Waukesha County

Family Preparedness

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home.

What would you do if essential services such as water, gas, electricity or telephone, were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. Families can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Learning what types of disasters are most likely in your area, preparing a disaster supply kit, and creating and practicing a family disaster plan may be your best protection.

There are six basics you should stock for your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items. To learn more about preparing a disaster supply kit and creating a family disaster plan, consult the following:

Red Cross Ready

Ready Wisconsin

Children and Disasters

Disasters can be especially traumatic for children. When outside forces upset their established routine, they may become distraught and confused. Children need special care during a disaster period. For example, if your area is under a tornado watch, explain to your child what a watch is. It is important to try not to show fear since this will only cause them greater alarm. Stay with your child until all danger has passed. One of a child's greatest fears is being left alone or being separated from family. They may also fear being hurt or killed during a disaster, and they may think afterwards that the event could happen again. When all danger has passed, concentrate on helping your child by asking what he or she is thinking. Having them participate in any post disaster recovery operations will help them return to normal. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with feeling afraid.

  • Help your child to memorize important family information: their name, address, and phone number.
  • They should know where to meet in case of an emergency.
  • If they are too small to memorize this information, they should carry a small index card that lists emergency information to give to an adult or babysitter.

You can help your child be prepared for a disaster by doing the following:

  • Develop and practice a family disaster plan.
  • Everyone in the household, including children, should play a part in the family's response and recovery efforts.
  • Teach your child how to recognize danger signals.
  • Make sure they know what smoke detectors, fire alarms, and local community warnings such as sirens, sound like.
  • Explain how to call for help. In Waukesha and surrounding counties, you can call 911.


Pets are an important part of many people’s families and must be included in your family’s disaster planning. It is best to have a plan for your pets before a disaster strikes.

If you have to evacuate your home due to a disaster, it is best to evacuate your pets also. Keep in mind that Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets due to health and safety regulations and other considerations. Making alternative arrangements for your pets in advance of a disaster is strongly recommended. Check with hotels and motels outside of your immediate area to see if pets are allowed; ask friends or relatives outside of your immediate area if they could shelter your pets temporarily; or contact boarding facilities or veterinarians about sheltering pets in an emergency.

We also recommend that you assemble a portable pet disaster supplies kit containing the following items:

  • Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can't escape.
  • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
  • Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

This kit could be stored in a duffel bag or plastic tub or other sturdy container that can be carried easily.

You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home.

For more information, consult the following:

Red Cross Pet Safety

Ready Wisconsin for Pets

Functional and Access Needs

For people with functional and access needs such as visual disabilities, mobility disabilities, hearing/speech disabilities, or other special needs, please see the following for useful information:

Red Cross Disaster Safety for People with Disabilities

Ready Wisconsin Functional and Access Needs

Food Safety

Whenever a disruption in electricity service occurs, it is important to follow good food safety guidelines. Foods such as meats, dairy products, eggs, cooked pastas and potatoes, and puddings are potentially hazardous foods to eat after a loss in electrical power of more than a few hours. Other foods such as carbonated beverages, ketchup, mustard, jams, and peanut butter are safe without refrigeration.

Using a food thermometer is the best way to insure the safety of food after a loss in electrical service. In general, if a perishable food item’s temperature has risen above 40° for more than two hours, it is best to discard the food. Remember--when in doubt, throw it out.

For more specific guidelines, see the following:

Red Cross Power Outage

How to Conduct a Household Inventory

While it is not always possible to prevent a natural disaster, it is possible to take steps to protect your family from the financial consequences of a disaster. Conducting a household inventory prior to any disaster can help you document your damaged possessions and their value and assist you in filing claims with your insurance company and in seeking other available assistance.

Make a visual or written record of your possessions, going from room to room. This can be done by photographing, videotaping, or by listing items in a notebook. Record the cost of the item and when it was purchased. Include items in closets such as clothes, towels, and linen as well as items in basements, attics, garages, and storage sheds. Include photographs of the exterior of your house, landscaping, cars, boats or other recreational vehicles. You might also want to make copies of the receipts for more valuable possessions and keep them with copies of other important documents.

Make copies of legal and family documents such as wills; marriage, birth, and death certificates; deeds; tax returns and insurance policies. Keep the originals in a secure place, let someone else know where they are stored, and store the copies elsewhere.

Keep your household inventory away from the house in a secure location and remember to update it every three years or so.