Are you prepared to keep your family and home safe in an emergency?
Most Canadians aren’t. For instance, fewer than half of us have an emergency kit. Yet in Ottawa, we have witnessed the destruction of the 2022 derecho, tornadoes in both 2018 and 2019, floods in 2017 and again in 2019, destructive snow and ice storms, and numerous Hydro outages. Climate change is likely to increase the intensity, and possibly the frequency of, extreme weather events.
Here’s what you need to know about keeping the people and place you love safe if disaster strikes.
Why emergency preparedness is important
Being prepared could save your life and those of your loved ones, according to the Government of Canada. Emergency services and other government resources exist but can be severely strained in times of disaster, which is why individuals and families should prepare to be self-reliant for at least three days immediately after or during an emergency.
How do you prepare?
Start with an emergency kit.
A good one includes items like food and water, a battery-operated or crank radio, extra medication, a basic first aid kit and cash (don’t count on ATMs or point of sale terminals being available in a serious emergency).
The Red Cross has information on what to include in a full emergency kit, including enough food to last each member of your family at least one day, about three litres of water per day for each person, extra keys for your house and car, and a whistle to attract attention. Your supplies should be kept in a backpack or similar bag that you can easily transport. Recognizing that supplies can add up, the organization suggests buying a few items each week until you are fully stocked.
The Red Cross also sells survival kits, as does the Salvation Army and other organizations, although they may not include food or other essentials.
Do you have pets? Don’t forget they’ll need to eat as well.
Food and other items expire, so keep your kit fresh by checking it when you check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms each month.
What else do you need to do?
Create an emergency plan. It’s not difficult to do and you won’t know how valuable it is until you need to use it.
The plan includes some basic information such as where family members will meet if you can’t go home and the phone number for your insurance company, an evacuation plan for your home and neighbourhood, and ensuring adults and older children in your home know how to turn off water, gas and electricity.
The Government of Canada has downloadable plans and guides here. You’ll find guides for people with disabilities and special needs, children, and pets and service animals at the same site.
The federal government also has detailed information on what to do during and after a wide range of emergencies.
It’s scary to think of these things happening, but they can occur and those who are prepared stand a better chance of getting their families and homes through the emergency safely.