Dealing With Emergencies


Review this topic before you need it. Then when you are faced with an emergency or injury, you will know what to do. Your confidence in dealing with both major and minor emergencies will reassure an injured person.

Here are the steps to take when an emergency occurs.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Count to 10.

    Tell yourself that you can handle the situation.

  3. Check for danger.

    Protect yourself and the injured person from fire, explosions, or other hazards.

  4. Try to look at the situation as a whole.
    1. What is the most serious problem, and what do you need to do first? The most obvious problem isn't always the most serious.
    2. Treat the most life-threatening problems—like bleeding or shock—first.
    3. If you think that the person has a spinal injury, don't move the person unless the danger is great.
    4. Check for broken bones and other injuries.

If the person is unconscious or doesn't respond to your voice or touch, be ready to start CPR.

Call 911 or other emergency services, such as the local fire department, sheriff, or hospital, if you need help.

Making an emergency plan

A little organization can go a long way toward helping you feel ready to handle the unexpected. Having an emergency plan for your household can help you and your family be better prepared for any kind of disaster or emergency. Putting together an emergency plan is easy. Here are some tips.

  • Choose a friend or relative as a contact person for family members to call if they are separated during a disaster or emergency.

    It's best to choose an out-of-state contact. Make sure every member of your household has the contact's phone number. Email may also be a good way to get in touch.

  • Pick a place to meet outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.

    Make sure every member of your household has the address and phone number. Also choose a few places to meet just outside your home, such as neighbor's front yard or on a corner, in case there is a fire in your home.

  • Write down where and how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity to the house.

    Make sure you have any special tools this requires, such as a T-wrench for the water line.

  • Discuss what you would do if you had to leave your home and the area.

    Include your pets in your plans. Most emergency shelters and health facilities will not accept animals.

  • Keep important documents together and readily available in case you need to quickly evacuate your home.

    This includes health information, like lists of medications, plus birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, insurance forms, phone numbers you might need, and credit card information.

You may have other things that you want to include, especially if you have children in school or if anyone in your household has special needs. Review your plan often, and make sure that phone numbers, email addresses, and other items are still current.

Making an emergency supplies kit

Having an emergency supplies kit for your household can help you and your family be better prepared for any kind of disaster or emergency. Here are some tips for assembling one.

  • Include the essentials.

    They are the same no matter what the situation:

    • Food and water
    • First aid supplies and medicines
    • Blankets and clothing
    • Special-needs items (such as baby formula)
    • Certain tools and household items, including cell phone chargers, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries

    You can also use a radio or flashlight that is powered by a hand crank and doesn't need batteries.

  • Use a checklist to gather supplies.

    Visit the American Red Cross's website at for a checklist to use as you gather supplies.

  • Store everything in one place, preferably a cool, dark location.
  • Put together a smaller version of your emergency kit that you could take if you had to leave home or shelter in place.
  • Keep supplies fresh.

    After you've assembled your emergency supplies, remember to check and replace them now and then.

    • Follow the Red Cross's guidelines ( on how often to replace food and water supplies. Even "nonperishable" items may need to be replaced.
    • Remember that both nonprescription and prescription medicines have expiration dates.


Current as of: July 10, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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