Monday, May 18, 2009

Be Prepared

The H1N1 flu virus (Human Swine Flu) pandemic is the latest threat to reinforce the need for emergency planning. As climate change continues to make extraordinary weather events the new normal, forest fires, flooding, extreme cold and heat waves, prolonged power outages as well as water and food shortages will continue to increase. Add to this list, the potential for man-made environmental disasters such as nuclear accidents and chemical releases. Don’t forget acts of terrorism.

All it all, it paints a rather bleak picture. But rather than run from disaster, the Government of Canada wants its citizens to be proactive and prepare themselves and their families for emergencies of all kinds. To help get the message out, Emergency Preparedness Week, which runs from May 3 - 9, 2009, promotes the importance of emergency preparedness across the country.

The first step is to know the risks – many of which were outlined in the first paragraph.

The second step is to make a plan that will help you and your family know exactly what to do in the event of an emergency. The plan should identify safe exits from your home, a place to reunite if you have to evacuate, designating a person to pick-up younger children if you can’t, a list of contact persons, both nearby and out-of-town, and a place for pets to stay. (In the event that you are required to evacuate, most shelters won’t take family pets.)

You should also make a list of health information, including health card numbers, medical conditions and allergies. Include copies of important documents such as birth certificates, passports, licenses, wills and insurance. The location of your fire extinguisher, water valve, electrical box, gas valve and floor drain should also be listed.

While it may seem like a lot, it shouldn’t take more than about 20 minutes to pull all this information together. Keep your plan in an easy-to-find, safe location. Make additional copies to keep at work and in your car. Review your plan regularly.

The third step is to prepare an emergency kit. The idea is to have basic supplies for 72 hours. The key is to make sure your kit is organized, easy to find, waterproof, and easy to carry (in a suitcase with wheels or in a backpack) in case you need to evacuate your home. If you wait until you need it, it might be too late.

Your kit should contain two liters of water per person per day (Include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order), food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (remember to replace the food and water once a year). Don’t forget a manual can opener. You should also include a flashlight and extra batteries, a wind-up or battery-powered radio (more extra batteries) and a first aid kit.

Special needs items such as prescription medications or equipment for people with disabilities should be added, along with an extra set of keys for your car and house. It also recommended having approximately $200 cash-on-hand, since ATMs and banking networks may not work during an emergency. Include smaller bills and change for payphones. Finally, include a copy of your emergency plan and contact information.

If all this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources out there to help guide you through the process.

Emergency Websites:

Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Week website contains a detailed Emergency Planning guide. The site has links to all provincial and regional emergency planning websites. You can also phone toll-free 1-800-O-CANADA.

Emergency Management Ontario

All municipalities within Ontario are now required to have an emergency plan, which is established through local Community Emergency Management Coordinators (CEMC). You can contact your CEMC through your municipality, or visit

The Public Health Agency of Canada has a special website dedicated to the current Swine Flu crisis. Check out

In the event of an emergency, knowing first aid could save a life. Contact St. John’s Ambulance or the Red Cross for information about first aid courses in your area.

St. John Ambulance has also partnered The Salvation Army to prepare an emergency kit that is available at, as well as from a variety of Canadian retailers.

Check out Environment Canada’s Weather Office.


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