You have moved to Canada, a safe and stable haven compared to many other countries. Most newcomers’ priorities navigate around finding a job and a good school for the children, settling in a friendly and safe community and learning how to adapt to this, their new home.
EP (Emergency Preparedness) comes last in the above list, and sadly, many times doesn’t even get there.
Why to be prepared? The first reason is that EP can be fun and strengthen your family and community. Many studies have shown how well prepared neigbourghoods, families and individuals do much better during emergencies than people who have not taken the time to do so. Also, according to Public Safety Canada, individual citizens share a responsibility to be prepared for disasters and contribute to community resiliency.
Emergencies and disasters tend to affect certain groups more than others. Historically these groups are: minorities and immigrants, children, women, the elder, the disable and pets.
Canada’s potential nature-related disasters include earthquakes, winter storms, floods, wildfires, tsunamis, hurricanes and landslides, among others. With Climate Change looming, the chance of these events increasing in both strength and recurrence grows higher. Other disasters influenced by Climate Change that may affect people in Canada are droughts (that affect the production and distribution of food and clean water) and temporary resources scarcity.
Other emergencies are the result of lack of awareness of our own home, workplace and neighbourhood risks and hazards. Some of these are: house and neighbourhood fires, drowning, falls, etc.
Canada has a fairly organized Emergency Response infrastructure run by both staff and volunteers at local, provincial and federal levels. However, it has been demonstrated in the past, that when a disaster strikes, these organizations (from firemen to rescue teams, from ambulances to emergency social services teams) may be overwhelmed and will prioritize those in bigger trouble first, which means that in many cases, your family or your whole neighbourhood may need to survive on your own for anything from 72 hours to a couple of weeks.
Where to start
- Assess the risks and hazards in your house and community: What are the type of emergencies and disasters most likely to occur in your region? What about your house structure, furniture, and the ways your family cooks, clean, etc.
- Make a plan: what will each member of your family do if there is a fire? An earthquake? A flood? What if you are separated from each other? Make sure you include an out of province contact number and a place to meet if all of you have to evacuate.
- Prepare emergency kits: you should have one for the house, one for your car and one for your workplace. Each member also needs to have a “grab-and-go” kit in case you need to evacuate (see side boxes for more details)
- Practice and make it fun: every quarter, create an activity with your family and all the individuals who regularly live or visit your home. Practice what you would do in different emergency scenarios
- Consider taking First Aid classes: and volunteering for emergency services or humanitarian institutions, such as the Red Cross. The training you will get will help you to feel ready and safe if the time comes.
For more information on how to create a family plan, what to include in an emergency kit and how to respond when exposed to different disaster scenarios, please visit: http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/index-eng.aspx and http://embc.gov.bc.ca/em/hazard_preparedness/AllHazards_WEB.pdf
What is a “grab-and-go” kit?
Grab-and-go kit is a bag or a backpack you prepare for each member of the family (including babies and pets) and allows them to leave quickly in the event of an emergency that asks for evacuation.
It has to be easy and comfortable to carry
What to include?
- A change of clothes, including clothes for the weather
- Medicines they need to take regularly
- A pair of extra glasses, ear aids, etc.
- Water (ideal is four litters, but some members may be able to carry less)
- Food (cans and energy bars)
- Baby formula and bottles in case of babies
- Pet food (for your pets) and medicine if applicable
- A small first aid kit (just the basics)
- A whistle
- A flashlight and batteries
- Basic contact information and pictures of the family members including themselves
- The out of province contact number (a person you trust who may be called to report your status in case your family is separated)
- Some cash including coins for phone calls
- A blanket
- Toilet paper and bags
- Work globes
- Personal toiletries (toothbrush, comb, soap, etc.)
- Paper and pen
- Protected photocopy of important documents: ID and passport or birth certificate, insurance agreement, list of medications, etc.)
The emergency kit:
The emergency kit is different from the “grab-and-go” kit. It is usually bigger and includes things for the whole family. Its purpose is to supply for the basic needs the family may have in case they have to stay at home for 72 hours or more, probably isolated, without electricity or water. Emergency Kits may also be needed at work (in case a disaster strikes when you are at the office) and in your family’s car( in case your car is stuck in a snow storm, etc.)
You can start your emergency kit by reviewing what you already have at home, making a list of what you need and buying one item each time you do your grocery shopping.
Considerations when putting together an emergency kit:
- Think about primary needs: health and safety, water, food, shelter, communication and heating.
- Quality: the least you want is your EP kit to fail when you most need it. Buy quality over quantity.
- Multiple-uses: emergency kits need to be small and functional. Choose things that can have more than one use, such as multi-use knife, a radio/iPod charger, etc.
- Dedicated purpose: emergency kits items need to be all together when you need them. Don’t use them as camping gear or as everyday items. Use a plastic box and locate it in an easy to access place.
- Cost: as long as you don’t sacrifice quality, try buying the least costly item.
- Reasonable shelf-life: try to buy things that last for at least 6 months, but better 2-5 years. Check their expiry dates and store them properly so they last in good shape.
- Rotation and checking schedule: make sure you check for expiry dates and status of all the items
- Skills: learn and teach each member of the family how to safely use the objects in the emergency kit
What to include:
Items are similar to those in the grab-and-go-kits, but you may also include:
- Can opener
- Portable rechargeable radio or radio with extra batteries
- A camping stove, waterproof matches and enough supply of fuel
- Sleeping bags and extra blankets
- A tent big enough for the entire family
- Extra medicine
- Pet food and a pet bed
- Extra water for drinking and toileting/cleaning purposes
- Water purification tablets
- Extra non-perishable food
For more information visit: Get Prepared at http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/index-eng.aspx and How to be prepared for Emergencies at http://www.redcross.ca/article.asp?id=20162&tid=078