Bedroom Emergency Preparedness
Given that you're often less aware of your surroundings and most vulnerable while you're asleep, it's wise to have an emergency plan in place.
From fires to floods, there’s a variety of situations that are seemingly rare yet still require a plan that keeps you and your restful sanctuary safe.
Assess the Risks and Potential Disasters
Bedroom disaster preparedness requires an analysis of the potential threats that could impact your home and more specifically, your bedroom. From there, a specific plan must be constructed with best mitigation tactics per the identified threats.
Every home and every room within each home is different so be sure to take into account the potential challenges specific to you based on geographic region, type of home, and room layout.
While Midwesterners have no need for a hurricane or tsunami plan, the same preparation tips might apply in the instance of a tornado or flood. Be sure to assess all potential dangers from a bird’s eye view and consult emergency plans that may not seem applicable.
Where your bedroom is located will also determine the plan. Second-floor bedrooms may not be at increased risk of flood but will need to have a specific procedure in place for a fire. .
Because it can be overwhelming to create many plans at once, start with the highest risk emergencies such as those coordinating with time of year or location – an example of this would be a home in Florida nearing hurricane season. After the higher risk plans are in place, use resources like those available at Ready.gov to create plans for less likely but serious scenarios.
Be sure to create plans for all members of the home including small children and pets. Adjust each plan slightly to make up for differences in the bedrooms and their locations in the home.
General Tips on Emergency Planning
Emergency action plans ensure safety of all members within a house regardless of their location.
Learn Emergency Preparedness Skills
Having some basic CPR and first aid knowledge may make a big difference in the event of an emergency. Look into free or low-cost CPR courses offered at community health centers or colleges. While you’ll hopefully never be in a situation that requires you to exercise these skills, they could be the difference in saving a life.
Prepare an Emergency Response Kit
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends having a well-stocked emergency kit, or “bug-out” bag, as some people call it. These are recommended items to include:
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Small first aid kit
- Emergency whistle
- Small weather alert radio with extra batteries
- Cell phone charger and charged power bank
- Prescription medications and necessary over-the-counter medications
- Extra eyeglasses and contacts
- Infant supplies, including diapers, wipes, bottles, food
- Pet supplies, including food, water, and any medications
- Cash and credit cards
- Copies of important items such as insurance policies, IDs, birth certificates, and bank records or access to an electronic copy saved to the cloud
- Change of clothing and shoes
It’s often suggested to create two separate kits. One smaller kit should be stored in the kitchen or a downstairs closet containing the essentials such as enough food, water, and medication for a few days. A second kit should be stored in the bedroom containing your most important papers, documentation, and life-saving medication – if an emergency were to occur in the night, the bedroom may be the only escape route as other areas of the house could be inaccessible so this secondary bedroom kit will be of great use. .
Other items to include in these kits include the following:
- Dust mask
- Plastic sheeting and tape to shelter in place
- Baby wipes, trash bags, and personal hygiene products
- Pliers to turn off utilities
- Warm blanket
Store items in airtight plastic bags inside a larger tote or bin that’s not too heavy for one person to carry. You can also use a duffel bag.
Practice Your Escape Route
Each room in the home, including the bedroom, should ideally have two exits that can be accessed in an emergency. These can be windows or doors. Make sure windows can be safely exited with ladders or stairs to get evacuees quickly to the ground. Discuss how to use any special accessories or equipment needed to get out in case of emergency, such as a rope ladder. Ensure that bedroom furniture isn’t arranged in a way that limits people from easily exiting a room in an emergency.
Conduct a practice run for various emergencies including fires, tornadoes, or home invasions, so household members know how to act in each instance.
Pay attention to the unique needs of younger children or older adults who may have mobility issues, are not yet able to communicate, or need assistance during the night. Help younger children remember emergency procedures by creating a simple poster with illustrations that indicate what they are to do in an emergency. Make sure they know of the nearest exits to their beds.
Create an Emergency Communication Plan for Your Family
If you live alone, it’s important to create a plan to share with loved ones. This plan should detail your procedure so they know where to look for you, how to help, and what to keep in mind during an emergency. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following steps, which can be adapted to make sure everyone is on the same page during a night-time emergency.
- Create a list of contact numbers for important professionals, including your doctor, pharmacist, and veterinarian.
- Know where each person's "bug out" bag will be kept, so they are easily accessed in an emergency and in the dark.
- Designate an out-of-town contact that can help in an evacuation emergency and would be willing to help in the middle of the night.
- Identify safe locations in and out of your home, including a "shelter-in-place" room, a sick room for those with contagious illnesses to recover, and two emergency meeting places outside of your home that are safe to travel to during the night.
- Communicate your safe locations to everyone and remind them of where to meet up in an emergency, as well as address any obstacles that may happen at night.
- Identify boarding facilities for your animals in case you have to leave your home for an extended time and that may offer 24/7 care or support.
Review and update your plan every six months or when you have significant household changes, such as moving to a new home.
Prepare to Act
While making a plan is important, taking action at the time of an emergency is an effective way to save lives.
If someone becomes injured during an emergency, you should do the following:
- Call 9-1-1
- Get yourself and the person inured to safety, if possible
- Stop bleeding
- Position the injured appropriately
- Provide care and comfort
“People are afraid, because they don't have formal training, that they might make a situation worse. Really it's very, very hard to make the situation worse if you're in a situation where someone's suffering some kind of life-threatening emergency,” says Dr. E. Reed Smith, Operational Medical Director of Arlington County Fire. “You're very unlikely to cause them harm, so it's better to at least give it a shot. It's the difference between life and death for that person because we are quick, but we're not that quick.”
