Department of Emergency Management and Security

CONTACT INFORMATION: Open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30p.m., Monday - Friday
4890 Alliance Drive, Suite 2200, Fairfax, VA 22030
Seamus Mooney

Make an Emergency Plan


Taking time to plan and prepare, will help you lessen your impact for future emergencies. What do you need to do today?
• Host a conversation with family/ friends/ co-workers.
• Discuss hazards that may impact you and how you can prepare for them.
• Determine whether to shelter-in-place or evacuate.
• Discuss how you will communicate if communication outlets are failing.
• Once your plan is ready, print hard-copies and save them in a safe and easily accessible place. Make sure everyone is familiar with the plan and practices it!
• Also, keep a copy in your emergency kits (shelter-in-place, go bag, and vehicle). You should review and update your plans and emergency kits twice a year: when your clock "falls back" or "springs forward."

The Basics

Every emergency plan should address the following fundamental information:

  • Sign up for local alerts - knowing where to get reliable information from is critical. Register for Fairfax Alerts to receive information about traffic, weather, and other important notifications from Fairfax County.
  • Identify a shelter-in-place location in your home or business.  This should be an interior room with few windows.
  • Choose two places to meet in case you have to leave your home or business or are not able to return to your home:
    • One location should be right outside your home (maybe across the street), in case of a short-term emergency.
    • The second location should be away from your neighborhood (maybe at a friend's house), in case you cannot get home or you have to leave your neighborhood.
  • List important supplies and documents.  Create a list of items that you will include in your go bag.  Visit how to "Assemble your Emergency Kits" for more information.
  • Fill out a contact card from to help you keep your important contact information with you at all times.
  • Know your home or business' utilities.  Document where and how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity safely; know which you can turn back on yourself (electricity: yes, water: if you know how, gas: never).
  • In an emergency, consider texting instead of calling.  A text message may get through when a phone call will not.
  • Look into online tools such as Facebook Crisis Response, or use Safety Check to connect with friends and loved ones during a crisis.

Planning Assumptions

Emergency management professionals talk about planning assumptions - these are conditions we can't control during an emergency.  For every emergency plan, you should assume:

Your basic assumption: Prepare to be self-sufficient for three to five days, or longer if there is:

  • No power
  • No water
  • No heating or cooling
  • Difficult or inoperable communications, including: phone (unless you have a copper land-line), Internet, and wi-fi
  • Limited or no access to money using credit cards or ATMs
  • Limited or no access to retail, including pharmacies
  • No mail or package delivery
  • No trash or recycling service
  • No outside help

Learn more about creating a plan for your neighborhood with this short video on how to define a neighborhood:


If you or someone close to you has a disability or access and functional need, tailor your plan to meet those needs. Each person's needs and abilities are unique, but everyone can take steps to be prepared.

In Fairfax Alerts, there is a Functional Needs Registry within the Fairfax Alerts alerting system. Fairfax County uses the registry for emergency planning, resource management, and communications. During a crisis or emergency, Fairfax County uses this system to deliver emergency alerts, notifications, and updates.

    • Sign up for Fairfax Alerts and the Functional Needs Registry.
    • Know how to get to the Fairfax County Emergency Blog for information during an emergency.
    • On Facebook and Twitter, follow Fairfax County @FairfaxCounty and the Office of Emergency Management @ReadyFairfax.
    • Write down caregiver and emergency contact information.
    • Create a support network. A team can help you identify and get the resources you need. A team should be prepared to check on an individual to see if they need assistance during an emergency. If you use a personal care attendant, check to see if the agency has an emergency plan. do they provide service at another location if you need to evacuate?
    • Identify where you will go in an emergency.
    • Plan for assistance to get to a shelter.
    • If you are safe where you are, stay there!
    • Contact your relatives or caregive to let them know where you are. Keep calls brief to conserve battery life. Use text, email, and social media if you can.
    • If you need to evacuate, take your go bag, pets, and any other essentials with you.
    • Check the area to make sure it's safe.
    • Receive physical First Aid and/or mental health First Aid, if necessary.
    • Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
    • If you used items in your go bag, make sure you replace them.
    • Evaluate your plan and adjust as needed.

Remember the unique needs of household members when making your family emergency plan. Incorporate your child's school emergency plans, locations, and contact information into your plan. Know who is responsible for picking up whom, and where everyone will meet up.

Try to make emergency planning fun for young children. Gather your family members together for a quick family meeting, maybe over a pizza or before watching a favorite movie. Talk about what you will do in an emergency and discuss your family's plan. By using play and pretend - talking about "what-ifs" as stories - emergency planning becomes a little less scary.

Do not forget about your pets when you are developing your emergency plan.

Research a pet-friendly hotel, a shelter that accepts animals, or a friend's house. Fairfax County will provide a shelter for pets if the incident requires. Bring a cage for anything besides a cat or dog! Do not leave pets at home if you evacuate your house. If you cannot get back to your house, identify in advance a trusted friend of neighbor who can retrieve or care for your pet. And do not forget - this person will need to have a key and know where your pet's supplies are kept.

Make sure your animals are wearing collars with up-to-date identification. You can also ask your vet about microchipping your pets to ensure they make it back to you. The Fairfax County Animal Shelter provides this service several times a year. Call 703-830-1100 or visit their website for more information.

Download the Pet Emergency Post Card and the Pet Boarding Card for your pet preparedness plan.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant