Safety Planning Guides

When you go to a hotel or a school or get on an airplane, there is always a fire escape plan either on paper or demonstrated to help guide you during an emergency.

Some abusive partners are very unpredictable. Advance planning before attempting to leave the situation can help prevent further violence. If you are ever in DANGER – CALL 911, or local law enforcement agency, immediately!

  • Plan and rehearse the steps you will take if you have to leave quickly, and learn them well.
  • Have extra clothing, house keys, car keys, money, etc. at a friend’s house.
  • Keep an emergency suitcase packed or handy (and be ready to pack quickly)
  • Consider getting a safety deposit box at a bank that your partner does not go to.

Below are the general guidelines for creating Safety Plans for yourself and your children.

Pre-Planning for your Emergency Exit


Having backup documents and important papers gathered and ready to go is a good idea but may not be practical during a violent episode. The following are lists of items to consider when preparing to exit an abusive situation where leaving a physical location is your only option. Keep these items in a safe place i.e.: at a friend or family member’s home, with a lawyer, in a safety deposit box, etc.. Make copies and keep the copies in a separate place from the originals.

Proof of Citizenship
Birth Certificates
Status Card
Social Insurance Number
Old Age Security card
Immigration Papers and/or Cards for all family members
Health Records: provincial issued health cards for all family members,
vaccination records,
medical records for all family members,
doctor office(s) address and phone number
Licenses: Driver’s License, vehicle registration, official licenses issued by governing bodies
Legal Paperwork: work permit, divorce papers, custody documentation, court orders, restraining orders, marriage certificate
Contracts: lease/rental agreement, house deed, mortgage payment book
Banking: bank information, account numbers, safety deposit key, cheque book(s) with your name on them
Insurance: insurance papers i.e.: life assurance document, MPI car registration, home insurance policy, etc.
Contact Information: address/telephone book,
cell phone and charger
Education Documents: transcripts, school records, degrees, diplomas, certificates, etc.
Other: picture of your spouse/partner, your children and other family members,
copies of all cards you normally use: e.g. credit cards,
bank cards, phone, etc.

Purse and/or Travel Bags

Keep all the cards you normally use in your wallet. Keep your wallet and purse/bag in an easily accessible location, and should containing the following:

  • car/house/office keys
  • cheque book, bank books/statements
  • driver’s license, registration, insurance
  • address/telephone book
  • picture of spouse/partner
  • emergency money (in cash) hidden away

In case you do have to leave quickly, keep the following items either in a place where you can reach them safely or with a friend/family member:

  • Emergency suitcase with immediate needs: clothing, medications, toiletries, etc.
  • Special toys, comforts for children
  • Jewelry
  • Small saleable objects
  • Items of special sentimental value
  • List of other items you would like to take if you get a chance to come back to your home later

Babies and Children

Take your babies/children with you when you leave for safety. Many women and some men have reported extreme difficulty in gaining custody
of their children after leaving abusive relationships if they initially left their children behind. Please call your local community-based victim services program to gather more information with regards to your children and their safety.

Help Ensure your Independence

One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to open a bank account in your own name. It gives you the ability to deposit your money in a place that is secured and safe.

  • Arrange that no bank statements or other calls be made to you
  • Arrange that your mail will be sent to a friend or family member
  • If using electronic banking, change your password immediately once you have exited the relationship/house
  • Cancel any joint credit cards, banking cards or lines of credit held by you with your partner – talk to your bank for more information
  • Have statements sent as email to reduce paper trails
  • Save and set aside as much money as you can in advance

Living With an Abusive Partner

Safety planning for when you live in a home with an abusive partner:

  • Get your Emergency Escape Plan in order and review it often
  • Create a telephone list with numbers of local police, nearest women’s shelter, assaulted women’s help line, crisis help line, family members, counsellors, children’s friends
  • Make arrangements with friends or family so that you can stay with them if necessary
  • If you can predict the next likely violent episode and make plans for the children to be sent to friends, family or other safe place
  • Teach the children to let you know when someone is at the door and not to answer the door on their own
  • Teach your children how to use the phone (landline or cell) to contact the police and the fire department
  • Create a code word with your children and/or friends so they know to call for help
  • Teach your children how to make a collect call to you and to special friends or family if your partner takes the children
  • Plan your emergency exits, teach your children and know them well
  • Teach your children their own Safety Plan

Living Away From an Abusive Partner

Your safety is important

Consider doing whatever you can to install additional security systems in your home like additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, electronic monitoring systems, servalence systems, etc. as well as taking steps to look after your personal safety. Please look through the list below for recommendations and suggestions.

