The Big One is Coming, so Be Prepared

Handling emergency situations is easier and safer when you have a plan in place

The BC Liberal party displays the typical contents of a disaster emergency kit, during a demonstration in 2014. (flickr/Province of British Columbia)

The BC Liberal party displays the typical contents of a disaster emergency kit, during a demonstration in 2014. (flickr/Province of British Columbia)

When disaster strikes it’s best to have a plan. Preparation is key to keeping you and your loved ones safe, and handling an emergency is easier and less stressful when you know your role and have practiced what you need to do.

The first step is to know the types of emergencies that could occur in your area. According to PreparedBC, the most likely emergencies in British Columbians are natural disasters such as wild fires, floods, and earthquakes. These emergencies can all cause major disruptions to roads, communication, and essential services, so it’s best to prepare for the absolute worst. Emergency responders will report in right away, but there’s no telling how widespread the damage will be or how long it will take for responders to reach you.

Each household should have an emergency kit with survival essentials in it. The Canadian government recommends that emergency kits should include first aid kits, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, a whistle, extra cash, garbage bags, seasonal clothing for cold and warm weather, toiletries, a map with a designated family meeting spot, blankets, cell phone chargers, extra batteries, a can opener, matches, rain gear, plastic sheets, sleeping bags, a multi-purpose tool, and some sort of game or activity that can be used to distract yourself, like a book or a deck of cards.

It’s also important to pack personal items that may be essential to yourself or your family such as extra medication, baby food and diapers, an extra pair of glasses or contacts, and food for family pets. Having a copy of important documentation such as passports, birth certificates, and insurance papers can also be incredibly helpful.

The two most essential elements for survival are food and water. You can live without a flashlight, but not without proper hydration. British Columbia’s government website recommends that a family store “four liters of water per person per day” but that number should increase if you live in a warm climate region. Families should also pack enough non-perishable food for a couple days per person, and food should be checked annually for expiration dates and updated when necessary.

Once you’ve gathered the essential items needed to survive, it is important to create a plan to stay safe and meet up with loved ones. The Government of Canada’s Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness highly recommends that each family has a detailed plan for when an emergency occurs as it “will save time and make real situations less stressful.”

This plan should include a family meeting place on your property and a secondary meeting place at a safe and secure location, instructions on who should pick up children from school, a call list to get into contact with family in the affected area, instructions on where to find your emergency kit, and instructions for how to turn off utilities such as gas valves and electrical panels that could cause additional problems.

Multiple households can also come together and form a neighbourhood plan, as those close to you will be the ones you will rely on in an emergency.

Hopefully an emergency doesn’t happen anytime soon, but making a kit and having a plan to follow doesn’t take that much time and it can make a world of difference. While it may seem like a lot of work for something that may not happen, it will be incredibly important if it does. Being prepared for possible emergencies will give you the tools to mitigate the risk to yourself, your family, and your neighbourhood. You might even sleep better knowing you are ready for anything.

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