Make a Plan


Emergencies and disasters can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. They can happen quickly and without warning. Understanding how emergencies and disasters can impact your family is critical. Each person's and family's needs are different, but everyone can take steps to put a plan in place to prepare for the unthinkable.

In a hurry? Download the PWC Emergency Preparedness Handbook now!


Your family may not be together if a disaster occurs, so it is important to plan in advance. The following tips are critical to consider when making your plan:

  • Know which types of disasters could affect your area. The types of hazards that most frequently affect Prince William County are flooding/flash flooding, severe weather including thunderstorms and straight-line winds, winter storms, and hurricanes. See 'Stay Informed-Know Your Hazards' for additional information.
  • Consider how you'll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Make sure every member of your family knows all critical phone numbers and keep both digital and hard copies in all of your emergency kits and on your person.
  • Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to serve as a point of contact for all the members of your household. Often during an emergency, long-distance calls will go through when local networks are overwhelmed.
  • Establish a family meeting place that's familiar and easy to find. Identify one in your neighborhood and one outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.
  • Consider your specific individual and family needs.
  • Inquire about the emergency plans for places where your family spends time: work, daycare, school, and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Make back-up plans for children in case you cannot get home.
  • Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together during an emergency.
  • Identify the safest areas in your home if you are told to stay inside. For example, in a tornado you want to be on the lowest level, in an interior space and away from windows.


As you prepare your plan, tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs (like the operation of durable medical equipment). Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance. Keep in mind some these factors when developing your plan:

  • Different ages of members within your household
  • Responsibilities for assisting others
  • Locations frequented
  • Dietary needs
  • Medical needs including prescriptions and equipment
  • Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment
  • Languages spoken
  • Cultural and religious considerations
  • Pets or service animals
  • Households with school-aged children


Once you have all of your information, you need to write it down in one place and give copies to everyone on your communications list. You can utilize the following resources to complete your plan.

  • For an online planning tool: go to This planning toolkit was developed to assist residents and business owners in Northern Virginia to develop a Family Emergency Plan or a Business Emergency Plan through an easy to use online tool. The final plan can be saved as a PDF document and emailed to family, friends and colleagues.
  • For an printed guide, download the PWC Emergency Preparedness Handbook.
  • Other planning tools can be found at


Once all of your planning is done, be sure to practice your plan with your entire family. Ensure all family members know and understand all components of the plan, including family meeting places, critical phone numbers, and emergency contacts. Plan to exercise as many components of the plan at least twice a year around the same time you change your smoke detector batteries.