Homes &
  • Change the door locks
  • Replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors if possible
  • Install a peephole in the door
  • Install an outside sensor lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to your house
  • Change the locks on the garage and mailbox
  • Change the alarm code
  • Change the garage’s door opener code
  • Consider the advantages of getting a guard dog
Safety in
Apartment Blocks
  • Check the floor clearly when getting off the elevator
  • Look in mirrors and be aware of doorways in hallways
  • Speak to your building’s Security about your abusive partner and, if possible, provide a picture
  • If you don’t have security in your building make an anonymous call requesting safety in your building
  • If you have a balcony, consider putting wire around it
  • Do not put your name in your apartment building’s directory and/or mailbox
Inside your Home
  • Consider moving your furniture around differently as this is something your partner may not anticipate, and cause him to bump into it and give you warning that he is in the house
  • Put your kitchen utensils and knife block in the cupboards so they are not as accessible
  • Install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers for each floor
  • Purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from upper floors
  • If you have a balcony, consider putting wire around it
  • Consider the advantages of getting a guard dog
Safety For Children
  • Teach your children to tell you if someone is at the door and to not answer the door on their own
  • Make sure that the school, day care, and police have a copy of all court orders, including restraining orders, custody and access orders, as well as a picture of the abusive partner
Personal Safety
  • Keep your restraining order near you at all times
  • Have your telephone number unpublished, as it is harder to track than when it is unlisted
  • Try to anticipate the next likely violent incident and be prepared
  • Consider getting a cell phone and pre-program numbers of people to call
  • Block your number when calling out – check with your phone company to see if this feature is available and, if so, how to do it with your phone
  • If you have call display on your phone, be careful about who can get access to the stored numbers i.e.: the last number dialled
Internet & Computer Safety
  • Read our page about Clearing your Internet History
  • Use a safe computer that your abuser has not had access to i.e.: at the library, at a friend’s house, etc.
  • Change your internet passwords to new passwords that you haven’t used before
  • Consider having your computer checked for monitoring software
  • Adjust your Privacy Settings on your social media accounts
  • Do not list your location online with social media sites or post photos of yourself in easily recognizable locations

Safety in your Neighbourhood

Safety planning goes beyond your house/apartment. It can extend out onto your street and into the community in which you and your children live. Consider the following:

  • Tell your neighbours that you would like them to call the police, or local law enforcement, if they hear a fight or screaming in your home
  • Tell your child caregivers i.e.: daycare workers, teachers, babysitters, etc. about which people have permission to pick up your children and who does not have your permission, provide a picture if possible of your abusive partner
  • Tell the people in your neighbourhood that your partner no longer lives with you, and they should call the police if he or his car are spotted near your home. You may wish to give your neighbours a photo and description of him/her and of their car
  • Ask your neighbours to look after your children in an emergency and prepare a Safety Plan for your children
  • Hide clothing and your Emergency Escape Plan items at a neighbour’s house
  • Use different grocery stores and shopping malls, and shop at hours that are different from when you were living with your abusive partner
  • Use a different bank or branch, and take care of your banking at hours different from those you used with your abusive partner
  • Change your doctor, dentist and other professional services you used when with your abusiv partner
  • Do not put your name in your apartment building directory

Safety at your Workplace

Each woman must decide for herself if and/or when she will tell others that her partner is abusive and that she may be at risk. Friends, family and co-workers may be able to help protect women. However, you should consider carefully which people to ask for help. If you are comfortable, you may choose to do any or all of the following:

  1. Tell your boss, the security supervisor, and other key people or friends at work about your situation.
  2. Ask to have your calls screened at work. It would also help to have these calls documented.
  3. Discuss the possibility of having your employer call the police if you are in danger from your (ex) partner.

Safety planning for when arriving at work:

  • Carry your keys in your hands
  • Have someone escourt you from your car into your workplace like security
  • Scan the parking lot
  • If your partner is following you, drive to a place where there are people to support you, for example, a friend’s house or a police station.
  • If you have underground parking, consider parking across the street.
  • Keep a sign in your car saying “Call Police”
  • If you are walking, take a route that is populated
  • Change the patterns of when you arrive and leave work and the routes you take home
  • If you see your partner on the street and he sees you, try to get to a public place such as a store
  • If you see your partner on the street and he sees you, call attention to yourself and request help

Safety planning for when leaving work:

  • Let someone know when you’ll be home
  • Carry your keys in your hand.
  • Get a remote or keyless entry car door opener
  • Walk with someone to your car like security
  • Walk around your car, look under the hood and check if anything has been tampered with and check brakes. Remember to keep your car seats forward, so you know if someone is hiding in the car
  • If you are walking, take a route that is populated
  • Change the patterns of when you arrive and leave work and the routes you take home
  • If you see your partner on the street and he sees you, try to get to a public place such as a store
  • If you see your partner on the street and he sees you, call attention to yourself and request help

If you workplace doesn’t currently have a Workplace Policy about supporting employees exerpiencing domestic violence, please look at our information about Creating Safer Workplaces and our EVA MB Workplace Policy Sample for Word.

