Prevention & Recovery

How to prepare for an emergency

Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

How to prepare for an emergency

This story was originally titled "Emergency Preparedness" in the May 2009 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

About a year and a half ago, close to 60 per cent of residents in Saskatchewan lost electricity due to a disruption in the power grid in the American midwest. In the event of a similar large-scale power outage or other emergency, you'll likely be on your own for the first 72 hours – the time needed for various levels of government to mobilize a response, says Gary Symonds, emergency management coordinator for the City of Toronto's office of emergency management. And many of us will be caught off guard: a 2008 Angus Reid survey showed that 74 per cent of Canadians are unprepared for an emergency. Here's what you need to know about emergency preparedness.

Supermarkets and restaurants may be closed, so it's important to keep a stock of food and water on hand.
Keep this stock separate from your regular food supplies. Include nonperishable goods such as canned vegetables, fruit, beans, meat and fish, and long-life boxed milk and juice. Also keep vegetable oil and dried rice, pasta and beans on hand, in case you still have some power and can cook. To determine how much food to store, draw up a typical week's meal menu and add a bit extra of everything. Don't forget treats; every tale of survival seems to include an account of how a simple square of chocolate made the ordeal manageable. Remember to stock food for your pets, too. Also, don't forget water. The rule of thumb is that each person and pet requires at least three litres of bottled water a day. To make it easier on your wallet, you can accumulate this food stock over a period of six weeks.

Cleanliness is essential to maintaining health during an emergency.
Soap, dishwashing liquid and other cleaners are inexpensive and effective. Strict attention to hygiene and cleanliness will help prevent the spread of disease. However, if someone does get sick or injured, tend to that person using alcohol-based wipes or gels, disinfectants, disposable plastic gloves and protective masks. Place the sick person in a separate room that is well ventilated and/or heated. If more than one person falls ill, try to nurse them in separate rooms.

Page 1 of 2 -- On page 2, learn how to make and store and emergency preparedness kit for your family.
Keep a supply of basic drugstore products.
Stock up on over-the-counter remedies for headaches, colds, scrapes or cuts, and insect bites and stings. Buy a home medical kit that includes essentials, such as bandages, which can be augmented as required. If someone in your family has a chronic condition, such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, ensure that there is sufficient prescription medication in the house to see him or her through the emergency and beyond. Sanitary napkins and disposable diapers may be essential to your preparedness plan, too. Boredom can sometimes lead to baby-making, so unless you're planning to increase the size of your family, ensure you have enough contraceptives on hand.

Determine what other emergency items you require.
At the very minimum, you should keep on hand the following: matches, candles, a flashlight, a portable radio and batteries. A thermal blanket might be useful, too, as would a book on survival techniques. Other useful items include a rope ladder, an axe and a shovel. Having a selection of games, books and toys is a good idea in case of a longer confinement. And don't forget to keep some cash on hand; at least enough to allow you to replace goods you've used.  

Keep emergency stores safe.
Select a dry space with a stable temperature that is safe from insects, rodents and foraging pets. Place your emergency supplies in large plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Clearly mark the contents. Check canned and packaged foodstuffs every six months for expiry dates and damaged containers. Replace bottled water every six months. Use all medications before they expire. If they have expired, safely discard and replace them.

Page 2 of 2 -- On page 1, find out what kind of food to keep on hand in case of an emergency.


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Prevention & Recovery

How to prepare for an emergency