How To Prepare Your Bedroom for an Emergency
Your bedroom should be as secure as other rooms in the home, with additional care taken to make it safe during sleep. Because bedroom emergencies may occur at night when you are least alert, you’ll want the room to be clear, uncluttered, and easy to move around to minimize confusion that can happen during an emergency.
House Fires and Wildfires
Fires may start inside any portion of the home. To make sure you can respond to a house fire while possibly sleeping, make sure you have smoke detectors in the home, including the bedroom. Replace the batteries twice a year, and test them at least monthly. Invest in alarms with an audible light or other visual feature for those with hearing difficulties.
Don’t use space heaters in the bedroom overnight while you are asleep. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use, including keeping them three feet away from any combustible materials, such as bedding or curtains. Look for heaters with “tip-over” safety features that disconnect the power if they get knocked over.
Use candles with caution by keeping them 12 inches away from anything that can burn. Put out before leaving a room, even if you will be home. If you will be using them around kids or pets, or think you may not be able to remember to put them out, consider flameless candles. They have a similar visual effect without the fire hazard.
Check appliances for frayed or worn cords, and only use three-prong plugs in three-prong outlets. Avoid linking multiple extension cords or power strips together.
Your bedroom should have two escape paths and access to your bug-out bag. Keep fire extinguishers handy.
Wildfires can be difficult to mitigate and are best guarded against by protecting the outside of the home. If you know that a wildfire is imminent, follow the same bedroom escape plan as with a standard fire, but be aware that the outdoors may not be safe for long. An evacuation plan from your property needs to be created in real-time based on the fire updates from local authorities.
You can’t stop an earthquake, but you can make your bedroom safe in the instance of one happening. Start by ensuring you know how to exit your bedroom and your home if you need to get out quickly.
Avoid hanging large pieces of heavy art or shelving units above the bed, where they could come loose from the wall and fall on you during a quake.
Top heavy or large pieces of furniture should be anchored to the wall or floor so they don't fall during an earthquake. If this can't be done, move them away from where you will be sleeping or where they can't block exits if they topple. Use wall studs as an anchor location if you can.
Small objects should be secured as much as possible, especially if they could fall onto the sleeping area. Look for books, knick-knacks, fans, or appliances, and consider how bookshelves with a lip or edge may help reduce an object’s movement. Install safety latches on dresser and cabinet drawers to keep them shut during an earthquake.
Move any heavy items over four feet above the ground to a lower location or the floor.
Tornadoes have the potential to occur during the late hours, leaving you with just minutes to react to a siren or emergency phone alert. To improve your odds of staying safe and healthy, it's imperative to pre-plan the necessary actions in advance.
Move to the lowest level of your home such as a basement. If your home does not have a basement, plan a path to a bathtub or the center-most part of your home. This may include a closet. If your bedroom is the safest room, plan which portion of the room will provide the most protection. . You may need to go under the bed or into a closet. Get on the ground with a blanket or your arms over your head.
Floods can occur over a long period of time or happen quickly with no notice. If you have time to act, move valuables, such as jewelry or electronics, into waterproof containers and place them high above the flood water line. Since the bedroom is a common place for these items, consider putting your valuables in plastic bags even when a flood isn't imminent.
Consider flood-resistant materials in the bedroom, including tile flooring and waterproof drywall and insulation.
In the event of a flood, move to safety and don’t enter areas of the home with deep water. Move to a higher level if evacuation isn’t possible.
Hurricanes present two dangers to you in your bedroom: flooding and strong winds. Use the same precautions for flooding and prepare for power-surge damage when the power goes out. Unplug everything to avoid electrocution during flooding and to keep appliances from getting too much electricity when the power comes back on.
Protect bedroom windows with storm shutters that can be closed during high wind conditions. Consider storm-proof glass or shatter-resistant film for an extra layer of protection.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody shares these tips for preventing home burglaries.
“Invest in solid doors and good quality locks on doors and windows. This includes all sliding glass doors as well. Make it not only difficult but also time-consuming for a burglar to gain entry.”
She also recommends keeping valuables out of sight from the window, especially smaller items that can be easily carried out of the home.
The bedroom is a popular spot for cash and jewelry. Avoid storing large amounts of valuables in the home.
Moody also recommends homeowners “plant thorny bushes under all windows. Trim back any trees or shrubs near doors and windows to eliminate hiding places for would-be thieves.”
Any easy way to prevent break-ins is to double-check that doors and windows are all locked at night.
Extended Power Outages
If the power goes out for a long time, power surges may happen. Unplug your appliances so when power is restored, the surge of electricity doesn’t cause damage.
Don’t use a stove or cooking appliances to heat your home, and keep all flammable and combustible materials away from your emergency heat sources. This includes heating fuel, which can easily catch fire or even explode.
Keep portable generators outside, not in your bedroom. If your generator is located near your bedroom, move it away from your window and keep windows shut. This prevents poisonous gasses from getting into your room.
Additional Resources on Emergency Planning
This government website provides a checklist for each natural and man-made disaster you may encounter in your home, including evacuation tips and a list of things to keep on hand. It’s updated frequently with new information and best practices.
When dealing with a medical emergency or disease, this website can help you stay calm and act wisely. With information on pandemic responses, accidental poisoning and more, it dispels medical myths and provides important phone numbers and websites for additional resources.
Preventing crime requires you to be aware and take steps that prevent you from being a victim . This site gives you ideas for minimizing risk in various environments, including your home. Learn how to make it more difficult for criminals to take advantage.
By prioritizing preparedness, especially in the area you sleep, you aren’t just increasing your chances of survival; you’re giving yourself one more reason to rest easy at night.