Preparedness | Are you Ready?

Four Steps to Preparedness

The City of Houston Disaster Preparedness Guide is a free resource available from OEM for all City residents and organizations.

Click on each section below to learn more about how to prepare for emergencies.

Make an Emergency Plan

Each person, business, and family should have a plan in case disaster strikes.  You may not have time to prepare before an incident.

Developing and practicing your emergency plan with your family keeps everyone on the same page. The resources below will help you develop your emergency plan.

Plan to Go

Whether for a fire, hurricane, hazardous materials incident, or flood, you may be required to quickly evacuate your home, neighborhood, or the city.  Have a plan ahead of time to make sure everyone in your family knows what to do, where to go, and how to get a hold of each other:

  • How will you be notified of emergencies?
    • Sign up for AlertHouston, and have multiple ways to stay informed about emergencies in your area.
  • What are your family’s safe places? Remember, you may not always be home when an emergency occurs.  Pick safe places in each of these categories, and have family members write them down for easy reference:
    • A safe place, such as a neighbor’s house, mailbox, park etc. in your neighborhood in case en emergency occurs in your home.
    • A rally point somewhere in another part of the city, in case you are unable to get back to your  neighborhood.  Consider a family member or friend’s house.
    • A family member or friend’s house outside of the City, in case a catastrophic emergency means you cannot remain in, or return to the City.  Make sure everyone has this person’s phone number written down as well.

Plan to Stay

  • Designate a shelter-in-place room in your home. This should be an interior room with few doors and no windows (like a closet or bathroom).  You may be required to shelter-in-place during severe weather, during a hazardous materials incident, or in a law-enforcement situation like an active shooter.
  • Make sure you have a Shelter-in-Place kit that has plastic sheeting and duct tape, in case a hazardous chemical emergency requires you to seal yourself in your shelter-in-place room.

Plan to Stay In Touch

  • Have multiple ways to get a hold of each other:
    • Make sure everyone has written important phone numbers down. If mobile phone batteries die, you may need these written down instead.
    • Make sure every family member is “connected” on social media – this might be an easy way to check in on each other.
    • Make sure each family member knows how to “text” – oftentimes, when phone lines are down, text messages are able to get through.
    • Designate an out-of-town relative or friend to be the “check-in” person.  Sometimes, its easier to call or contact someone outside of the area that’s been affected by an emergency.

Plan for When You’re Away

  • Emergencies can happen anytime – so be aware of your surroundings when you’re away from home, and be prepared to take action.
  • Identify emergency exits when you go to public places, such as malls, community centers, restaurants, shops, and places of worship.
  • Instruct children what to do, and where to go if there is an emergency and you become separated.
  • Know the emergency plans for your children’s school, your workplace, and place of worship.  Know what to do if services or business is suspended due to an emergency, and what kind of communication to expect from authorities in those places.

Practice your Plan

Take a moment every year to practice your family’s emergency plan. This might include holding a drill that tests:

  • How everyone would evacuate your home if there was a fire or other emergency
  • How you would get a hold of each other after an emergency.
  • What you would do if a hazardous chemical emergency happened and you had to shelter-in-place.

Have an Emergency Supply Kit

What should be in your emergency kit? Who should you plan for?  What resources are out there to help me make sure that I don’t miss something while packing it?

All of these are very good questions. The links below will help you put together a family emergency kit, with all the necessary supplies  to be ready for whatever type of emergency.

Building a Shelter-in-Place Kit

Houston residents should be prepared to shelter-in-place in the event of an emergency. Emergencies that might trigger a shelter-in-place include: Tornadoes, Severe Weather, Hurricanes, Law Enforcement or terrorism situations, and hazardous material releases. Your Shelter-in-Place Kit should contain:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation—up to a 7-day supply).
  • Non-perishable food (up to a 7-day supply per person).
  • Battery-powered radio (with extra batteries) or hand-crank radio.
  • Weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Filter mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, soap, disinfectant, and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (water and electric).
  • Manual can opener if your kit contains canned food.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.
  • Plastic tarps for emergency roof repair.
  • Items for unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula, or diapers.
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils.
  • Cash and change.
  • Paper towels.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Rain gear, sturdy shoes, long pants, and gloves.
  • Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, birth certificates, passports, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.
Photo of emergency supplies
Make sure your Shelter-in-Place Kit has everything you need ahead of time.

What does “Shelter-in-Place” mean?

Shelter-in-Place orders are issued when it is safer for you to be sheltered indoors than for you to evacuate.

