Preparing for Emergencies
No one likes to consider the possibility that disaster will strike but planning and preparing for one can be crucial to your survival. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, as well as man-made events such as gas explosions, happen quickly and often without warning. Buildings are damaged or destroyed in a matter of seconds and along with them lives, homes and possessions.
Emergencies have a way of bringing people together; your knowledge and preparedness can be a lifesaver for your family, your neighbours and others.
People with Special Needs
- People who have hearing impairments may need to make special arrangements to receive a warning. If you have a hearing impaired neighbour, you may wish to ask about how you may be of assistance in case of an emergency.
- Those who are mobility impaired may need assistance in getting to a shelter.
- People with special dietary needs should have an adequate emergency food supply.
- Find out about special assistance that may be available in your community. Register with the fire department so help can be provided in an emergency.
If you or anyone in your family requires medication, keep a two-week supply in your emergency kit. Make note of the expiry date of the medication in your calendar and replace it with new supplies as needed.
Pets are loyal companions who, unfortunately, cannot fend for themselves in an emergency. They cannot open doors to escape to safety. Animal shelters and pet stores sell stickers for your doors and windows that let emergency response personnel know that you have pets inside.
Do you know how to shut off utilities? In a flood, electricity can be deadly. A gas leak can be poisonous and a fire hazard. A water leak can damage your home and make it uninhabitable. Be prepared by knowing where the main shutoff valves and switches are before an emergency happens.
Locate the main gas shutoff (usually outside the house) and all pilot lights. Clear the area around the shutoff valve for quick and easy access in case of emergency.
Locate the main electrical shutoff. Your house may be equipped with fuses or circuit breakers. If your house has fuses, you will find a handle that should be marked "MAIN." If your house has circuit breakers, you may need to open the metal door of the breaker box to reveal the circuit breakers. The main circuit breakers should be clearly marked showing on and off positions.
Locate the main water pipe into your house (if you cannot locate it contact your utility company). Look for a "gate valve" on the pipe. If water pipes are leaking inside your home, this valve will shut off the water supply. You may wish to paint the valve so it is easy to find in an emergency.
In the case of a widespread disaster such as an earthquake, emergency response units (fire department, ambulance and police) may not be able to reach you immediately. In fact, you may be without food and shelter for days. In case of injury, you should be prepared to provide first aid.
Ideally, every family should have a disaster supply kit containing water, food and supplies to last for at least three days. This kit should be kept in a designated place and be ready to "grab and go" in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all household members know where the kit is kept.
Food and water should be sealed in the manufacturers' packaging so that air and moisture do not spoil the contents. Be sure that all packaging can be opened by hand without a can or bottle opener. Keep track of the expiry dates. Put your entire emergency supply kit in one or two backpacks or plastic pails.
Kits should contain:
- A 3-4 day supply of bottled water (at least one litre per person per day)
- Water purification tables
- Rain jackets
- A 3-4 day supply of energy bars, nuts and dried fruit. These foods are high in calories and protein relative to their size and weight making them portable. Bottled or boxed juices
- Bottled or boxed juices
- Flashlight (be sure to check the batteries regularly)
- First-aid kit * (see below)
- Tools (including a knife or scissors)
- Waterproof matches
- First aid manual
- Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
- Assorted sizes of safety pins
- Cleansing agents (isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide)/soap/germicide
- Antibiotic ointment
- Latex gloves
- 2-inch and 4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6 each size)
- Triangular bandages (3)
- 2-inch and 3-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls each)
- Cotton balls
- Needle and sterile thread
Create an Emergency Plan
Preparation is the best way to avoid unnecessary stress and panic during a stressful event. Talk to your children about what to do in an emergency. Do a practice drill including important steps such as finding a safe exit from your home, grabbing the emergency kit and ensuring everyone is out of the building. Repeat the practice on a regular basis (at least once a year so that people will automatically remember what to do). Choose a place where everyone will meet such as relative's home in case family members become separated.
Being prepared for a disaster takes very little time and money and the return on your investment is priceless.