Family Health Magazine - prevention
How to prepare for an emergency
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
- Benjamin Franklin
Imagine a disaster that strikes without warning, changing your community forever. A chemical spill triggers the evacuation of a neighborhood or an entire town. Your town is affected by raging wildfires. Your community is flooded. A tornado cuts through your city. Terrorism is also a possibility. Whatever the event may be, no one is immune from the threat of disaster.
The most common types of disasters
- Severe weather
- Power outage
- Hazardous material spill Wildfire
- Disease outbreak
Hazards vary, depending upon where you live. Knowing about the possibilities and preparing for the worst does not mean that you believe one will happen. Rather, planning helps protect you, your family and your community. By being prepared, you can also help others to deal with the after-effects of a disaster.
Sometimes, more than one type of disaster happens at or around the same time. Several years ago, an Indian Ocean earthquake triggered a tsunami. An earthquake in Haiti was followed by a number of disease outbreaks. More recently, several parts of the United States were affected by several hurricanes happening in quick succession. Wildfires in the Fort McMurray area and the interior of British Columbia spurred residents to flee their homes and communities.
When a disaster happens, it can significantly disrupt daily life. Telephone, gas, electricity, sanitation and water services may be interrupted for days. Roads may be impassable, and stores and gas stations could be closed. Even emergency services may not be available at first. Expect to take care of your family for at least three days and ideally up to two weeks. Being prepared will help keep personal injury, disease, damage, and discomfort to a minimum.
Involve each member of the family in planning and preparing in case of disaster. In an emergency situation, everyone should know what to do. How well you manage after a disaster depends a great deal on how prepared you are when it happens.
What’s more, planning and practicing what to do before an emergency can reduce fear and anxiety. Knowing you have essential supplies tucked away will help your peace of mind.
|Emergency Kit Contents
||Grab & Go Essentials
Your emergency kit should include:
- Drinking water - Have a supply of two litres per person per day in sealed, unbreakable containers. Replace stored drinking water every three to six months.
- Water for food preparation and sanitation – You will need an additional two litres per person per day.
- Non-perishable food – Choose food that requires no refrigeration or cooking, and little or no water. This includes ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, juices, soup, honey, peanut butter, crackers, and cereal will work. Check the expiry dates and replace with fresh stock as needed.
- Specialty foods - Infants, elderly people, and those on special diets may require different supplies.
- Pet food – You may also need food for your family pet.
- Comfort or stress relief foods – A few favourites like cookies, candy, and instant coffee will be welcome if needed.
- Kitchen items – Pack a hand-operated can opener, and disposable cups, plates, knives, forks and spoons.
- Cell phone – Include a charger, inverter battery pack or solar charger.
- Cash – Small bills will come in handy if banks are closed or automated teller machines fail.
- Local maps – These will be useful if you must travel to an unfamiliar place.
Find a full list of suggested supplies and tips on how to treat wounds in our Cuts and Scrapes article.
Have a backpack or duffel bag for each family member, filled with items needed to get by for a few days or weeks. This might include:
- Complete change of clothes, extra sweater, wind breaker, warm socks
• Outdoor gear to suit the weather, such as sunglasses, rain gear, hat, a parka with hood, mittens or gloves, scarf and toque
- Toiletries including toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, feminine hygiene supplies, washcloth and hand towel, brush, comb, small mirror, razor, and lip balm
- Extra pairs of eyeglasses and contact lenses, related supplies, and a copy of the prescription
- Pen or pencil and paper.
Consider storing another bag with items your family might need for personal safety and comfort.
- waterproof matches
- battery or wind-up clock
- needle and thread or sewing kit
- photographs of loved ones
- pocket knife
- phone and address book
- water purification tablets
- extra set of car and house keys
- plastic bags, all sizes
- playing cards, games
- whistle – three short blasts is the recognized signal for help
- toys and games for small children, colouring book and crayons
Preparing in advance can help you to deal effectively with disaster.
1Know the risks
- Research which disasters are more likely to happen where you live to help prepare for them.
Do you provide an essential service?
In the event of a disaster, your employer may require that you report to work. Your ability to respond will depend on how well you have prepared yourself and your family to manage and survive a disaster. Before you can continue working, you will want to know that your family is safe. Being personally prepared for a disaster is especially important for you – both to help your own family and to allow you to serve others by being on the job.
2Make a plan
- Create a phone list of emergency contacts. Keep a paper copy in case your cell phone or tablet runs out of battery power.
- Pick a place for your family to meet. Family members may not be together when disaster strikes. While gathering at home is ideal, plan on a second location in case you cannot get home. Consider meeting at the home of a neighbor or nearby relative, or a local school, church or community centre. If you leave home, consider putting a note on the front door saying that you are okay, where you have gone, and how you can be reached.
3Plan for children, the disabled, elderly and pets
- Talk to children about emergencies. The more they understand, the better prepared and able to cope they will be.
- If someone such as a senior or disabled person in a wheelchair has difficulty moving, allow for this in your evacuation plan.
- If you have pets, plan for taking them with you as well.
3Know where to get information
- Check your local and provincial government’s emergency management program to learn how alerts are communicated.
- It is very important to seek out and rely on credible sources of information in the event of a disaster.
5Prepare your home
- Know how to turn off the utilities, and practice with your family.
- Gather emergency supplies (see sidebar above). Water, food, and first aid supplies can be purchased as ready-made kits or obtained item by item. Sources including St. John Ambulance (sja.ca) and the Canadian Red Cross (redcross.ca) offer ready-made kits.
- Putting together an emergency kit takes some time and money. Do some preparation every week, and set aside some cash each payday.
- Use your kit for everyday first aid needs. As you use and replace items, you will be keeping them fresh. From time to time, check dates on items and replace those that have expired.
6Be ready to grab and go
- Pack essentials for each family member as well as items for personal safety and comfort (see sidebar).
- Keep a first aid kit on hand.
- Make a checklist on how to secure your space, so that you remember to turn off the utilities, appliances, and put a sign in the door or window if you are evacuated.
Sign your family up for a first aid course and a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course. These skills can be invaluable in an emergency. Store first aid supplies in a cosmetic bag, fishing tackle box, toolbox, or a small plastic box with a handle. Tape a list of the contents to the inside of the lid. Keep the kit stored out of children’s reach and where it can be accessed easily, preferably close to an outside exit. Store prescription medications and copies of critical medical information in watertight bags in your refrigerator, as it is a safe, secure and readily accessed location.
Copies of critical information
Take a few minutes to record vital family information. Keep copies in two safe places, preferably that are fire and water-resistant. Store deeds, wills, tax records, birth certificates, and other vital documents in a safe place like a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.
As a family, you can prepare for forecasted events like severe storms or floods, and for unexpected events like power loss or other emergencies. You cannot control the weather, terrorism or other disasters. However, you can control how you respond to, stay safe during and recover from an emergency event.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2019, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1 [PR_FHab18]