An Emotional Safety Plan

Being abused and verbally degraded is exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of surviving and building a new life requires much courage and incredible energy.

To conserve your emotional energy and to support yourself in hard emotional times, here are some things you can do:

  • Attend individual or group counselling sessions.
  • Become involved in community activities to reduce feeling isolated.
  • Enroll in school to increase your skills.
  • Join support groups of other women to gain support and strengthen your relationships with other people.
  • Take time for yourself to read, meditate, play music, etc.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good and provide support.
  • Take part in social activities, e.g. movie, dinner, exercise.
  • Take care of your sleep and nutritional needs.
  • Take time to prepare yourself emotionally before entering stressful situations like talking with your partner, meeting with lawyers, or attending court.
  • Try not to overbook yourself – limit yourself to one appointment per day to reduce stress.
  • Be creative and do whatever makes you feel good.
  • Write something positive about yourself everyday – your own personal affirmations.
  • Monitor your use of alcohol or food.
  • Avoid excessive shopping and impulse buying.
  • Join a health club or start an exercise program to increase your energy level and your sense of well-being.

It’s OK to feel angry. Find positive and constructive ways to express your anger. Remember that you are the most important person to take care of right now.

A Child’s Safety Plan

The first step of any plan is for the children to get out of the room where the abuse is occurring.

EVA BC website

This plan was developed to help mothers teach their children some basic safety planning. It is based on the belief that the most important thing that children can do for their mothers and their families is to get away from the area of violence! They cannot stop the abuse, although they often try by distracting the abuser or directly interfering in the abusive episode. It is important to tell the child that the best and most important thing for them to do is keep themselves safe.

Children who experience seeing their mom’s abuse can be profoundly affected. It is very traumatic for them to be faced with violence directed at them or at someone they love. Personal safety and safety planning are extremely important and necessary for children whose mothers are experiencing violence. Children need ways to protect themselves.

There are several ways to help you develop a safety plan with your children including:

  • Have your child pick a safe room/place in the house, preferably with a lock on the door and a phone.
  • Stress the importance of being safe, and that it is not the child’s responsibility to make sure that his/her mother is safe.
  • Teach your children how to call for help. It is important that children know they should not use a phone that is in view of the abuser. This puts them at risk. Talk to your children about using a neighbour’s phone or a pay phone if they are unable to use a phone at home. If you have a cell phone, teach your children how to use it.
  • Teach them how to contact police at the emergency number.
  • Ensure that the children know their full name and address (rural children need to know their rural route number or whatever is applicable).

Preparing a child to speak to emergency services

It is important to rehearse what your child/children will say when they call for help. This is a sample script for you to practice with your child:

Dial 911 (or local law enforcement phone number)
An operator will answer: “Police, Fire, Ambulance.”
Your child says:

  • Police.

Then your child says:

  • My name is ______________.
  • I am ____ years old.
  • I need help. Send the police.
  • Someone is hurting my mom.
  • The address here is _______________.
  • The phone number here is ______________.

It is important for children to leave the phone off the hook after they are done talking. The police may call the number back if they hang up, which could create a dangerous situation for yourself and your child/children.
Pick a safe place to meet your children, out of the home, after the situation is safe for you and for them (so you can easily find each other).
Teach your children the safest route to the planned place of safety for them.

During a Violent Incident

In order to increase your safety, here are some things you can do:

  • Remind yourself that you have an Emergency Escape Plan, and go over it in your mind.
  • Start to position yourself to get out quickly or near a phone so you can call 911, if necessary.
  • Try to move to a space where the risk is the lowest.
  • Try to avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, kitchen, near weapons, or in rooms without access to an outside door.
  • Use your code word with your children so they can call for help.
  • Use your judgment and intuition – if the situation is very serious, you can agree with your partner or give him what he wants to calm him down. You have to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
  • When, or after, you have been assaulted, call the police at 911 if you can. Tell them you have been assaulted and need help. Leave the phone off the hook after your call.
  • Make as much noise as possible (set off the fire alarm, turn up the stereo or TV) – so that neighbours may call the police for you.



Thank You to the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC) for their generous contributions and willingness to share their expertise for the content on this page.

Together we make a difference.

Please visit EVA BC’s website at