How to Make a Family Survival Plan

family in forest

by Karen

It’s one thing to stock up on all the necessary food, water, and supplies and make a survival plan for a single person, but let’s face the truth of the matter. Most of us have more than one person to plan for and stocking up on necessary items is not enough. Many of us have a family that includes children and maybe even elderly or disabled relatives, and for this reason, we need to come up with a family survival plan that will ensure our loved ones have the best possible chance for survival under any conditions.

The goal behind a family survival plan is to ensure that not only do you have all the food, water, and supplies your family will need stocked up and ready to go, but that you have a solid plan in place to ensure that you all end up together at your desired location and that you all know what to do and how to communicate with each other no matter what happens. Let’s take a look and what you need to consider when creating a family survival plan.

Warming Them Up

Before you can make a family survival plan, you need to get the family on board. This can be challenging because not all family members might agree with the need for prepping. They might think it is not necessary because nothing ever happens where you live, or even worse, they might feel that they don’t need to worry about prepping because you’re doing it and they can just come to you if there is a disaster.  But perhaps the worst is when family just thinks prepping is a complete waste of time and money.

At least when family or friends say they’ll just show up on your doorstep with the SHTF, they believe it could happen (provided they aren’t joking around about it). You have to give them some tough love right then and there. Tell them now is their chance to jump onboard. After something bad happens, they won’t be welcome because you have your immediate family to take care of, but right now they are welcome to join the group and contribute.

If they come at you with the “nothing bad ever happens here” excuse, you will need to wake them up to the fact that just because it hasn’t, that doesn’t mean nothing ever will happen. Show them examples of people who thought the very same thing, but ended up with tragedy in their lives. Heck, you can even show them the news. If you watch enough of that, you are bound to think prepping might not be a bad idea.

If they think it’s just a waste of time and money, you will have to be crafty in order to convince them they are wrong. You can argue that having extra food and supplies on hand is actually something people commonly do and it can save money because as food prices go up (and they are going up!) and you rotate your stocks, you will be eating food today at the prices from six or eight months ago. As for time, it’s really very easy to stock up on items and make a bugout bag. You can show them how easy it is and how fun it can be.

You can also take anyone skeptical camping and let them use the tools you have. It will show them how useful the tools and skills are and they might even have fun doing it. Add a little storytelling to the mix and you just might sway them. Ultimately, they are your family and you know them best, so you need to figure out the right approach.

Know Why You’re Prepping

Honestly, everyone could prepare for a world-changing disaster, such as the collapse of the economy, a grid down event that covers a huge geographic area, or a nuclear war. If you are inclined to prepare a survival plan for these types of events, fabulous! But you might want to plan for other events that are more likely to happen close to home. These include things like winter storms, hurricanes, flooding, tornados, and forest fires.

What you prepare for will depend on where you live. If you live in the north of Canada, you won’t need to worry about hurricanes and tornados, but if you live in Florida, then flooding and hurricanes are a real risk. I won’t go into what you need to store away and how you need to plan for each of these disasters, but I will say that your survival plan will be different depending on the potential disasters you could face.

The best thing to do is to start with a basic plan and then list all the potential threats that might affect you. You can then adjust your basic survival plan according to these threats until you have everything covered. For instance, no matter what you are planning for, you should have a meeting place or rallying point for your family members. However, you don’t need to consider flood-proofing your house if you don’t live in a flood-prone area and you don’t have to store a year’s worth of firewood if you live in southern Texas.

Speaking of a Meeting Place…

As nice as it would be for all of your family members to be at home, or even in one place, when disaster strikes, this isn’t very probable. With work, school, extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, and leisure activities, your family will very likely be spread out when an event happens. You might also have extended family that will be coming to you from another location if crisis strikes. You need to be prepared for this.

Essentially, you need to set a location that will be a rallying point for every member of your family. Most of the time this is your home, which is straightforward enough. However, there are situations in which a different meeting location might be better, such as if your family members work and go to school in town, but live outside of town. Having everyone meet up at a certain location in town and then making their way home together would be wise.

It is important that you be very specific about the meeting place so that no one is waiting in one area, while other people are waiting in another area. For instance, if you are meeting at the local university, specify precisely where. Is it in someone’s office or on the front steps of a specific building? You also want to be sure the meeting location is easily accessible by everyone. This means trying to make it as equidistant as possible from everyone so it will take roughly the same amount of time for everyone to arrive.

Choose Your Bugout Location(s) and Know How to Get There

As a family, you should choose a primary bugout location (BOL) and one or two backup locations and plan out at least two or three routes to get to each of them. Your BOL can be another family member’s home or friend’s home that is out of town or someone’s cottage or camp. It can also be a local camp ground or national park. Just be sure that wherever you choose to bugout if it is somewhere you can stock up on food, water, and supplies, then do so.

Once you have determined where you will go, take a look at a map and plan out at least two driving routes to get there. You also need to consider how you will get there if you aren’t able to drive. If you don’t have a functioning vehicle and/or the roads are clogged up and you have to set out on foot you must determine whether there are routes you can follow, such as along a river, train tracks, or hydro lines.

