Lost and Found: Reuniting with Loved Ones in an Emergency

Posted on by Blog Administrator

Mother and daughter embracing sitting on couch

More than a collection of names, phone numbers, and street addresses, an Emergency Action Plan is an instruction manual for how to stay healthy, stay informed, and stay connected in an emergency.

It’s important that everyone in your household know how to inform family, friends, and caregivers of their well-being and whereabouts when a disaster strikes. Cellphones, the internet, and social media play a key role in staying connected. In an emergency, text messaging and online platforms, like the American Red Cross’ Safe and Well website and Facebook’s Safety Check feature, can be used to let loved ones know you are safe.

But what if the people you want to reunite with don’t have cellphones, social media, or even thumbs? If you’re a parent, a family caregiver, or a pet owner, your Emergency Action Plan should also account for vulnerable populations, such as children, older adults, and pets.

Reuniting with Children

It’s back-to-school time for many kids this month. An estimated 69 million children in the United States are in school or child care on any given weekday.

Educators and child care providers play an important role in helping children stay safe before, during, and after emergencies. Because emergencies can happen at any time during the school day, schools and childcare facilities hold drills to help students and staff practice staying safe in the event of an emergency.

  • Every school and child care center should have a written emergency plan. Ask your child’s school or child care center for a copy of their emergency communication and family reunification plans.
  • Make sure your child’s school or child care center knows how to reach you, and who should be called if your phone isn’t working.
  • Send your child to school or child care center with an updated Ready Wrigley Backpack Emergency Card.
  • Provide your child’s school with any personal needs and prescriptions, such as an asthma inhaler, that your child might need.

Because emergencies can increase the possibility of children being separated from their parents or legal guardians, talk to your kids about your reunification plans. Involve them in the development of these plans and talk with them about what they think are ways they could be reunified with family members if they become separated from them in an emergency.

Children aren’t the only ones who need to be considered in our emergency reunification plans. We also need to plan for the possibility that older adults can become separated from their families and caregivers in an emergency situations.

Reuniting with Older Adults

Older adults may experience challenges that come with advanced age, such as hearing or vision problems or cognitive impairment, which may make it difficult to access, understand, and respond to emergency instructions.

Make an emergency plan for the older adults in your family starting with the action points below.

  • Involve family members and caregivers in creating an emergency plan that—among other things—identifies a contact person, such as a neighbor, who will check on you during a disaster.
  • Create a support network of family, friends and others who can check on and assist older adult family members during an emergency and share your disaster plans with them.
  • Find out if your local, 911 dispatch supports the Smart911 registration service. If not, notify your local police and fire department of your older adult family members’ location and special needs so that they are able to prioritize and assist them in an emergency.

Here are some additional resources for reuniting with elderly family members during an emergency.

In additional to children and older adults, pets can also find themselves lost and separated from their owners during an emergency.

Reuniting with Pets

Pets are family too. We often depend on our animal friends as much as they depend on us. So, reuniting with your pets can be just as important as reuniting with people. Pet owners are often unable to evacuate with their animals or are unable to return to their pets if they become separated from them during the workday. Know where you can take your pet if you need to evacuate your home. Make sure you have your neighbor’s information and ways they can check on your pet, if you cannot return home.

Microchipping is one of the best ways to improve your odds of reuniting with your pet after an emergency, but only if you keep your registration up-to-date. The American Veterinary Medical Association has designated August 15 as National Check the Chip Day as a reminder for pet owners to check and update their pets’ microchip information.

In addition to microchipping, here are some other steps that you can take to be reunited with pets that you’ve become separated from in an emergency.

  • Take a selfie with your pet(s).
  • Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.
  • Keep your pets close. Keep your pets on a leash or in a carrier. Write your pet’s name, your name, and contact information on each carrier in case you get separated.

For more information, recommendations, and tips on how to Prepare Your Health for a natural disaster or emergency, please visit www.cdc.gov/prepyourhealth.


Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor. 

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Posted on by Blog AdministratorTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 comments on “Lost and Found: Reuniting with Loved Ones in an Emergency”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    This blog was very informative to me and as someone who has senior parents who are determined to be independent, it is always a factor for me in a disaster because I worry about my parents. Two of my aunts also live with a 5 mile radius of my parents which is helpful when I need someone to check on them. My mother is on our cellphone service, so she has the health ID filled out and my dad still has a flip phone because he refuses for me to pay for his service, so that would not work for him. Their community is also mostly older adults with it’s own fire/EMS station in the community which is helpful. As a registered nurse who works with the community, I would have to say this is a very good topic in that we get senior people who are unable to provide us information on their family when they arrive to the hospital, so having a buddy system with their neighbors can be helpful. Thanks again!

    This blog was very informative and mind-blowing at the same time. As a healthcare worker, I am very aware of the emergency plan that we have at the healthcare facility I work at. But, I never took the time nor did I ever think that my children’s school has an emergency plan also. I complain so much at the beginning of school when they send my children home with many forms requesting the same information over and over. After reading this blog, I now understand why these forms are important because they are apart of the emergency plan.

    I am actually so glad that I came across this blog. Not only was it informative it provided ready links for helpful identifiers like the Ready Wrigley Backpack Emergency Card. I for one am a mom and pet owner and I always have in the back of my mind “what if” if something were to happen and I somehow couldn’t get to my child or my pets. There are some suggestions I did not even think about that I will be using from here on out. I really like the back pack card, I had completely forgotten to update my dogs collar information and I do not even have one for my cat and I will also be asking for my child’s schools emergency plan. I saw someone mention above regarding all the repetitive information that the schools ask for and now after this blog I get it as well. I tell everyone CDC.gov is my go to for information however, I do not use it enough. Thank you for this information and links for resources.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments posted become a part of the public domain, and users are responsible for their comments. This is a moderated site and your comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Read more about our comment policy »

Page last reviewed: June 1, 2020
Page last updated: June 1, 2020