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Have a Plan


An emergency plan provides you with guidance during a disaster, helps you can reconnect with your loved ones, and helps you recognize possible hazards in your area. Consider the following questions as you begin to make your plan: 

  1. How will you communicate?
  2. How will you collaborate?
  3. What would you do if you had to evacuate?
  4. What would you do if you became separated?
  5. Does your household include individuals with disabilities or special needs?
  6. Does your household include pets?

1. How will you communicate?

Prepare to get and give essential information during an emergency:

  • Subscribe to the digital VT Alerts channels on your phone and desktop.
  • Sign up for local emergency emails or other notification services, which are often available through local governments and news stations in a variety of formats. A national emergency notification subscription service is available at
  • Complete a contact card to carry regularly in a wallet, purse, or backpack. Be sure that the card identifies: who you are, any special health, diet or medical needs, and an emergency contact (a friend or relative, ideally one nearby and one a safe distance away) to notify and relay emergency news about you.
  • Post emergency contact numbers in an easy-to-access location. Store your emergency contacts’ phone numbers in your cell phone under "I.C.E." (In Case of Emergency). If you have children, also include the contact information for your childcare provider with your emergency contacts. Special I.C.E. phone applications also exist. If you are unconscious or unable to call, responders may look for this information on your cell phone.
  • Secure an AM/FM radio with back-up batteries as well as a cell phone charger.  Keep all of these items in an easily accessible location in case of an emergency. Learn more about putting together an emergency kit.

2. How will you collaborate?

Prepare to help those around you during an emergency:

  • Meet with the members of your household. Discuss how to prepare and respond to the kinds of emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work, and play.
  • Identify responsibilities for each person, and plan how best to help each other, with particular attention to children, people with special needs, and pets.
  • If a member of your household has emergency responsibilities (e.g., in the military, a medical team, or a response volunteer), plan how you would respond to their deployment.
  • Be sure you know how to shut off natural gas, water, and electrical lines to your home.
  • Check to be sure that your insurance is adequate and that copies of important papers are in more than one safe place.
  • Put together an emergency kit, and place it in an easy-to-access location.

3. What would you do if you had to evacuate?

Prepare to leave your home quickly and efficiently during an emergency:

  • Decide where you would go and what route you would take to get there. You may choose to go to a hotel/motel, stay with friends or relatives in a safe location, or if necessary, go to an evacuation shelter.
  • Decide how you will communicate, including backup alternatives such as a contact to call who can relay messages even if local phone service is disrupted.
  • Exercise your plan. Practice evacuating your home, if you can, twice a year. Travel your planned evacuation route, and plot alternate routes, in case roads are impassable.
  • Plan ahead for your pets. Keep a phone list of kennels, pet-friendly hotels/motels, and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes.

4. What would you do if you became separated?

Prepare for reuniting with your household and loved ones during or after an emergency:

  • Choose two places to meet: One right outside your building, in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire; and one outside the neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
  • Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. Remember, if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service, it may be easier to text or call long-distance. Everyone should carry emergency contact information in writing and on cell phones.
  • Learn more about precautions you can take in particular sorts of emergencies.

5. Does your household include individuals with disabilities or special needs?

Prepare to provide appropriate assistance to those in your household, office, or other locations that may have special needs during an emergency:

