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Preparing for a disaster

Disaster can strike at any moment, and without notice. Learn to cope with disasters by preparing in advance. Prepare by following these steps.

  1. Be Informed
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Assemble a Kit
  4. Maintain your Plan

Be informed

Find out if your community has a response, evacuation, and emergency plan in place. Know the specific hazards that threaten your community. One such tool you can use to learn the hazards in your community is MyHazards from the State of California Office of Emergency Services. Research and see if your community has a citizen emergency alert system in place, such as Sacramento-Alert, and register for any notifications. Check out the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities website for information on evacuation routes, sandbag locations, and interactive maps regarding flood plain designation. Learn safety tips and how to prepare for various emergencies: EnglishEspañolTiếng ViệtРусский | Tagalog简体中文

Make a plan

It is important to plan ahead so you and your family are calmer and better equipped during an emergency. Meet with your family members and review the information you gathered about your community. Choose an out-of-town contact person, whether that be a friend or family member, to call during an emergency. Devise a plan of where to meet in the event of an emergency. Complete a family communication plan, which includes phone numbers, meeting locations, emergency services, and important personal information. Discuss and practice escape routes, in case there is a fire or you need to be evacuated at a moment’s notice. Draw a floor plan of your home, making sure you label possible escape routes, location of supply kits, location of utility shut off points, ladders, smoke alarms, and fire extinguishers. Ensure there is a plan in place for people with disabilities, seniors, and pets.

assemble a kit

 Emergency kit contents

Emergencies can happen without warning, so have an emergency kit prepared.

Maintain your plan

Review your plan every six months and ensure your family knows what to do as well. Practice any fire drills or evacuation drills on a regular basis. Restock any food or water supplies, checking expiration dates. Test smoke alarms, be aware of recharge dates on fire extinguishers, and check battery expiration dates. 

Business preparedness planning

Businesses are an essential part of how quickly a community can recover after a disaster. Learn how to protect your business before disaster strikes.

  • Know what risks threaten your property by speaking with your local building official, city engineer, or planning administrator.
  • See FEMA's guide, Protect Business Records and Inventory
  • Securely anchor large equipment, bookcases, file cabinets, propane tanks, etc.
  • Install latches on drawers and cabinet doors.
  • Use flexible connections on gas and water lines.
  • Develop a plan and train your employees on what to do if a disaster were to occur.

Preparing for All of Types of Emergencies

For additional types of emergencies visit the American Red Cross.


In general there are two types of evacuation notices, voluntary and mandatory. A voluntary evacuation is a warning to persons within a designated area that a threat to life or property exists or is likely to exist in the immediate future; you are not required to evacuate although it is recommended. A mandatory evacuation is a warning to persons within the designated area that an imminent threat to life and property exists.

The amount of time you have to prepare for an evacuation may depend on the hazard. If you feel you are at risk of being evacuated, consider organizing the following for a Grab-and-Go kit:

  • Have copies of important personal papers, such as deed to your house, proof of insurance, medical records, passports, social security cards, photos. Also have your driver's license and a list of personal contacts.
  • Critical medical items, such as prescriptions
  • Essential valuables
  • Clothing, footwear, and toiletries
  • Cell phone & charger
  • Food and water for at least 3 days
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Child care items, such as diapers, formula, medicine
  • Pet care items, such as carrier case, food, etc.
  • Cash on hand, credit cards, checkbook, as well as keys
  • Blankets (2 per person)

Additional considerations prior to an evacuation order: 

  • Identify an out of town person you will contact in the event of an evacuation.
  • Fill your vehicle with gas and keep your vehicle maintained.
  • Know where your utility shutoffs are located and learn how to safely shut off all utilities.
  • If you live in an area prone to flooding, consider having sandbag materials on hand.
  • Stay informed with Emergency Alerts by signing up for the Citizen Emergency Notification System.

Action Checklist – What to Do before a Disaster


Know when and how to turn off water, gas, and electricity to your home. Make sure your family members or caregivers also know this information. If you need specific tools to turn off your gas or water, make sure they are easily accessible and located near the valves. Only turn off utilities if you suspect damage or leaks.

Fire Extinguisher

Check and make sure your fire extinguisher is up to date and easily accessible. Recharge or replace fire extinguisher as directed on the manufacturer's instructions.

Smoke Alarm & Carbon Monoxide

Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide devices once a month, replacing batteries at least once a year or as needed. Keep devices clean of dust or cobwebs and never paint the alarms. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.

Insurance Coverage

Homeowners insurance generally doesn't cover flood damage. Talk with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage. Ensure you are current with your policy and understand your risks.

First Aid/ CPR & AED

Take first aid or CPR/ AED classes through the American Red Cross.