Whatever routes you choose, you should drive/travel them to make sure of the time it takes to get to your BOL and what snags you might hit along the way. Naturally, you’re not going to do a test run of walking 100 miles with your kids in tow, but for the walking routes it is best if you can walk at least some of it with them and more of it on your own. This will still give you a feel for how you would fair in a real situation.

Create a Communication Plan

Because some or all of your family might be spread out when disaster strikes and there could be chaos in the streets, you should work out a plan for communicating with each other. You might not be able to rely on your cell phone, so you need to have at least one alternate form of communication. This can include:

  • Walkie-talkies (make sure they are good-quality, long-range units)
  • HAM radio or CB (you need a license to broadcast, but not to receive)
  • A system of symbols
  • Hand-written messages left in strategic, pre-agreed locations

It is important to work out a means of communication well in advance of any potential event. Allow members of the group to give their input and come up with the best ideas that will work. If you are planning a system of symbols to send messages, then determine which locations you will use, the method for leaving the message (such as Sharpie on the back of a street sign), and the set of symbols, each of which has a different meaning. Examples include symbols that:

  • Let others know whether you are safe or in danger
  • Let others know whether your primary meeting/bug-in location/bugout location is safe or unsafe
  • Let others know to use an alternate destination or an alternate route
  • Affirmative/Negative
  • Let others know that the bug-out plan should be initiated

Just be sure that if you pick symbols or code words they are easily remembered by everyone in the group. It is also wise to have a family member or close friend that lives in another area as a contact for the entire group. Should a disaster arise that doesn’t affect your contact, everyone can connect with that person.

Whenever someone in the group gets in touch with that contact, he or she can then relay messages to everyone else in the group. This assumes the lines of communication (in terms of phones and cell phones) are up and running. However, this is helpful when some family members have been separated from others. Younger children might not know the contact numbers, but this can be written or sewn into their jacket or backpack.

Bug-out Bags for Everyone!

Make sure you have a bug-out bag (BOB) and a get-home bag (GHB) for every member of your family. Even ensuring your family members each have some everyday carry (EDC) items that will help them get from wherever they are when disaster strikes to your meeting place will make a huge difference. You can check out these articles to find out what to include in the various survival bags:

  • BOB
  • GHB
  • EDC

Make Everyone Responsible

It is important to ensure that every person, right down to the youngest child, has specific responsibilities during any emergency event, whether it is short-term or long-term. An older sibling might have the responsibility of ensuring younger siblings get to the meeting location. A younger child might have the responsibility of gathering the flashlights. Whether you are going to bug in or bug out, there will be a number of jobs to get done, such as:

  • Ensuring all doors are locked
  • Loading the family vehicles
  • Taking inventory of what you have
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Securing the perimeter
  • Foraging/food preparation
  • Taking care of pets, especially when they are scared (a great responsibility for kids)

What tasks you assign will depend on the situation at hand, how long the situation goes on, and the number and ages of people in your family. However, handing out responsibilities to everyone ensures that things get done, everyone is pulling their weight, and everyone feels like they are contributing.

Practice, Practice, Practice

When you have your plan outlined in detail, you aren’t done, not by a long shot. You absolutely must run drills and practice all aspects of your plan as often as possible. Just think of the military. They run drills all the time so that when it comes time to do it for real, they have it down to a science. Fire drills at a public school are another great example. They run through these drills so that when the time comes that there is a real fire, everyone knows what to do and it goes smoothly.

You do not want to get to a point where you are scattered, disaster strikes, and it takes one of your family members too long to make it to the meeting place. You do not want to have to bugout and realize your primary route and secondary routes have been compromised. You don’t want to make one of your walking routes to your BOL to be along the train tracks only to find that there is a train bridge you simply can’t get your small children across. You absolutely must run drills of every aspect of your survival plan. This will not only ensure that everyone becomes familiar with the plan; it will also let you know where the bugs are so you can alter the plan accordingly.

Remember that your chances for survival in any number of emergency situations is highly dependent on how prepared you are. As long as you have a solid family survival plan and practice it regularly, you will have the best possible chance of survival no matter what disaster you are facing.


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3 Comments

  1. We work on this and on fire escape routes. I remember my dad talking about this all the time when I was a kid and it stuck with me. Now I know how important it is and make sure I do the same for my kids.

  2. Dan,
    This is something I struggle with. In my family, I’m considered paranoid and in danger of slipping off the edge. My wife “kinda sorta” see’s the need sometimes. My daughter is convinced I’ll end up in “Shady Pines rest home”. My son is gradually coming to understand. And then I have my older sister at 74 and my mom at 96 who both think it’s a good idea, but haven’t the energy. My nephew is in my daughter’s camp. So, I keep on plugging. I’ll never get them to understand the EDC or the GHB and just forget the BOB even though I have a nice ALICE pack ready to go.

    My target this year (2016) is to relocate my sister and mom to my homestead and continue working on everyone else. I have room for them all, I just have to get them involved. It’s a tough job.

    Thanks for the article, it keeps me inspired. Maybe I’ll be able to get some of them to read it.

  3. Hi Oren,

    Have you tried finding news and stories of bad things happening in your town or city? Even something as simple as a woman saving a kid from drowning by giving first aid could help you make your point. The closer the disaster or critical event to where you live, the more compelling it will be.

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