Emergency Preparedness: a Group Effort
Natural disasters occur a lot more around Canada than the average person might think. Severe storms, tornados, wildfires, floods, earthquakes and avalanches have all been known to occur within Canadian borders. With climate change contributing to a constantly evolving meteorological situation in the country, too, it seems likely that these natural disasters will only continue to increase in volume and severity.
November is National Community Safety & Crime Prevention Month, and this month the Canada Safety Council is calling your attention to emergency preparedness. Do you know what to do in case of emergency?
A plan is a must when it comes to emergency preparedness. Because it could be needed at any time, you won’t be able to rely on effective communications during the emergency.
Identify the exit points from your house. An escape route may become necessary if you need to get out immediately. You should also designate a meeting area in case you and your family get split up. Be aware of the location of your fire extinguisher, water valve, electrical panel, gas valve and floor drain at all times.
If you have children, your emergency plan should also account for situations where they may be at school or daycare while the emergency is occurring. Designate a person to pick them up. The same rule applies to pets and how you will ensure they are taken care of in extreme circumstances.
In planning for disaster, the key to keep in mind is that it may take time before emergency responders are able to assist you. When building your emergency kit, prepare for at least 72 hours (three days) of self-sufficiency. Your supplies should include: at least two litres of water per person, per day; non-perishable food items like canned food, granola bars and dried food; a manual can opener; a manual flashlight or a battery-operated one with extra batteries; a battery-powered radio; a first-aid kit; specialty items including medication, formula and equipment, as well as any specific items customized to the potential risks in your area.
These supplies should be stored in a backpack, suitcase or other easily transportable means of storage and placed in an easily accessible place. In case of an emergency that forces you to evacuate, you won’t necessarily have the time to go looking for your kit.
Write down the phone numbers for emergency contacts – you may not be able to access the Internet in an emergency situation. Have phone numbers on hand for family, an out-of-town emergency contact, doctor, veterinarian (if applicable,) poison control and non-emergency calls. The main emergency number will likely be busy during natural disasters, but for urgent situations only, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.
During an emergency
Your first priority should be to ensure your own safety. You’ll be of no help to anybody if you put yourself in harm’s way. Assist others as soon as you’re safe. Follow the plan you’ve set out, making sure to stay put until all is safe or you’re ordered to evacuate. Listen to the radio or TV, if possible, for further information. Avoid using electronic devices unnecessarily – too much cellular activity can jam up the signals and, besides, you may need to conserve battery power.
If you’re ordered to evacuate, make sure to take your emergency kit as well as any essentials, shut off water, electricity and gas if instructed to do so, notify your out-of-town contact and provide details of where you are going. Lock your home before leaving, and register with a local reception centre where you will be kept up to date.
Emergency preparedness is a group effort – community safety depends on everyone doing their part to keep the neighbourhood safe even in the face of emergency. Make a plan, stick to it, and trust emergency responders to do their part, too.
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For more information, please contact:
Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council