How to Prepare Your Bedroom for an Emergency

Learn how to prepare your home and bedroom for safety in any emergency

By Alesandra Woolley

How often do we see a tragedy on the news and assume a mindset of sympathy while simultaneously maintaining the stance that the same thing would never happen to us? 

While the chances of encountering a life-threatening emergency on any given day are slim, it’s important to take appropriate precautions by preparing the home and its residents for an emergency.

Here’s why it would be wise for us to change our mindset from apathetic to “better safe than sorry.”

  • According to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 60 percent of American adults have not practiced what to do in a disaster, which is concerning considering 80 percent of these adults live in counties that have been hit with some kind of weather-related disaster.
  • According to the FBI, there are roughly 2.5 million burglaries each year with 66 percent being home break-ins.
  • Fire departments across the US respond to house fires about every minute and a half.

Meanwhile, it’s estimated that only 39 percent of American households have crafted an emergency response plan and gone over it with their families.

Although it’s impossible to know when an emergency may strike, there are measures you can take to prepare your home ahead of time so you are ready to respond readily and quickly. The last thing you want is to get caught unawares in the presence of danger, particularly if you are sleeping.

In the unlikely event, an emergency occurs in the middle of the night, follow these steps to establish your defense by disaster-proofing your bedroom immediately.


General Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Although disaster preparation and response vary by the type of emergency (i.e. robbery vs. natural disaster), there are a number of general precautions you can take to prepare for any type of incident.

Here’s a checklist to review for emergency preparedness in the home:

  1. Subscribe to emergency alerts
  2. Prepare an emergency response kit
  3. Rehearse your escape route
  4. Create an emergency communication plan for your family
  5. Keep a phone nearby at all times with the accompanying charger

We’ll go more in-depth on how you can prepare for each of these steps below.

Subscribe to Emergency Alerts

Whether this means joining your neighborhood’s Facebook group or downloading local and/or national weather apps, make sure you have access to recent and pertinent information regarding potential emergencies. 

This is especially important if you do not regularly watch the news or read the paper. The first step in emergency preparedness is being informed. Some apps that can be helpful in midst of an emergency include: 

  • Red Cross Emergency Apps: The Red Cross has many apps for particular situations including hurricanes, earthquakes, general emergencies, first aid, pet first aid, and more.
  • FEMA App: Receive National Weather Service alerts for up to five locations, learn safety tips, and locate emergency shelters. 
  • Disaster Alert (Android and iOS): Gives warning of storms, wildfires, volcanoes, floods, and other natural disasters in your area
  • Natural Disaster Monitor: Plots natural disaster around the world on a Google map

Prepare an Emergency Response Kit

Gather the necessary supplies you may need in the case of an emergency and store them in a place that makes sense (we’ll get to specific bedroom supplies shortly).

According to the CDC, nearly half of U.S. adults are not equipped with the supplies and resources needed in the event of an emergency. 

Some of the supplies you should have readily available in your emergency response kit are:

  • Flashlight
  • Spare Batteries
  • Portable cell-phone charger
  • Spare house and car keys
  • First-aid kit
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Protein bars and/or crackers (really any non-perishable snacks with nutrients)
  • Refillable water bottle and water supply to last three days
  • Spare cash
  • Emergency contact information
  • Photocopies of any important documents or financial information you may need

Make sure everyone in the family knows where the kit is located in the house. Additionally, pack a backpack of with the most important supplies you may need in case you have to evacuate quickly.

Rehearse Your Escape Route

Identify at least two escape routes from every room in the home using both doors and windows in your planning. If you live in an apartment complex, make sure you know where all exit stairwells are located.

Once your escape routes are established, rehearse them with your family members. Make sure everyone, especially children, has a clear understanding of how to escape their bedroom so they know how to evacuate in the case the adults cannot get to them.

Create an Emergency Communication Plan for Your Family

Speaking of family, make sure to create an emergency communication plan and discuss it with your family members. Make sure everyone understands what to do and who to contact if:

  • Someone gets severely injured
  • They get separated from the family

You can create your family communication plan with this FEMA template.

