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Preparing for the unexpected

Household Emergency Plan - Go bag

Insurance advice

Being insured is critical in almost all emergencies. Check your home and contents are adequately insured for emergencies like flooding.

Being prepared for an emergency starts with having adequate insurance.You should take out insurance to protect your contents and if you are a home owner you should make sure you have cover for your buildings.      

If you are a tenant check your landlord has landlord's insurance. Ask your insurance company about Tenant's Insurance.  

Check the small print of your insurance to make sure it gives you adequate insurance. For example, will your insurance provider arrange for alternative accommodation if you have to leave your home because of an emergency? Make sure you are covered for the right amount - be careful not to under insure. If you do not understand the cover you have, talk to your insurer. Alternatively, you can always talk to an insurance broker who will be able to explain cover and help to obtain other quotes for you.

Keep your insurance documents in a safe place so that you know who to contact in the event of an emergency. If you can, add the details to the memory of your mobile phone.

If you need to make a claim for valuables you may need to produce evidence so take photos of your valuables, keep receipts and keep backups of any electronic records.

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Think about fire safety

You are twice as likely to die in a fire if you don' have a smoke alarm that works. Think about fire safety in your home.

  • Fit a smoke alarm to each level of your home and test it once a week - ask family or friends for help if necessary.
  • Fit a carbon monoxide alarm.
  • Choose an escape route from your home and practice it with your family.
    • The best escape route is often the normal way in and out of your home.
    • Think of any difficulties you may have getting out, for example, at night you may need to have a torch to light your way.
    • Choose a second escape route, in case the first one is blocked.
    • Keep all exits clear of obstructions, like bicycles.
    • If there are children, older or disabled people or pets, plan how you will get them out.
  • Think about a safe place to go if you can't escape - ideally a room with a window and phone.
  • Make sure everyone is the house knows where door and window keys are kept.

To help prevent fires occurring through the night, it's important to check your home for fire hazards before you go to bed. Prepare a bed time routine to make sure you:

  • Check the cooker is turned off.
  • Turn off and unplug electrical appliances (unless they are meant to be left on, like your freezer).
  • Put candles and cigarettes out properly.
  • Turn heaters off and put up fireguards.
  • Make sure exits are kept clear.
  • Close inside doors at night to stop a fire spreading.

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Sign up to vulnerable customer schemes

Water, electric and gas are essential services. Check if you or a member of your family is eligible for special care during an interruption. 

Your water, electric and gas provider will give you special care if you need it when your supply is disrupted  - but you need to be registered with their scheme.

Schemes are often available to a wide range of customers, from nursing mothers to kidney dialysis patients; customers who have sight or hearing difficulties to those who are frail and elderly or classed as disabled.

Registration is free, and family and friends can often sign up on your behalf.

Contact the providers using the information below and sign up to their vulnerable customers scheme.


Anglian Water

Anglian Water (external website)

Telephone: 08457 919155

Yorkshire Water

Yorkshire Water (external website)

Telephone: 0800 138 7878

Severn Trent Water

Severn Trent Water (external website)

Telephone: 08457 500 500

Gas and Electric

Northern Powergrid (external website)

Telephone: 0800 375 675 / 0330 123 0675

Tele-care alarm monitoring

For a small charge you can a range of non-intrusive sensors fitted in your home that can help you stay independent. Examples include monitors that will tell a control centre if:

  • If you fall.
  • If temperatures fall or rise rapidly in your home.
  • If smoke is detected.
  • If carbon monoxide is detected.
  • If there is a flood in your bathroom.
  • If you have a n epileptic seizure in bed.

Equipment also available includes:

  • discreet personal alarms that you can wear so you can call for assistance from anywhere in your home.
  • light switch sensors to turn a light on if you get out of bed.

Contact your local authority for more information

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Make a Grab Bag or Checklist

You can keep a Grab Bag or some essential items in case you need to leave your home in an emergency.

The things that you will need to take with you will be personal to you and depend on your own circumstances. The list below is an example of what you might need, but think carefully about what is important to you.

Keep items in a small, easy-to-carry bag, or write yourself a checklist of things you will grab in a hurry.

Grab bag checklist (pdf 187kb opens in new window) 

Top Tips

It's a good idea to keep a corded telephone (one that plugs directly into the telephone socket) that will work if there is a power cut.

Your house may be the safest place to be in an emergency. In snowy conditions for example you might not want to go out for a few days. Keep enough supplies of tinned food, bottled water, candles and matches, in case you are unable to leave your home.

