How to Make a 5-Minute Plan for Any Emergency

Having a plan

When is the worst time to decide what to do in an emergency?

When the emergency hits.

As someone who watches all kinds of “emergency” shows on TV — ER, Chicago Med, Hill Street Blues, Grey’s Anatomy, M*A*S*H — I always thought that when something bad happened, I would get my hero on and do the right thing. I had the secret thought that if my kid were pinned under a car, I’d be able to lift a Toyota Sienna minivan to get her out from underneath.

But as my husband, Roger, and I learned through firsthand experience, most of us temporarily lose our minds in the midst of a crisis. Our emotions make us stupid. And that is why the concept of predeciding is so vital.

Predeciding is when you make a decision before you get into the thick of a situation. It can be as simple as making a menu plan for the rest of the week so you don’t get to five thirty each night and have to figure out what in the world you are going to make for dinner. Or it can be as hard as deciding that the next time I see Aunt June and she mentions how much weight I’ve gained — because she lives for that kind of thing — I’m going to say, “So good to see you,” and then give my husband the preagreed-upon signal to get me out of there.

Predeciding takes most of the emotion out of decisions because we are not in the midst of the situation. We can use logic and wisdom instead of adrenaline and anxiety. And that will make our decisions—for us and our family—so much better, healthier, and wiser.

One of the biggest benefits of predeciding is giving ourselves and our loved ones the confidence that if something scary happens, we have a plan.

Throughout the Bible we see God honoring those who made decisions before they were ever tested who remained faithful to their plans.

Here are some other examples:

  • RUTH 1: When Ruth decides to stay with Naomi, even though her husband has died and Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth.
  • DANIEL 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow down to the king’s image and were thrown into the fiery furnace but were preserved from harm.
  • ESTHER 4: When Queen Esther went before the king and made an appeal for the lives of the Jewish people, she declared, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
  • LUKE 10: Mary choosing to sit at Jesus’s feet even though she was receiving pressure from Martha to get up and help with the preparations.
  • PHILIPPIANS 4: Paul’s decision to focus on God, and not his circumstances, while in prison awaiting trial.

These are just a few of the circumstances where God empowered people to set a course and follow it, despite hardship and temptations to choose a different route.

Predeciding is an invaluable skill. Making a decision about how you will act before a crisis comes will save you pain and heartache in everything from parenting to budgeting to handling an emergency. For example, how will you act when your kid comes home with a D? How will you pay for a new transmission when your car dies? How will you get your ninety-pound German shepherd to the vet if it gets injured?

Most of prep involves some form of predeciding, but for no other prep is it more important than this one: what you do in the first five minutes of a crisis.

Think through what you would do in the first five minutes after your most likely emergency, and then discuss it with the people you live with. For us, the two most likely emergencies are job loss and earthquake (because we live in California). If Roger came home and told me he had been laid off, my reaction, before coming up with a five-minute plan, would have been to cry and panic. (My dad was unemployed much of my childhood, and my first husband went through extended times of unemployment, so job loss is a tender spot in my life.) Crying and panicking would only have added insult to injury for Roger, I’m sure. In an earthquake, my reaction before coming up with my five-minute plan would have been to call all my kids to see if they were okay. Some of my kids work as teachers and emergency responders, so that would have been a complete waste of time because they have to protect the people they are charged with caring for, not answer panicked calls from their mommy.

Now, because my husband and I have developed our five-minute plans, our responses have a higher likelihood of being planned, not panicked.

Our five-minute plan following a job loss:

  1. Sit down and pray together.
  2. ROGER: Start the process of liquidating some of our emergency fund for the next couple of months.
  3. KATHI: Cancel optional services to save money.

Are those emergencies in this situation? Not necessarily. What I love is that we have actionable plans. We have some things to do instead of worrying. We can start to take control of the situation immediately and feel empowered to help our situation.

Our five-minute plan following an earthquake (conditions allowing):

  1. ROGER: Grab car keys and gas up both cars and buy extra propane from the gas station around the corner.
  2. KATHI: Fill bathtub with water. Check on pets (get cat inside if she’s outside). Check on our older neighbor to see if she’s okay.

If you have kids, make sure they have a plan for the first five minutes as well. It’s easy for kids to become overwhelmed and fearful in an emergency situation, feeling helpless and unsure. But if your kids have a job to do, they can be focused and contribute to the rest of the family.

If your kids are at school or with a childcare worker, they are probably safest where they are for the moment. Their job is to listen to their adult in charge and help as much as they can. If your kids are at home, having a list of jobs they can do to help the family will empower them.

Things kids can do right after an emergency (depending on age and capability):

  1. Count all the money in the family coin jar to see how much you have. Those coin jars can add up!
  2. Fill buckets with water.
  3. Take an inventory of food and water.
  4. Make sure all phones, tablets, and computers are charging if you still have electricity.
  5. Check on neighbors.
  6. Make a meal (even if it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) while Mom and Dad take care of business.
  7. Put fresh batteries in flashlights.
  8. Find paper plates, cups, and plasticware.

Decide now what you will do in the first five minutes after a crisis hits. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do now to take care of yourself and your family later.

Your Plan

Write down your agenda for a family meeting in a notebook and schedule it on the calendar; include everyone who will have a role in the first five minutes after an emergency. Don’t forget to set a deadline to finish writing your five-minute plan.

A big part of reducing anxiety is having a plan. Predeciding what you’ll do in an emergency will give your family the confidence they need to continue getting ready for anything.

Adapted from Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small by Kathi Lipp.

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Your Turn

In times of crisis, it can be easy towards those feeling of panic. But we don’t have to feel that way! We can prepare and find peace in knowing that He is with us both in times of joy and times of fear. How does your family stay prepared? We want to hear from you! Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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