How your household can stand up to the unexpected.
For the most part, life in Canada can be pretty idyllic, but we are not immune to Mother Nature’s fury. Flooding, ice storms, blizzards, wildfires and tornadoes are very real annual occurrences in many parts of the country, sometimes placing people in very vulnerable situations.
Heavy rainstorms this fall have caused extensive flooding and mudslides across southern British Columbia - on the heels of summer wildfires that forced thousands in that province to evacuate their homes and communities. The B.C. town of Lytton was completely destroyed by fire during a heat wave that broke Canadian temperature records. In southern Ontario’s tornado alley, dozens of homes were declared uninhabitable after an EF2 tornado ripped through a subdivision in the city of Barrie.
These events have dramatically altered daily life for those affected and reinforce the message that emergency preparedness is something that all Canadians should actively consider. There can be a lot of things to think about, such as food and water supplies, important documents you may need, alternate heating and cooking sources and how you will communicate with others in case disaster strikes. The task at hand could quickly feel overwhelming, so the best advice in mapping out your emergency strategy may be to start small.
Assess your needs
Emergency preparedness can look different to everyone, with geographical and environmental risks determining the most relevant types of safeguards. You might live in an area with an elevated risk for wildfires or flooding, so being able to leave home at a moment’s notice might be important. Or you might just be looking at basic preparations in case of electrical disruptions that can occur because of a power grid overload or storm damage.
Whether you live alone or have a family, stop and think about what makes sense for your situation. Contemplate what it might be like to pick up and leave in a hurry with next to no warning, or how different day to day life might be if you were suddenly left without power for a lengthy period.
Creating an emergency plan can help ensure that everyone in your household is aware of what to do if a disaster occurs. A plan can help you understand emergency resources available in your community, important documentation that you might need to have on hand in case of an evacuation (insurance, bank records, identification, medical records), designated meetup locations in case you become separated, and even what to do with any pets or livestock.
Create an emergency kit
The general rule of thumb is to have enough supplies within reach to support the household for at least 72 hours. Depending on the level of risk, you may also want the emergency kit to be portable. If you’re planning for multiple people in a household, individual duffle bags or backpacks may be wise. Consider these basics:
- Light source
- Heat source
Stock at least two litres of drinking water per person, per day. Consider having smaller bottles on hand that can easily fit into a backpack. Store a variety of canned goods, granola bars, dried fruit and other foods with a long shelf life. And give some consideration to variety – no one wants to be eating three meals a day of canned beans and tuna. Assemble a standard first aid kit that includes a variety of bandages, tape, gauze, tweezers, scissors, antiseptic cream, cleansing wipes, a thermometer and painkillers. Working flashlights and extra batteries, candles and a portable camping stove for heating up those canned beans are also smart additions. (Don’t forget a can opener!)
Extra items can include clothing, games and puzzle books, and toiletries. Just remember that if you are preparing a kit to leave quickly, it must be compact enough for a backpack or a pull-behind travel bag on wheels. The federal government has some useful guidelines about preparing an emergency kit that can help make this important task a bit easier.
Vehicle emergency kit
Winter driving and the possibility of getting stuck in a storm have their own unique hazards, especially in rural areas where help might not be readily available. An emergency kit for your vehicle can include items such as individual snack packs of nuts, granola bars and dried fruit, bottles of water, a first-aid kit, candles, flashlights and maps. Extra clothing and a blanket may also bring welcome relief if trouble strikes. Adding vehicle safety items, such as battery boosting cables, a tow rope, road salt and tire chains, is also advisable. A more extensive guide is available here.
Emergencies can happen at any time and without warning, but being proactive and facing the challenge ahead of an unexpected event can help to alleviate anxiety. Understanding the risks in your area, creating an emergency plan, assembling an emergency kit and learning about resources in your community will go a long way towards building confidence in your ability to handle a serious and possibly life-threatening situation.