Family Safety Plan

Being prepared means having a plan of action in place well in advance of an emergency. Citizens must be ready to calmly assess the situation, use common sense and whatever is at hand to secure themselves and their loved ones. Take some time to reflect on where your family spends time: work, school, etc. Find out about these places’ emergency plans and how they plan to communicate in the event of an emergency. If they do not have an emergency plan, consider helping to develop one.

An emergency preparedness plan is your family’s guide to safety. Learn about potential threats that could occur in your area and discuss what each member of the family should do. Remember that you and your family may not be together when disaster strikes and, therefore, you must prepare for a variety of situations.

Creating Your Family Plan

  • Identify a place for family members to meet if separated by an emergency or security threat
  • It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call then a local one, so establish an out-of-state contact who can communicate among separated family members. Make sure that everyone has the contact’s number and the means to place the call (i.e. coins, calling card etc.)
  • Research your community’s emergency warning system, evacuation plans and routes, and the location of public shelters near your home, work, and school. Click here for Grand Traverse County's Notification System: CodeRED
  • Find out what types of disasters are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified in the event of an emergency.

Deciding to Stay or Go

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the security threat, the first important decision is whether to stay put or to evacuate. Michiganders should understand and plan for both possibilities. It is imperative in the event of an emergency that you monitor news outlets. WTCM 103.5 FM or 580 AM along with Grand Traverse EM Facebook Page for up to date information or official instructions. If you’re specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately. 

Staying Put

Whether at home, work, or elsewhere, there may be situations when it’s simply best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outdoors. At other times staying indoors and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as “shelter-in-place,” is essential to your survival. Use all available information to assess the situation. If your see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities have announced that the air is badly contaminated, creating a “shelter-in-place” is necessary.

To shelter-in-place:
  • Bring all family members and pets inside.
  • Lock all doors, close all windows, air vents, and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off all fans, air conditioning, and forced air heating systems.
  • Locate emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
  • Go to an interior room with few windows, if possible.
  • Seal all windows, doors, and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
  • Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal gaps so that you can create a barrier between yourself and any contamination.
  • Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.


There may be conditions under which you either decide or are ordered to evacuate the area. Plan ahead, how will you assemble your family and where will you go? Choose several destinations in different directions so that you will have options in the event of an emergency.

Create an Evacuation Plan:
  • Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
  • If you have a car, keep a half tank of gas in it at all times, in case the need for evacuation presents itself.
  • If you do not have a car, plan on how you will leave if you have to.
  • Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area.
  • Take your portable emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
  • Lock the door behind you.
  • Take your pets with you, but be advised – only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan on how you will care for your pets in an emergency.
If time allows call or email your out-of-state contact in your family plan and tell them where you are going. If there is damage to your home, and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas, and electricity before leaving. Leave a note to inform others when you left and where you are going. Check with neighbors who may need a ride.

Learn how and when to turn off utilities, if there is damage to your home or you are instructed to turn off your utilities:
  • Locate the electric, gas, and water shut off valves.
  • Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut off valves.
  • Teach family members how to turn off utilities.
  • If you turn the gas off, a professional must turn it back on. Do not attempt to do this yourself.

At Work & School

Like individuals and families, schools, daycare providers, workplaces, neighborhoods, and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans.

Inquire about plans at the places where your family spends the most time: work, school, and other places you frequent. If none currently exist, consider volunteering to help develop one. You will be better prepared to safely reunite with your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead, and communicate with others in advance.


If you are an employer, make sure your workplace has a building evacuation plan, and that it is regularly practiced.
  • Take a critical look at your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to determine if it is secure or if it could feasibly be upgraded to better filter potential contaminants, and be sure you know how to turn it off if the need arises.
  • Think about what you would do in the event that a crisis prevented your employees from going home.
  • Make sure your workplace is stocked with the appropriate supplies.

Schools & Daycare

If you are a parent, or 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.
  • Ask if they store adequate food, water and other basic supplies.
  • Find out if they are prepared to “shelter-in-place” if need be, and where they plan to go in the case of an evacuation.
For more information on developing emergency preparedness plans for schools, please visit the U.S. Department of Education website.

Neighborhoods & Apartment Buildings

In the event of a crisis, citizens must work together to better ensure the safety of all.
  • Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together during an emergency.
  • Find out if anyone has specialized equipment like a power generator, or expertise such as medical knowledge, that might help in the event of a crisis.
  • Decide who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors.
  • Make back-up plans for children in case an emergency prevents you from getting home.
  • Sharing plans and communicating in advance is a good strategy.