What you can do to prepare for an emergency

Find out how to prepare for an emergency.

There is information and help available from the emergency services (Police, Fire and Rescue Service and Ambulance), the County Council, your local council and others, but there is much you can do to help yourself be prepared and until help arrives.

Develop an emergency plan

  • Check that you have adequate household and contents insurance.
  • Find out how and where to turn off power, gas and water supplies.
  • Store important documents in a fire or waterproof container or safe deposit box.
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers near the phone.
  • Decide how your family will share essential tasks, such as collecting children from school and checking on elderly neighbours.
  • Arrange for an out-of-town friend or relative to be a contact point.
  • Find out whether your local district or borough council has a detailed plan on how they will deal with an emergency in your area.
  • Prepare an emergency survival kit (or 'grab bag') and keep it handy.

See our Household Emergency Plan below for assistance.

Through the What If? programme, our Resilience and Emergencies Team have supported children in achieving the Duke of Cornwall Community Safety Award. The award aims to educate and train young people to assist before, during and after a crisis. The award is open to young people between the ages of 5 and 18. If you would like to know more please contact us by email to what.if@westsussex.gov.uk.

Including pets in emergency plans helps your family’s ability to respond to an emergency. Be prepared, make a plan and prepare an emergency kit for your pet.

Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification. Microchip your pet(s) - this is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up-to-date with the microchip company.

Get a grab bag

A grab bag can be incredibly useful to have ready in an emergency. It should contain everyday items that will help you to manage for a short period of time until help is available to return to normal.

What to include in the 'grab bag':

  • A battery-operated (with spare batteries) or wind-up radio
  • A battery-operated (with spare batteries) or wind-up torch, candles and waterproof matches
  • Comfortable shoes
  • A first aid kit and manual
  • A combination pocket knife
  • Medications, toiletry and sanitary supplies and a change of clothes
  • Anything additional that infants, the aged and people with disabilities may need, if appropriate
  • Bottled water
  • Pet food and water, if appropriate
  • Blankets
  • Money
  • A mobile phone and charger
  • Strong plastic bags for clothing, valuables, documents, and photographs

Be prepared for evacuation

In some emergencies the safest action is to stay inside, but if the emergency services think it safer to evacuate the police will clear the area. District and borough councils will normally provide accommodation for people made temporarily homeless, often by opening a rest centre.

  • Listen for updates and safety advice on the radio or television and follow advice from emergency authorities.
  • Practice evacuation procedures beforehand, including a head count.
  • Have your car under cover, with a full fuel tank, and plan a safe route.

If you do evacuate

  • Gather family and pets.
  • Turn off the electricity, gas and water, and lock doors and windows.
  • Take cash, cheque books, credit cards, social security documents and portable valuables.
  • Take your emergency survival kit with you.

You may experience a range of physical and emotional reactions after the emergency. These are a normal response to the experience, but consult your GP if they continue.

Further information on preparing for emergencies is available from GOV.UK - Preparing for emergencies

Our Protect your business pages provide information on how to prepare a business continuity plan to help in the event of an emergency or disruption.

Weather updates

By listening to the weather forecasts and taking appropriate action when warnings are issued, many emergencies can easily be avoided.

Keep up to date with the weather and the various warnings:

As winter approaches it is increasingly important that we are easily seen. By being bright and wearing high visibility or reflective clothing we can improve our own safety, especially in rural areas or where there is less street lighting. Reflective clothing, working lights and items such as wrist bands or strips can be cheap and very effective.

Surface water flooding currently causes the most regular impact to communities across the county.

Ditches and watercourses are designed to drain surface water away; helping to prevent flooding. Ensure ditches and water courses are clear of debris and vegetation is cut back so that water can flow freely.

Power companies

If you have a power cut, call 105 to get up-to-date information. They should also be able to let you know when the power will be back on. If your phone doesn't support it, call your local emergency phone number 0800 783 8866 for the West Sussex area.

If the power remains off for some time make sure you check how safe the food in your fridge and freezer is and dispose of items that are no longer safe to eat.

If you think you can smell gas, call the Gas Emergency Services on 0800 111 999.

If you think you have a gas leak you should:

  • turn off your gas supply at the meter
  • find your emergency control valve. Turn the handle so the lever is at 90 degrees to the upright gas pipe
  • open all your doors and windows
  • make sure you don't switch anything electrical on or off
  • put out all naked flames.

If you have any electrical security entry phones or locks, don't use them. Open your doors manually.

Make the right call

Contacting the right people in an emergency is vital in making sure that you get the right help at the right time. It is also crucial in ensuring that emergency services attend the most urgent, life threatening emergencies as fast as possible.

Non-life threatening:

  • 101 Police
  • 111 NHS

Life threatening:

  • 999 ask for police, fire, ambulance or coastguard.

Hoax callers can be prosecuted and may face fines or imprisonment.

Useful information

Last updated:
28 January 2022
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