Resident's Guide to Emergencies

Disasters can happen anywhere, anytime. By having an emergency kit, food rations, and a family emergency plan at your disposal, you and your family will be better prepared to handle the effects of a disaster. There are several resources available to help create a plan for your family. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has information and tools for developing a family plan on their website You can also click here for additional information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Resident's Guide to Emergencies

Evacuation and Sheltering Tips
Be prepared to evacuate in an emergency. If there is time, secure your home: close and lock windows and doors, and unplug appliances before you leave. Some emergencies may require that you leave your home and travel to an emergency shelter. When evacuation to shelters is neither appropriate nor possible, you may be asked to stay where you are. Sheltering in place is an effective way to protect you in many emergencies involving contaminated air. 
Hazardous Materials / Terrorism

Carbon Monoxide

Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide – a colorless and odorless gas – can be produced from improperly vented furnaces, plugged or cracked chimneys, water heaters, fireplaces, stoves, and tail pipes. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Leave your home
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Get any victims to fresh air immediately
  • Open windows
  • Call your local utility

If you receive a suspicious package or envelope:

  • PUT IT DOWN – preferably on a stable surface
  • Cover it with an airtight container like a trash can or plastic bag
  • Call 9-1-1 and alert your building's security officials
  • Alert others to the presence of the package and evacuate the area
  • Wash your hands with soap and water if you have handled the package
  • Make a list of the people who were in the room or area where the suspicious package was recognized, and give it to authorities
  • Do not stray far from the area if you believe you have been exposed

If you receive a bomb threat, ask the caller as many of the following questions as possible:

  • When is the bomb going to explode?
  • Where is the bomb right now?
  • What does the bomb look like?
  • What kind of bomb is it?
  • Where are you calling from?
  • Why did you place the bomb?
Call 9-1-1 immediately.
Home and Family Safety

Emergency Supply Kit - What to have in your home
Keep enough supplies in your home to survive on your own for at least three days. If possible, keep these materials in an easily accessible, separate container or special cupboard. You should indicate to your household members that these supplies are for emergencies only.

  • One gallon of drinking water per person per day.
  • Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and a manual can opener.
  • Flashlight, battery-operated AM/FM radio, and extra batteries.
  • Whistle.
  • Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach (for disinfecting water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials), and an eyedropper (for adding bleach to water).
  • Large plastic bags for waste and sanitation.
  • Non-perishable food items.

Go to for more information.

Children and Emergencies
Include your children in planning for an emergency. Teach them how to get help and what to do in different situations. Practice your family emergency plan with your children and quiz them about preparedness information.

Every child should know:
  • Family contact information for use in an emergency.
  • Never to touch wires lying on the ground or hanging from poles.
  • How to identify the smell of gas. Tell them that if they smell it, they should tell a grown-up or leave the building.
  • How and when to call 911.
Information to know about your child's school or day care facility:
  • Find out what your child's school does in the event of an emergency and know the school's emergency plans.
  • Find out where you can pick up your child during an evacuation.
  • Ensure that the school has up-to-date contact information for you and at least one other relative or friend.
  • Find out if you can authorize a friend or relative to pick up your children in an emergency if you cannot.

Water Supply Safety
Water is one of the most important supplies that everyone will need. Store at least one gallon per person per day. Boiling is the safest way to treat water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute to kill germs. Let the water cool before using. This method will kill microorganisms, but will not remove contaminants like chemicals or salts.

For Pet Owners
Pet owners should include provisions for their pet in a household disaster plan. Assemble a "Pet Survival Kit" that can be ready to go if you are evacuating your pet to a kennel or to friends or family. Please click here for additional information.
Natural Disasters


If your smoke detector goes off or if you notice a fire, remain calm. Do not try to fight a major fire. If your clothes catch on fire, Stop where you are, Drop to the ground, and Roll over and over to smother the flames. If you live in a high-rise multiple dwelling and the fire is not in your apartment, stay in your apartment rather than entering smoke-filled hallways.

  • If a fire breaks out in your house or non-fireproof apartment building, get out as quickly as possible.
  • Feel doors with the back of your hand before you open them. If they are hot, find another way out. Stay as close to the floor as possible – smoke and heat rise and the air is clearer and cooler near the floor.
  • Close doors behind you.
  • If you are unable to get out for any reason, stay near a window and close to the floor. Close the door and stuff the bottom with a towel to avoid smoke. If possible, signal for help by waving a cloth or sheet outside the window.
  • Call 9-1-1 from a safe place such as a neighbor's house.
  • Do not stop to get anything.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • To prevent fires, keep an ABC-type fire extinguisher and working smoke detectors in the house. Check batteries twice a year at daylight-saving time.
  • Consider renter's insurance if you rent an apartment.


Although major earthquakes are uncommon, tremors occasionally occur and residents should be prepared. Drop to the floor. Take cover under a solid piece of furniture or next to an interior wall. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Hold on to a sturdy piece of furniture and be prepared to move with it. Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Be prepared for aftershocks, which often follow an earthquake. Note that after an earthquake, your utilities may be disrupted.


Remember that anywhere it rains, it can flood. Flood risk isn’t just based on history; it’s also based on a number of factors including rainfall, topography, flood-control measures and changes due to construction or development.

If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:

  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-up trucks.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.
  • Do not drive around posted barricades. Barricades are deployed for your protection. Turn around and go the other way.
  • Do not try to take short cuts. They may be blocked. Stick to designated evacuation routes.
  • Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
Seniors / Disabled Individuals

Seniors and people with disabilities may need to take additional steps to prepare for emergencies. If you or someone in your household has special needs, consider the following tips when preparing your disaster plans:

  • Keep a seven to 14 day supply of necessary medications on hand at all times.
  • Develop a personal emergency plan for each place where you spend time – at home, work, school, and in the community.
  • Evaluate your capabilities, limitations, needs, and surroundings to determine what type of support you may need in an emergency. Include your home care attendant and other people in your network in your planning process.
  • If you are dependent on electricity for your wheelchair, breathing machine, or any other life-sustaining device, plan for a loss of power. Consult your power provider.
  • The hearing impaired may need to make special arrangements to make sure they receive emergency warnings.
  • Mobility impaired people may need assistance to get to a shelter or to evacuate from buildings. Keep in mind elevators will not work in a power outage.
  • Technologically dependent people should check in with 9-1-1 or their doctors.
  • People with special dietary needs should have an adequate emergency food supply.
  • Write down your support needs and numbers, medical conditions, medications and dosages, allergies, special equipment, medical insurance, copies of  Medicare insurance cards as well as personal and medical contact details. Keep this list with you in emergencies and supply a friend with a copy.
  • If you have a service animal, make sure that it is registered with a service tag.
Utility Disruptions
It is always a good idea to have a supply of bottled water in the house. If you see water coming up from the ground or roadway, or suspect a water main break, call 9-1-1 to report its location. 

If there is a power outage, contact your power provider immediately to report the outage. Commonwealth Edison can be reached at (800) EDISON-1 or visit their web site here for additional information.

Natural gas
If you smell gas:
  • Do NOT smoke or light lighters or matches. If the odor is very strong, do not use your phone or operate any light switches or electrical devices – any spark could cause a fire.
  • Open windows.
  • Evacuate immediately and call 9-1-1.
Severe Weather Actions
In a thunderstorm:
  • Avoid handling metal, electrical equipment, telephones, bathtubs, water faucets, and sinks because lightning can follow the wires and pipes. 
  • If there is a severe thunderstorm, take cover immediately in a stable facility, but avoid trees.

In a flash flood:
  • Seek high ground. Never attempt to drive your vehicle through standing water.
In a tornado:
  • Go to your basement or the lowest point of your residence, or an interior room or hallway without windows. If you cannot find shelter, take cover in a ditch or other recessed area. If you are asked to evacuate, do so immediately.
What do weather alerts mean?
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning - A severe thunderstorm is occurring.
  • Tornado Watch - A tornado could form in the next few hours.
  • Tornado Warning - A tornado has been reported and/or the National Weather Service radar has detected a tornado or tornado signature.
  • Flash Flood Watch - Localized flooding due to heavy rainfall is possible.
  • Flash Flood Warning - Localized flooding due to heavy rainfall is imminent.
  • Freezing Rain Advisory - Minor accumulation of ice due to freezing rain is expected.
  • Winter Weather Advisory - A minor accumulation of snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected.
  • Snow Advisory - Accumulations of one to four inches expected within a 12 hour period.
  • Blizzard Warning - Strong winds, blinding driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected in the next several hours.
  • Winter Storm Watch - Significant accumulation of snow and/or ice is possible within 36 hours.
  • Winter Storm Warning - A storm with six or more inches of snow/sleet/ freezing rain within a 24- hour period is expected.
Please visit the National Weather Service web site at for more information.
Helpful Links
The FEMA web site,, contains a great deal of information about preparing for and responding to emergencies.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
(800) BE-READY (800) 237-3239 or

U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
(800) 311-3435 or

U.S. Department of Energy
(202) 586-4403 or

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(800) 424-8802 or

National Weather Service

American Red Cross

Illinois Emergency Management Agency - Severe Weather Preparedness

Commonwealth Edison
(800) EDISON-1 or

Natural Gas Provider
(866) 556-6005 or