Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

What you can do to prepare for emergencies

Emergencies happen. There may be times when an emergency affects you, but your life isn’t in immediate danger. In these times, you’ll need to know how to help yourself and those around you. Find out how you and your family can prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

What to do in an emergency

If there is an emergency, you should:

  • call 999 if your or someone else’s life is in danger
  • follow the advice local emergency responders give you
  • think before you act
  • never put yourself or others in unnecessary danger
  • try to get to a safe place if possible – this may not be your home
  • check for injuries – remember to help yourself before attempting to help others
  • try to reassure others around you

Go in, stay in, tune in

If you are not involved in the incident, but are close by or believe you may be in danger, you should:

  • go inside and stay away from doors and windows
  • stay inside for as long as it is safe to do so
  • tune in to your local radio, TV and internet news channels - local emergency responders (eg police and fire services) will use these to give you information

There may be times when you should not 'go in', for example if there is a fire, or the emergency services tell you not to.

What you can do to prepare for an emergency

Steps you can take to make yourself and your family better prepared for emergencies are to:

  • know how to tune in to your local radio (you may want to get a wind-up radio because it wouldn’t need new batteries during a power cut)
  • plan how your family will stay in contact in an emergency and write down their contact details
  • consider where your household might meet in an emergency, especially as your phone might not be working
  • be prepared to turn off electrical appliances – if there is a power cut and several appliances restart at once when the power is back on, they may overload the system
  • gather essential items which you might need in an emergency
  • find out about emergency arrangements in your community, workplace, or children’s school
  • speak to your neighbours and friends and see if you can help them prepare for emergencies
  • consider making arrangements for your pets in an emergency

You can also prepare for or prevent certain emergencies by:

  • identifying risks in your home and how you might make it safer
  • identifying risks in your local area and how you might reduce their impacts

Learning first aid

Learning first aid could give you the skills to help relatives, friends and other people who need help during an emergency. If you see someone in need of first aid, you should try to:

  • keep calm and look for any dangers to yourself or the injured person
  • find out what happened
  • find out how many casualties there are
  • look to see if there is anyone around who can help
  • call 999 as soon as you can

Helping your neighbours and community

You can help prevent certain emergencies and accidents in your community by doing things like keeping pavements clear during icy weather and checking on neighbours.

You can use any practical skills you have to prevent or help with an emergency. If, for example, you are a tree surgeon, you can help clear fallen trees after a storm.

To find out about getting involved in emergency planning for your community, read ‘Understanding risks and how the UK is preparing for emergencies’.

Understanding the emotional impact of emergencies

Emergencies can have tragic consequences. Losing loved ones, homes and precious possessions are just some of the ways people can be affected by emergencies. The emotional and physical stress of these incidents shouldn’t be underestimated – people need to recover in their own way and at their own pace.

The emergency response to an incident must first be to save lives. But those providing support during an emergency should also be mindful of how they give practical and emotional help. Appropriate social support from family, friends and professionals soon after an incident may make it less likely that people affected will develop mental health conditions.

Knowing the risks

You may know about some emergencies before they affect you. For example, you may get news beforehand about things like floods and severe weather or disease outbreaks. You may also get warnings about strikes and industrial action, which can cause interruptions to utility supplies and food or fuel deliveries.

Some incidents are impossible to predict and happen without warning - for example, a terrorist attack or an industrial accident. Industrial accidents can cause problems with fuel and energy supply, the release of dangerous materials, or even major explosions and fires.

Incidents like organised crime and ‘cyber attacks’ (attacks on computer systems) can also cause serious problems.

The UK will continue to be a target for threats of all kinds. Emergencies may happen in a small area but could affect a larger area – for example, disruption to the supply of energy, fuel, telecommunications and transport networks.

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys