Get Prepared

family talking to each other

Make a disaster plan with your household members to prepare for what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate in an emergency. Make a plan that best suits your needs and the needs of your household.

  • Decide where your household will reunite after a disaster. Identify two places to meet: one right outside your home and another outside your neighborhood, such as a library, community center, or place of worship.
    • There are resources available to help you locate family and friends that have been affected by a disaster. Learn more
  • Identify all possible exit routes from your home and neighborhood.
  • Designate an out-of-state friend or relative that household members can call if separated during a disaster. If New York City phone circuits are busy, long-distance calls may be easier to make. This out-of-state contact can help you and your family communicate. Keep in mind that cell phones may not function during and immediately following a disaster due to high volume of activity; however, text messages can often get through, even if you can't make calls on your cell phone. What's more, if cell phones aren't functional, using a landline or a payphone (to call your out-of-state contact) is a good alternative.
  • Plan for everybody's needs, including seniors; people with disabilities, access and functional needs; children; non-English speakers; and pets.
  • Ensure that household members have a copy of your household disaster plan and emergency contact information to keep in their wallets and backpacks.
  • Practice your plan with all household members.
  • Tip: buy the right insurance. If you rent your home, renter's insurance will insure the items inside your apartment. If you are a homeowner, make sure your home is properly insured — flood and wind damage are not covered in a basic homeowner's policy.
  • Gather supplies for whether you have to stay (shelter in place) or go (evacuate).
  • Stay informed by signing up for Notify NYC, the City's free emergency communications program.

When developing your family's disaster plan, you should assemble and make copies of vital contact information for each family member. Use Ready New York's Emergency Reference Card to capture this information.

When to Go: Evacuations

Evacuation should be addressed as part of everyone's planning efforts. City officials will tell you when to evacuate through the media and direct warnings. Evacuation is used as a last resort when a serious threat to public safety exists. If you must evacuate, your first plan should always be to stay with friends or family. In a planned evacuation, such as for a coastal storm, the City will advise residents of which areas are impacted and provide guidance on how the evacuation will proceed. In the case of coastal storms, designated routes have been identified throughout the city to effectively get people from low-lying hazard areas safely to higher ground. To find out whether you live or work in a hurricane evacuation zone, use the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder, NYC Emergency Management's Web-based evacuation mapping tool.

In an unplanned evacuation, such as for a hazardous material spill, officials will advise affected residents to leave the immediate area until the danger can be removed. Always have your Go Bag prepared and easily accessible in case of any evacuation. You may not have time to assemble your belongings, and you may not be allowed back until the danger has passed.

Evacuate immediately when you:
  • Are directed to do so by an emergency official.
  • Are in immediate danger.

Be Prepared to Evacuate

  • Determine whether you live in a hurricane evacuation zone by accessing the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder, or contact 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115).
  • Know evacuation plans for all the places you and your household members spend time. Often buildings have floor marshals who are responsible for evacuation plans.
  • Make alternate transportation plans; the means of transportation you usually use may not be available.
  • Practice plans through regular drills. People who practice escape drills can evacuation with greater ease than those who are unfamiliar with the procedures.
  • If you have pets, consider what you would do if you cannot return home to them. Pet owners should read Ready New York: My Pet's Emergency Plan for more information.

What to Do When You Evacuate

  • If there is time, secure your home: close and lock windows and doors, and unplug appliances before you leave. Authorities will instruct you if it is necessary to turn off utilities.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and comfortable, protective clothing, such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Bring your Go Bag with you.
  • Do NOT use an elevator during a fire or other emergency unless directed to do so by emergency personnel. If power goes out or is shut off, you may become trapped.
  • Remember, evacuation routes change based on the emergency so stay tuned to the local news, access NYC.gov, or contact 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) for the latest information.
  • Go to the nearest safe place or shelter as soon as instructed.

Disaster Sheltering

If you are directed to evacuate, make arrangements to stay with friends or family outside the affected area whenever possible. For evacuees who have no alternative shelter, the City will open shelters throughout the five boroughs. Disaster shelters may be set up in school, municipal buildings, and places of worship. They provide basic food and water. If possible, bring clothing, bedding, bathing and sanitary supplies, medications, and your Go Bag to shelters.

  • See the Get Prepared: Pets page and Ready New York: My Pet's Emergency Plan for tips.
  • Alcoholic beverages, firearms, and illegal substances are NOT allowed in disaster shelters.
  • Shelter sites change based on the emergency so stay tuned to the local news, access NYC.gov, or contact 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) for the latest information.

Watch the video below for information about staying in evacuation centers (presented in American Sign Language).

When to Stay: Shelter in Place

During some emergencies, you may be asked to stay where you are, or "shelter in place." This could be as simple as remaining at home while officials clear hazards from a nearby area, or it could require more active measures during emergencies involving contaminated air.

Identify a room with few doors or windows to shelter in place. Ideally the room should allow at least 10 square feet per person.

When officials advise you to shelter in place, act quickly and follow instructions. Your main objective should be to get to a safe indoor location. You will likely be in your "safe room" for no more than a few hours. Once inside:

  • Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems.
  • Seal all windows, doors and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape.
  • Make sure you have emergency supplies.
  • Tune in to local radio or TV stations to receive updates.
  • If your children are at school, do not pick them up until the danger has passed and shelter-in-place orders have been lifted. School officials have shelter-in-place procedures. You will only endanger yourself by leaving a safe area during the emergency.

More Resources

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