Canada’s annual Emergency Preparedness Week, which runs May 3 to 9, is a national and provincial awareness campaign that encourages Canadians to ready themselves to protect their families in the event of an unforeseen emergency.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emergency Preparedness Week is taking on a new emphasis this year. Whether you are a homeowner, live in a condominium, or are a tenant in an apartment building, ensuring your family has drawn up a plan and has the provisions you may need can make all the difference.
According to 2014 data from Statistics Canada, 47% of Canadian households engaged in three or four emergency planning activities such as having an exit plan, an emergency supply kit, extra copies of important documents and an emergency contact list.
What Steps Should You Take to Be Ready for an Emergency?
A goal without a plan is but a wish. Having a well-thought-out plan in the event you need to hunker down where you are for a while or evacuate your home is the vital foundation you need to be prepared.
There are a few steps you need to take:
- Know what risks you face. Depending on where in the country you live, Canada faces several natural hazards. An emergency can also be a bomb threat, chemical spill, or as we have seen in recent months, an infectious disease outbreak.
- Develop an action plan. There are two essential portions of an action plan: communications and evacuation. Your family communication plan should include two primary contacts – people you can reach in a time of crisis; both within your family and trusted contacts who live in other municipalities from yours. Keep mobile devices fully charged but don’t rely solely on making phone calls or sending text messages. Discuss different ways to get in touch with one another as a backup and ensure everyone in the family knows who to contact.
For your evacuation plan, identify two locations your family should gather if need be and the route to take to get there. One place should be near your home, such as a community centre, and one should be a safe place outside of your neighbourhood. If you do evacuate your home, ensure every adult in your household knows how to shut off all of your home’s utilities if you must, including electricity, water, and gas.
- Prepare an emergency survival kit. Everyone in the family should know where your emergency survival kit is located. The kit should contain enough provisions to care for everyone in your family for up to three days.
- Make a home contents inventory. Should you need to file a claim as a result of a natural disaster damaging your home, it’s important to have an updated list of possessions you have. Also, include the name and contact information of your insurance company or broker, the policy number, and details about your home insurance coverage.
It’s also a smart idea to test your emergency plan while maintaining physical distancing during the COVID-19 lockdown. Be sure to discuss with each member of your family what they should do in the event of things like a severe storm, power outages, floods, wildfires or any other emergency.
What Items Should Be in Your Emergency Preparedness Toolkit?
The following items should be included in your emergency survival toolkit and preparations:
- Important documents (identification, health cards, and copies of medical prescriptions)
- Non-perishable food and bottled water (four to six litres per person for each day)
- A flashlight, extra batteries, as well as candles and matches
- Mobile phone chargers
- Download the Canadian Red Cross’ “Be Ready” mobile app onto your device
- A first-aid kit
- A battery-run radio
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand tools like scissors, a screwdriver and hammer, pliers, and a pocket knife
- Extra keys to your car and home
- A whistle to use if you need to attract attention
- Garbage bags and sealable bags (to keep things dry)
- If you have pets, food supplies for them
- Extra clothes, shoes, and personal hygiene items like soap and toothpaste
- Sleeping bags or blankets
Also, be sure to pack all of the above contents in an easy-to-carry bag and refresh the items in your survival kit twice a year, such as food and water.
What Other Emergency Preparedness Sources Are Available Online to Reference?
There are a few websites that can help you get prepared, including:
- Public Service Canada
- Emergency Management Ontario
- Alberta Emergency Management Agency
- The Insurance Bureau of Canada
- The Canadian Red Cross
Protect your family and your home by taking the time to prepare and be ready to navigate any emergency that crops up unexpectedly safely.