Preparing for an Emergency

City building

Be prepared - plan, evaluate, respond

Emergency preparedness is a basic survival skill. It is important for you to consider the steps you need to take to be prepared for emergencies, and how you will respond when an emergency happens.

You can't predict an emergency, but you can prepare for one. The best way to help ensure the safety of you and your loved ones is to have an emergency plan.

Plan – think ahead

By preparing both mentally and physically, you can increase your confidence and ability to handle a real emergency situation. Being prepared can reduce the fear, anxiety and losses that disasters often bring.

Family Communications Plan

During an emergency, phone lines may be damaged and networks could be down. It might be easier to reach someone using text messaging, social media or a phone call. Discuss with your family the ways you will try to get in touch with each other. Identify one or two out-of-town contacts you and your loved ones can call or text to connect and share information. Make sure they live far enough away so they will likely not be affected by the same emergency.

In emergencies, text messages may get through even when phone calls won't connect.

Always keep your communication devices (e.g. cellphone, laptop, tablets) fully charged.

Evacuation Plan

In case you are asked to evacuate your home or neighbourhood, select two safe locations where you could go in that situation. One should be nearby, like a library or community centre. The other should be farther away, in case the emergency affects a large area.

Plan how you would travel to the safe locations. If you have pets, think of someone who could take them if you have to leave your home.

Evacuation route

Make sure everyone in your home knows how to safely exit your home by a main exit and an alternate exit, like a garage or backdoor. If you have mobility issues or a disability, talk to your neighbours or building manager to make special arrangements.

In a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate your house, apartment or mobile home on a moment's notice. You should be ready to get out fast.

Develop an escape plan by drawing a floor plan of your residence. Using a black or blue pen, show the location of doors, windows, stairways, and large furniture. Indicate the location of emergency supplies (disaster supplies kit), fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, collapsible ladders, first aid kits and utility shut off points. Next, use a coloured pen to draw a broken line charting at least two escape routes from each room. Finally, mark a place outside of the home where household members should meet in case of fire.

Be sure to include important points outside such as garages, patios, stairways, elevators, driveways and porches. If your home has more than two floors, use an additional sheet of paper.

Practice emergency evacuation drills with all household members at least twice a year.

No two households are the same. When you're building your household emergency plan, be mindful of everyone in your household. Evaluate the needs of groups like seniors, people with disabilities, children and pets. You can visit the Government of Ontario emergency management website for information and resources on how to build an inclusive family emergency plan.

Evaluate – consider your options

Understanding your options during an emergency will help you to respond more consciously and manage your natural instincts of “fight, flight or freeze.” You may only have a few seconds to evaluate the situation, and in that moment you can ask yourself these types of questions:

  • Should I evacuate?
  • Where are the building exits?
  • Should I shelter-in-place?
  • How do I call for help?

Respond – take action

Once you have evaluated the situation and understand your options, you are able to choose how to respond to the emergency in the way that maximizes your safety. Remember:

  • Do not take unnecessary risks.
  • Remain as calm as possible.
  • Always use common sense.
  • Trust your instincts.

Be prepared

Tips on being prepared for an emergency or disaster in your community

  • Find out which local media outlets broadcast emergency instructions and monitor them regularly, particularly during uncertain weather conditions. Post the address/dial/channel numbers of these media outlets for easy access.
  • Have an arrangement in place with neighbours to advise each other of an emergency notification.
  • Be familiar with your workplace emergency plan and your children's school or day care emergency plans. Have backup care arrangements in place with the school or day care in case you are detained in an emergency.
  • Post all emergency plans and phone numbers in a prominent place at home and at your workplace.
  • In the event of an emergency, you may be instructed to evacuate or shelter-in-place.
  • Learn first aid. Professional medical assistance may not be immediately available.
  • Disaster preparedness on a budget.

Develop a Family Emergency Plan

Emergency planning can help to ensure an effective response to emergencies and disasters.

Have a family meeting to discuss potential emergency situations. Talk about what each family member should do in different situations.

Develop your plan based on an assessment of the kinds of emergencies that can occur in your province and community. Natural events can include winter storms, floods or tornadoes. Secondary events, such as water-induced landslides and toxic spills can follow a weather-related event and prolong a state of emergency. While the emergency incident may vary, the elements of an effective response are often the same.

Ensure elderly family members, who may not live with you, are included in your emergency plan.

Conduct a hazard audit of your home. Review fire safety features such as smoke detectors and how to monitor them. Check for frayed electrical cords or overloaded circuits. Don't keep flammable materials near electrical equipment or your furnace. Learn how to safely turn off main water and electrical switches in your home. Locate the safe areas in your home in case of a tornado (i.e.: interior bathrooms, closets, and lowest floor level).

Select a predetermined meeting place if a fire or other event forces your family out of your home. Ask someone outside your immediate area to act as a central point of contact for your family members, relatives and friends in an emergency.

Meet with your neighbours. Plan how the neighbourhood could work together after a disaster. Know your neighbour's skills (medical, technical). Consider how you could help neighbours who have special needs, such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans for child care in case parents can't get home.

Practice and maintain your plan. Disasters happen anytime and anywhere. And when disaster strikes, you may not have much time to respond.

A highway spill of hazardous material could mean instant evacuation.

A winter storm could confine your family at home. An earthquake, flood, tornado or any other disaster could cut off basic services (gas, water, electricity and telephones) for days.