Keep a Phone Nearby at all Times with the Accompanying Charger

In the case of an emergency, it’s very likely you will need a way to contact help. Make sure to keep phones easily accessible and charged throughout the house at all times.


Disaster Preparedness in the Bedroom

Once you have established your general emergency preparedness plan and gathered the appropriate supplies in an emergency response kit, make sure each bedroom in the home is prepped in case an emergency takes place at night so you wake up with the things you need nearby.

Once you have established your general emergency preparedness plan and gathered the appropriate supplies in an emergency response kit, make sure each bedroom in the home is prepped in case an emergency takes place at night so you wake up with the things you need nearby.

Additionally, you should always sleep with your bedroom door closed. This could be the difference between life or death in a house fire. However, nearly 60% of people sleep with their bedroom door open. Sleeping with your bedroom door helps because it limits the spread of flames, reduces the amount of toxic smoke that restricts oxygen, and keeps temperatures down.

If you don’t have children or pets that need to easily access your bedroom throughout the night, you might also consider sleeping with your bedroom door locked. In the rare case, an intruder enters your home, this will give you more protection and time to respond.

Here’s a checklist for items you need for emergency preparedness in the bedroom: 

  1. Flashlights
  2. Shoes
  3. Escape ladders
  4. Extra blankets
  5. Cash
  6. Self-defense weapon (if comfortable and trained)

Read more about each of these items and their necessity below.

Flashlights

Make sure to have some form of emergency lighting nearby whether that’s a candle or flashlight, in case you lose power.

Shoes

Not everyone has a closet in their room. If you don’t be sure to keep close-toed shoes in your room at night in case you have to leave your home in response to the threat. Consider tucking an old pair of sneakers beneath each bed so they are out of the way but easily accessible.

Escape Ladders

For bedrooms on the second floor of the home, make sure there is an escape ladder stowed nearby if needed as a secondary escape route. Make sure each member of your family knows how to appropriately use these ladders.

Extra Blankets

Additional blankets are useful in case the power goes out. They can also be used to smother small fires.

Cash

Like shoes, always keep cash handy in case you have to exit your home through a bedroom window or don’t have time (or the ability) to reach it if it’s in some other area of the house.

Self-Defense Weapon (if you are trained and comfortable)

We are in no way endorsing the use of a self-defense weapon for someone without proper training or comfort. However, if you are properly trained and keep self-defense weapons in the home, keep them in your bedroom at night in case an intruder enters the home.

Emergency Preparedness by Situation

There are many “emergency” situations you can prepare for. While it’s best to be prepared for all worst case scenarios, some of these emergency situations may be more relevant to your circumstances than others. 

For example, natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes are more prone to occur in certain regions. If you live in a zone that’s particularly prone to a certain type of natural disaster, such as earthquakes in California, those are the ones to prioritize planning for ahead of time. 

We’ll review the steps you can take to protect your bedroom in the event of tornadoes, fires, break-ins, hurricanes, winter storms, and earthquakes. 

Tornados

Tornadoes are one of the most violent natural disasters. These forces of rapidly rotating columns of air can cause tremendous destruction. 

Tornadoes can occur at any time, though they are most common in the spring and summer months and typically occur in the central part of the United States. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports an average of 1,253 tornadoes in the U.S. each year. 

How to prepare your bedroom for a tornado:

  1. Keep an eye on trees growing outside of your bedroom window. Keep them trimmed and in good health.
  2. If you are located in Tornado Alley, consider investing in storm shutters to cover windows during tornadoes.
  3. If the tornado takes place at night and your bedroom is upstairs, relocate to a lower-level in your home. Go to the basement or a closet under the stairs, if you have one.
  4. If you stay in your bedroom, lean your mattress against the wall for additional protection.

Additional resources to help you prepare for tornadoes: 

Fires

Fires can go from hazardous to life-threatening in a matter of minutes. If a fire starts while you are sleeping, you’ll need to evacuate fast.

Related: Do mattresses contain flame retardants?

