May 3-9, 2009 is Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada.
This subject is dear to my heart, given that my nickname among family members is Chicken Licken (“The Sky is Falling!”)
Emergency Preparedness Week, sponsored by Public Safety Canada, aims to “make sure that in the event of flood or power outage, or other natural or unnatural disaster, Canadians will be prepared to take care of themselves and their families for at least 72 hours.”
Years ago, I might have seen this campaign as paranoia, but in the last few years or so in Canada not only have certain parts of the country been dealing with floods and ice storms, but power outages are par for the course in many urban and rural centres now.
Last week it took me 5 hours to get through to Toronto Hydro after a 15 minute wind storm knocked out power in my parents’ neighbourhood.
And just last summer, as we were anticipating a delicious roast (flu-free) piglet for my little nephew’s second birthday, a propane blast in the North York, Ontario, residential neighbourhood shattered the windows of my brother in law’s house, and the piglet was fast abandoned as they picked up and ran, a huge wall of fire blazing just two blocks away.
So no, I don’t think it’s unnecessary or even silly to think about planning for the unknown.
Ironically enough, if you live in an urban centre, you can be even more isolated during an emergency, because we’re so reliant on power and technology to keep us going.
In the country, however, many people have gotten used to hydro going off during summer thunderstorms, or winter snowstorms. It’s not unusual these days for people to have a backup generator to run at least an appliance or two.
And you can’t panic so much if you’re near a lake or other water source that doesn’t have to be pumped out, and have a wood burning fire where you can heat up a comforting can of baked beans or two.
But when the power outage lasts more than a day, most people start getting antsy.
So whether you’re on the road, or at home, here are a few quick and basic tips I’ve gathered on getting prepared.
It might seem like common sense, but it was surprising how much work it was to gather and organize everything
so that it could be found in the dark, or in a panic.
For a more elaborate list, or to buy an emergency kit, refer to www. Getprepared.ca.
For tips on dealing with pandemic threats such as “swine” flu, see Editor James Menzies’ latest entry: Swine flu: Media hype or a real concern?
1) Keep cash on hand, in your truck, car or home. Keep smaller bills and lots of change. Highly likely the ATMs will be on the fritz and debit/credit banking not operating during some emergencies.
2) Keep at least three days’ supply of drinking water, in your truck or home. Even the Greens will forgive you buying plastic. If you’re the ultimate in paranoid, boil a kettle of water each night to have on the stove.
For washing, keep a supply of baby wipes in your vehicles and home, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol and/or 3% hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting.
3) Keep at least three days’ supply of non-perishable foods, like canned beans, evaporated milk, soups, and pastas, instant noodle packs, dried fruits, granola bars, chocolate, hard candies, and sterilized tetra packs of milks and juices. Mark the canned goods with a date and replace about once a year.
4) Have a small bag packed with a change of clothes, cash, and copies of your ID, bank accounts, etc. if you have to leave your home in a hurry. If you’re packing for kids make sure that you have clothes that fit their current sizes and a couple of entertainment items too.
5) If you need certain medications, make sure you have copies of prescription repeats, and carry an extra supply of medicines at all times. Some items need refrigeration, so always keep an ice pack going in the freezer, while other items are stable at room temperature for several weeks.
6) Light and heat sources: Keep flashlights, batteries, radios and blankets in your vehicle and somewhere you can easily access at home. There are wind-up/crank versions available if you have elbow grease but no batteries. A small camping stove, barbecue and supply of propane ensures you’ll be able to heat some meals if needed.
7) Evacuation plans? If you know someone in your family will need help, such as an elderly or disabled person, set up a buddy system with neighbours, family members or friends, so that that person has a point of contact if you are not there. If they’re in a high-rise building, know what the evacuation procedures are for those needing extra assistance.
8) If you somehow cannot reach family members during an emergency, set up an agreed-upon area in advance, where you can try to meet, or a third person contact, to relay messages to.
9) Toolkit: Remember that small household items like cutlery, bottle openers, scissors, nail files, tweezers, and knives are items that you always need but may easily forget, so get a swiss army knife or something similar to keep on hand in your bag or vehicle.
10) Fuel: Always stay fuelled up, with at least half a tank, so that in the event of fuel shortages you can still cover some distance.
11) The Baseball Bat: For some people, like my husband, this is the only item you need in a crisis. According to him, you can either use it to ward off people trying to steal from you, or you can use it to “barter for goods” when your supply runs out or when sadly, you did not prepare for the worst.
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