  • Individuals with disabilities or other special needs should have a personal emergency plan, including advance preparation for an evacuation. Often this may include being part of a buddy system, where co-workers, roommates, neighbors, or others are able to provide assistance and support before, during, and/or after an emergency.
  • During an emergency, not everyone with a disability will require assistance; however, if an individual is self-identified, the university’s Emergency Assistance Card program can aid in the event of an emergency situation. For more information, contact: Services for Students with Disabilities at (students), or University ADA Services at (faculty and staff).
  • Information regarding emergency preparedness for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and other special needs populations is available from numerous government websites and organizations.
  • Also see specific information regarding emergency planning on the University ADA Services website.
  • Discuss in advance how to communicate during an emergency at home or at work.
  • Be aware that a person with visual impairments may be reluctant to leave familiar surroundings when the request for evacuation comes from a stranger, so when offering assistance, tell them who you are, announce the type of emergency, offer your arm for guidance, tell the person where you are going, and describe obstacles you encounter.
  • Be aware that a guide dog could become confused or disoriented in a disaster, so people who are blind or partially sighted may have to depend on others to lead them, as well as their dog, to safety during a disaster.
  • Identify how emergency notifications or advance warnings can be received; provisions for alternative communications may be needed.
  • Discuss in advance how to communicate during an emergency, for example, turning lights on and off to gain attention, indicating directions with gestures, or written notes with evacuation directions.
  • Should prearrange appropriate evacuation procedures. May need to plan for special assistance to evacuate a building, get to a designated area of rescue/priority rescue to wait for evacuation assistance, or to get to a shelter.
  • When offering assistance, consult with the individual to determine the best options. Non-ambulatory individuals' needs and preferences vary. Someone at ground floor locations may be able to exit without help. Others may have minimal ability to move. Determine if you can move the individual safely.
  • Call 9-1-1 for trained emergency personnel.
  • May need additional help understanding what to do during an emergency situation and getting to a shelter.
  • When offering assistance, should not touch the individual but rather announce in a calm voice what is happening and what the individual needs to do. For example, "I am here to help you get to a safe place. Please follow me now."
  • Should be registered in the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program.
  • Should carry a health and information card that contains important information such as who to contact in an emergency, medical issues, and lists of medications.
  • May need to identify options for backup transportation or child care prior to an emergency.
  • Should discuss plans and options in advance with child care providers, neighbors, or others who would be willing to assist. Provide information about emergency contacts.
  • May need assistance in developing a plan, understanding what to do during an emergency, and getting to a shelter.
  • Community and cultural groups may be able to assist and often have information about available resources, including translators. Many websites provide information in other languages.
  • VT’s Cranwell International Center provides crisis support and personal assistance, on a walk-in or by- appointment basis. Assistance is also available all day, everyday, including after hours, by cell phone at 540-230-8747. Advising is available to members of the international community regarding cultural adjustment, financial concerns, medical or insurance concerns, family issues, roommate and friendship concerns, loneliness, safety issues, housing, or other issues of concern. More information is available at:
  • Cranwell International Center maintains a list of volunteer translators. Contact 540-231-6527 or for more information.
  • If there is an emergency, contact 9-1-1 or the VT Police Department at 540-231-6411. VT dispatchers have a list of local resources for most languages and a number for law enforcement to call that can translate in general if someone local is not available.
  • Should plan in advance their options for transportation.
  • Public transportation may be available but be aware that these options may not be readily available during certain emergencies.
  • Should have an adequate emergency food supply in their emergency kit.
  • Should carry an information card that contains important information about specific dietary needs.
  • Should carry a health and information card that contains important information such as who to contact in an emergency, medical issues, and lists of medications.
  • Should know the location and availability of more than one facility if dependent on specialized or life-sustaining medical care or treatment.
  • Should have a kit available with medications and necessary medical supplies.

6. Does your household include animals?

Prepare to help care for your animals during and after an emergency:

  • Identifying shelter. Note that, to protect the health and safety of other occupants, dogs, cats, and other companion animals are usually not permitted in emergency shelters. Only service animals such as guide dogs are normally permitted in shelters.
  • Get up-to-date advice on pet sheltering from your local emergency management office, animal shelter, or animal control office.
  • Identify which local hotels and motels allow pets and where pet boarding facilities are located. Find back-up facilities on an escape route, in case local facilities fill to capacity or close.
  • Gathering a stock of pet food and supplies.
  • Ensuring your pet has proper identification and up-to-date vaccinations and health records.
  • Having a copy of your pet’s papers and a photo to take with you. They could be essential, especially if you become separated.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit, including a carrier, collar, and leash as well as medications, toys, and treats.

If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, or pigs, be sure to:

  • Ensure all animals can be identified.
  • Map out primary and secondary evacuation routes in advance.
  • Whenever possible, prepare to evacuate animals before predicted threats arrive.
  • Arrange for vehicles and trailers to transport and support each type of animal. Also arrange for experienced handlers and drivers, if necessary. It is best to allow animals a chance to become accustomed to vehicular travel so they are less frightened and easier to move.
  • Verify that destinations will have food, water, veterinary care, and handling equipment and prepare to carry whatever may be lacking.
  • If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or to find a safe place to turn them outside.