Think about including things like:

  • Copies of key documents (such as passports, birth certificates and insurance details). A USB memory stick with key documents, sentimental photos etc.
  • Medication, prescriptions and a first aid kit.
  • A radio and torch with batteries or a wind up torch/radio.
  • Toiletries, wet wipes and/or antibacterial hand gel.
  • Any special items for babies, children etc.
  • A vacuum flask and hot water bottle.
  • Spare glasses/contact lenses.
  • Spare set of keys (home/car/office)
  • Food and drink that does not require electricity or heat to prepare it.
  • Notebook and pencil/pen.
  • An alternative to your normal form of heating.
  • Mobile phone/charger
  • MP3 players, games machines, books or other forms of entertainment to pass the time.
  • Small amount of cash.
  • Change of clothes and blankets and sensible footwear.
  • If you have pets, suitable carriers for small animals, a water bowl, bedding, pet medication and a supply of food.
  • Your completed household emergency plan.

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Write a short Household Emergency Plan

What type of information might you need to hand in an emergency? What are the things you need to agree in advance with your family and friends?

There is an example household emergency plan in the useful downloads box at the top of this page that you can complete and keep to hand in case its needed in an emergency.

Your emergency plan is personal to you and your circumstances are unique. Think about exactly what information you would need in an emergency and write your own plan if you need to.

It's a really good idea to sit your family / friends and neighbours down and write the plan together.

Think about things like:

  • If you couldn't get home because of flooding, what would I do? Who would I need to ring? Who has spare keys and alarm code details for my house? Where would I go?
  • If I was asked to leave my house because it wasn't safe to stay there - where would I go? What preparations can I make in advance?
  • What would I do if water, electric or gas was disrupted for a few days?

Keep a kit in your car too for when you are going on long journeys:

  • Warm clothes and blankets - for you and all passengers.
  • Torch and spare batteries - or wind up torch.
  • Boots
  • First aid kit.
  • Jump leads.
  • A shovel.
  • Road atlas.
  • Sunglasses.

In addition, when setting out on long journeys remember to take with you:

  • Food and a flask with a hot or cold drink depending on the season.
  • Any medication you, or other people travelling with you, need to take regularly.

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Know how to respond

Know how to call 999 but only use it in an emergency.

Never be frightened to dial 999 in a genuine emergency. Calls to 999 are free so you can make a call on a payphone or mobile without money or credit, but be sure you're making the call for the right reason. Many of the 999 calls taken by the emergency services aren't emergencies and stop staff dealing with people who genuinely need help urgently.

Your 999 call will be answered by a BT operator who will say "Emergency, which service do you require?" You will be put through to the emergency service that you require and you will hear the telephone number you are calling from being repeated. A highly trained control operator will ask how they can help.

Try to stay calm, not to shout and to pass out information slowly and clearly. Stay on the line even if you hear sirens close by. They may not be coming to you.

If you call when it's dark, switch all your house lights on so the emergency services can spot where you are. Make sure your house number is on the end of a long drive and clear on your front door.

If you dial 999 for a problem that isn't a genuine emergency you could be putting the lives of others at risk. In an emergency seconds count. Unnecessary calls waste time which could have been spent helping those who need it most.

Some Emergencies

  • There's a burglar in my house.
  • There is an accident outside and I think someone is hurt.
  • The house across the road is on fire.
  • There is a crime in progress.
  • Someone is choking, has chest pain, difficulty in breathing, fitting or concussion, serious blood loss, severe burns or allergic reactions.
  • Someone is drowning.


  • My car was stolen over night.
  • I was burgled last week.
  • I want to report my property stolen so I can have a crime reference number for the insurance.
  • Health issues that can be dealt with by a GP, or from same day treatment from a minor injury unit or urgent care centre.

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Go in, stay in and tune in

In an emergency, unless directed otherwise, your initial response should be to go inside, stay in and tune in to your local radio station and listen for further instructions and updates.

Go in

Wait inside until the all clear is given by the emergency services.

Stay in

  • Close and stay away from all windows and doors.
  • Remain calm and wait for further advice.
  • We know that you'll want to collect your children from school, but it might not be safe to do so. Remember that all schools have emergency plans and teachers will look after the pupils in their care.

Tune in

  • To your local radio station for further information or instructions, including updates on schools.
  • If you have access to the internet check key websites for up to date information.

Follow the advice of the emergency services. Once you have made sure you and your family are safe, consider which friends and neighbours might also need your help.

Top Tip

If you use social media, follow utility providers to get the latest news on outage and events, and the BBC and local emergency responders to get the latest on an emergency.     

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