others in your plans: Decide who will be a part of your evacuation plan and consider registering for targeted assistance during an emergency to help emergency responders get to you faster with the right equipment.
  • Consider transportation options: You’ll need transportation in the aftermath of the disaster during the recovery and rebuilding efforts. Create a plan that identifies who will pick you up.
  • Plan for all your medical needs: Making a list of your medications is an important step. You should also consider how you’ll charge and use your medical or assistive devices.

Consider discussing your disaster preparedness plan with your doctor and visit Ready.gov for more information on how people with disabilities can best prepare to survive a natural disaster.

Recovering From Natural Disasters

After a natural disaster strikes, the most important consideration is safety and well-being. When the situation has stabilized and the emergency has subsided, the cleanup can begin. Make a plan that focuses on how to recover after a natural disaster. Review your insurance coverage and your options for financial assistance.

Secure Your Belongings

Identity theft is common after natural disasters. It’s vital to protect your personal information after an emergency. First, get in touch with your creditors and report any lost credit cards or bank cards. Next, destroy documentation with personal information found during the cleanup. Consider placing a 3-month fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus – Equifax®, Experian™ and TransUnion®.

Document The Damage

Before making any repairs, record all damage to your home. Take pictures of everything, including photos of debris and broken items you recognize from your home. Though it may be painful to sift through your damaged property, you’ll need this documentation during the settlement process with the insurance company to get an accurate value of replacement.

Make A Homeowners Claim

Review your deductible and policy before filing a homeowners insurance claim after a natural disaster. Depending on the scope of the claim, your home insurer may issue checks incrementally for the work rather than the full amount as repair work gets completed in phases. Try to plan ahead and lean into your emergency fund to cover additional expenses like hotel stays, eating out or laundry.

Damage Prevention

Don’t begin making permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster has seen your property and evaluated the damage. You’re responsible for taking measures to mitigate further damage, including removing drywall and carpet to prevent the spread of mold or boarding up openings on the property to prevent more damage. Document all costs for temporary repairs in case your insurance company reimburses you.

How to recover from a natrual disaster: secure your belongings, document the damage, start a homeowners claim, prevent further damage

Additional Emergency Preparedness Resources

Your state may make certain assistance programs available when an emergency is declared. Check out local programs and consider assistance from federal programs, such as:

  • Federal assistance programs: These programs can include housing, farm flooding, disaster-related unemployment and tax relief.
  • American Red Cross: The Red Cross provides food, shelter, medical care and recovery plans during
  • Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA offers low-interest disaster relief loans to businesses, nonprofits and homeowners. Borrowers can use the funding to replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory, etc.

The Bottom Line

As much as we hope to avoid natural disasters, there is always the chance of experiencing a dangerous weather event. It’s essential to create a plan that keeps you and your family safe during an emergency.

Disaster preparedness can be as simple as a fully stocked backpack or as involved and expensive as a fully stocked underground bunker. If you need to finance a larger disaster preparedness project, explore refinancing options to fund your disaster response plan.

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Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.