In severe weather,  you should:

  • Seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest-floor possible
  • Get underneath a sturdy table or object and hold on.
  • If you or your children have a bicycle helmet, put that on your/their head.
  • Turn on a battery-powered radio and tune it to local radio, or the National Weather Service Radio Service (if equipped)
  • DO NOT open windows or doors ahead of sheltering

In a hazardous material emergency, you should:

  • Close all windows and doors
  • Turn off all Air-Conditioning and Heating systems
  • Seek shelter in an interior room with the fewest doors possible
  • Use plastic sheeting and duct tape to create cover all doors, windows and vents in the space with at least two inches of space around the edge.
  • Turn on a battery-powered radio and tune it to local radio or use your smartphone to find information from official sources (such as
  • When the all-clear is given by local authorities, open all windows and doors and air-out the structure, unless told to do otherwise

In law enforcement situation, if you are ordered to shelter-in-place:

  • Close and lock ALL windows and doors
  • if safe to do so, turn ON all exterior lights
  • Stay inside your home away from windows and doors
  • DO NOT open your door for ANYONE unless they show proper law enforcement identification.
  • Turn on a battery-powered radio and tune it to local radio or use your smartphone to find information from official sources (such as

If you are in a situation where an active shooter is in close proximity, immediately attempt to Run. If you cannot run, then Hide as best you can.  If you cannot run or hide, then be prepared to Fight with anything you have at your disposal.  Watch the Run.Hide.Fight™ video for more information

Building a “Go-Bag”

A “Go-Bag” will ensure you have what you need in the event you have to quickly leave your home.  Make sure these supplies are already put together and in an easily-accessible place.  In some emergencies, you may only have seconds to grab your supplies and leave.

  • Copies of your important papers in a waterproof bag.
  • Extra set of car and house keys.
  • Extra mobile phone charger.
  • Bottled water and snacks such as energy or granola bars.
  • First-aid supplies, flashlight, and whistle.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (with extra batteries, if needed).
  • A list of the medications each member of your family needs and at least a 14-day supply of each medication.
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, wet cleansing wipes, and so on.
  • Contact and meeting place information for your family and a map of your local area.
  • Rain ponchos, or foul-weather gear
  • External mobile phone battery pack or solar charger. Some hand-crank flashlights will also include a phone charger.
  • Escape Tool for your car.

Your Family’s Unique needs

Families are not all the same. It’s important to include items in your go-bag and shelter-in-place kits that meet your family’s unique needs. Consider the following:

People with Disabilities and Seniors:

  • Supplies, such as catheters, medications, syringes, incontinence supplies etc.
  • Contact information for your doctor, local pharmacy and medical suppliers
  • Items that you use for your daily life that might be unique to you
  • A list of every medication you take
  • A list of daily activities for which you need help (dressing, bathing, eating, etc.)

Families with Small Children:

  • Diapers, wipes, ointments and creams for diaper changes
  • Extra clothing for all-seasons
  • Baby or toddler food, such as squeeze packets, or formula
  • A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.

Be Informed About Emergencies in Your Area

Knowing where to get trusted emergency information is important.  There are a variety of ways to get official information when it matters most:


The City of Houston Office of Emergency Management (OEM) maintains the AlertHouston system, which shares important, life-saving information via email and social media to Houston residents.  To sign up for alerts about emergencies that can affect your neighborhood and the whole city, visit  Also – follow AlertHouston on Twitter @AlertHouston and Facebook at

911 Emergency Notification System

When emergencies happen in neighborhoods, the City uses a variety of tools to communicate with those affected.  The Greater Harris County 911 Network operates the 911 Emergency Notification System (ENS) which will pulse out a phone call to all landlines in a specific area.   Additionally, for those without landlines, the system allows you to opt-in to receive the call on your mobile or digital phone, as well as receive the message as an SMS Text and Email.  For more information, or to register your mobile or digital phone, visit

Houston Emergency Information Center

Visit for up-to-date information on emergencies when they occur in Houston.  This site also has links to weather, energy restoration, traffic and other emergency information during times of crisis.


Houston’s local radio and television stations play a key role in helping inform residents about emergency situations.  Houston’s two local Emergency Alert System (EAS) stations are KUHF 88.7FM and KTRH 740AM.  They will receive information first, and then it will be pulsed out to all other radio and television stations in our area.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are sent by authorized officials when life-threatening situations are occurring.  These include severe weather warnings, such as Tornadoes, Flash Floods and Hurricanes.  Local authorities, including the City of Houston, have access to this system to help broadcast short, important messages to local residents.  Make sure your phone is set to receive WEA messages. You have the ability to opt-in or out of AMBER alerts and Emergency Alerts.  Please, at the very least, ensure that Emergency Alerts are active on your phone. Contact your phone carrier if you have problems accessing these settings on your device.

Know Your Neighbors

Communities are a key element to how well people respond to disasters. Having a prepared community around you will help you be able to better respond to a disaster and recover faster. Take a role in your community and lead how they respond.

Houston CERT

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)

The CERT training program is designed to fit into community members’ ordinary schedules. The training is divided up into eight three-hour modules. During that time, trainees will have classes on the National CERT program, the organizational structure used by government agencies in disasters, basic first aid techniques, basic search and rescue techniques, and ways to ensure that the individual trainee and his or her family members are prepared for a disaster. Classes are taught by local professionals who have experience in the units they instruct. The courses are managed by a lead instructor who has undergone a Train-the-Trainer program which meets the FEMA and CERT standards. All CERT training is provided free-of-charge. Visit for details.

Neighborhood Ready

Neighborhood Ready

The Ready Houston program offers a 90-minute training class called “Neighborhood Ready,” which is facilitated by a member of your community. The course covers topics such as determining if you and your neighbors are ready, understanding what disasters could affect your neighborhood, making a plan, building a kit, knowing your neighbors, and staying informed. Visit for information.