How to prepare your bedroom for a fire:

  1. Make sure all smoke detectors are functioning and have proper batteries
  2. Sleep with your bedroom door closed at all times to slow flames from reaching you and preventing toxic smoke.
  3. Remove fire hazards, such as candles, from your bedroom. Never light a candle while sleepy as this increases the risk of falling asleep in the presence of an open flame. Never smoke in your bedroom.
  4. Sleep on a mattress that does not contain flame retardants. Latex mattresses are naturally fire-resistant, and there are natural latex mattress options that don’t use flame retardants. 

Additional resources to help you prepare for fires: 

Break-Ins

Contrary to popular belief, most burglaries, 65 percent to be exact, happen during the daytime. However, there is still a possibility they could occur at night. And in this confession from an ex-burglar, his entrypoint of choice was the bedroom window. Not to mention, your bedroom is often the first place robbers go because that’s where most valuables are stored.

Follow these tips to prevent burglars from choosing your house as their target or make their job harder so they leave:

  1. Visually display cameras inside and outside your home to prevent entry or prompt them to flee.
  2. Lock all first floor windows—34 percent of burglars enter via this route.
  3. Sleep with your bedroom door locked.
  4. Hide your safe if it’s in your room. Robbers will often take the entire safe.
  5. If properly trained and comfortable, sleep with a self-defense weapon nearby.

Additional resources to help you prepare for break-ins: 

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are most common along the eastern coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy rain, strong winds, tornadoes, and flooding are common during a hurricane.

Prepare your bedroom for a hurricane by:

  1. Keeping a close eye on trees and branches near your bedroom window. Trim and remove limbs if they are damaged or extending too closely to your home.
  2. Secure your rain gutters and clean out any debris.
  3. Sleeping upstairs (if your bedroom is downstairs) when under a hurricane watch, especially if you are in a flood zone.
  4. Prep your windows to quickly be secured with plywood boards. 

Additional resources to help you prepare for hurricanes: 

Winter Storms

Winter storms and blizzards can happen anywhere but occur most often in the Northeast and Midwest. Power outages are common during severe winter weather making warmth at night a top priority.

How to prepare your bedroom for winter weather:

  1. Keep extra blankets, socks, coats, hats, and gloves nearby in the winter months
  2. Keep a flashlight at your bedside table.
  3. Invest in winter bedding such as flannel sheets and down comforters which are warmer than traditional bedding.
  4. During the storm, stay bundled up under the covers as much as possible to keep your body temperature from dropping.
  5. Keep an alternate heat source, such as a space heater, nearby during winter months.

Additional resources to help you prepare for winter storms and blizzard conditions: 

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are most likely to occur in the following 16 states: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. While earthquakes themselves are dangerous, they also cause subsequent disasters such as fires and landslides.

Prepare your bedroom for an earthquake by:

  1. Securing items in their place. Put heavy items on the floor or lower shelves and put careful thought into what you hang on the wall.
  2. Identify the “safe” spots in your bedroom in the case of an earthquake. If it starts while you are sleeping, the safest thing is to stay in bed and cover your head and neck with pillows. If there is a ceiling fan above your bed, it might be better to get out of bed. Get on the floor and crawl to a space away from furniture or other items at risk of falling. Stay near interior walls and away from windows and lighting fixtures.

Additional resources to help you prepare for earthquakes:

Summary

It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry. Preparing your bedroom for any and all emergency situations can help your family sleep in peace. While you can’t prevent disasters, you can find comfort in planning ahead to know you’re fully equipped for any worst case scenario. 

Additional Resources for Emergency Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness Workbook for Your Household

Family Communication Plan Worksheet

NOAA Weather Radio

Apps for emergency preparedness: 

  • ICE Standard (Android and iOS): A digital emergency card for EMTs in emergency situations
  • Kitestring: Checks on you and alerts friends/family members if you don’t respond
  • Family Locator (Life360 for iOS): Track your family members and send alerts upon arrival/departure of particular locations
  • Red Panic Button (Android and iOS): Preset emergency message that sends with the press of a button
  • Siren GPS: Sends SOS with the press of a button
  • Noonlight (Android and iOS): Press and hold the button until you’re in a safe location; notifies local police if you don’t enter pin upon release

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