There are six basic supplies you should stock in your home:

  • water,
  • food,
  • first aid supplies,
  • clothing and bedding,
  • tools and emergency supplies, and
  • special items.

Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy to carry container such as a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack or a duffle bag.

Emergency food supply

If activity is reduced, healthy people can survive on half their usual food intake for an extended period and without any food for many days. Food, unlike water, may be rationed safely, except for children and pregnant women.

If your water supply is limited, try to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don't stock salty foods, since they will make you thirsty. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole-grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.

You don't need to go out and buy unfamiliar foods to prepare an emergency food supply. You can use the canned foods, dry mixes and other staples on your cupboard shelves. In fact, familiar foods are important. They can lift morale and give a feeling of security in time of stress. Also, canned foods won't require cooking, water or special preparation.

Even though it is unlikely than an emergency would cut off your food supply for two weeks, you should prepare a supply that will last that long. A two-week supply can relieve a great deal of inconvenience and uncertainty until services are restored.

The easiest way to develop a two-week stockpile is to increase the amount of basic foods you normally keep on your shelves. Remember to compensate for the amount you eat from other sources, such as restaurants, during an average two-week period.

You may already have a two-week supply of food on hand. Just rotate your supply once or twice a year.

 

Nutrition and food storage advice

In a crisis, it will be vital that you maintain your strength. So remember:

  • Eat at least one well-balanced meal everyday.
  • Drink enough liquid to enable your body to function properly (two quarts a day)
  • Take in enough calories to enable you to do any necessary work.
  • Include vitamin, mineral and protein supplements in your stockpile to assure adequate nutrition.

Special considerations to keep in mind

As you stock food, take into account your family's unique needs and tastes. Try to include food that they will enjoy and that are also high in calories and nutrition. Foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking are best.

Individuals with special diets and allergies will need particular attention, as will babies, toddlers and the elderly. Nursing mothers may need liquid formula, in case they are unable to nurse. Canned dietetic foods, juices and soups may be helpful for the ill or elderly.

Make sure you have a can opener and disposable utensils. And don't forget non-perishable foods for your pets.

How to store your short-term stockpile

Keep canned foods in a dry place where the temperature is fairly cool, but not below freezing. To protect boxed foods from pests and extend their shelf life, store the boxes in tightly closed cans or metal containers.

Rotate your food supply. Use foods before they go bad, and replace them with fresh supplies, dated with ink or marker. Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in front.

Your emergency food supply should be of the highest quality possible. Inspect your reserves periodically to make sure that there are no broken seals or dented containers.

Storage tips

  • Keep food in the driest and coolest spot in the house – a dark area if possible.
  • Keep food covered at all times.
  • Open food boxes or cans carefully so that you can close them tightly after each use.
  • Wrap cookies and crackers in plastic bags, and keep them in air-tight containers.
  • Empty opened packages of sugar, dried fruits and nuts into screw-top jars or air-tight cans to protect them from pests.
  • Inspect all food containers for signs of spoilage before use.

How to cook if the power goes out

For emergency cooking you can use a fireplace, or a charcoal grill or camp stove out-doors only.

You can also heat food with candle warmers, chaffing dishes and fondue pots.

Important family documents

Keep these records in a waterproof, portable container:

  • Will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds
  • Passports, social security cards, immunization records
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit car account numbers and companies
  • Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers
  • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
  • Photos of family members in case you are separated in an emergency

Emergency kit for your home and car

Home emergency kit

Include enough supplies for a minimum of 72 hours:

  • Water
  • Non-perishable food (i.e. peanut butter, crackers, energy bars)
  • Can opener and eating utensils
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Radio and extra batteries, or crank-radio
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Medication (three day supply) and items for special needs (i.e. hearing aid batteries)
  • Cash and some change
  • Clothes and comfortable shoes for every member of your family
  • Copies of important documents (i.e. identification, passports, health cards, insurance policies)
  • Mobile device charger
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Filter mask or cotton t-shirt
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Household bleach
  • Wipes, garbage bags, plastic ties
  • Sleeping bags or blankets for each family member

Car emergency kit

  • First-aid kit
  • Non-perishable food (i.e. trail mix, energy bars)
  • Water
  • Blanket
  • Extra clothing and shoes (i.e. hat, mitts, coat, boots)
  • Seatbelt cutter
  • Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush
  • Sand, salt or kitty litter
  • Antifreeze / windshield washer fluid
  • Tow rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Warning light / road flares
  • Wind-up flashlight
  • Whistle
  • Copy of your emergency plan and important documents

Emergency scenarios

Active shooter or weapon

Surviving a situation that involves an active shooter or someone with a weapon depends on you taking action.

Plan

  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Notice the location of exits. Whether you are familiar with a building, or just visiting a building, always look for multiple ways out.
  • Seek shelter and lockdown (link to terminology page). Think of where you would take cover or hide if you could not leave the building and how you would keep the assailant out of your area (i.e. lock a door, barricade a door with heavy furniture, close blinds on windows so the assailant cannot see you, etc.)
  • Think of what you might need (food, water, medication) if you have to stay in one location for an extended period of time. In a situation like an active shooter, you may need to stay in lockdown for many hours while police deal with the assailant.

Evaluate

Situations happen quickly, so you must think fast about what you need to do to get yourself and others to safety. Consider:

  • Location: Where are you in relation to the incident? Are you in the area where the incident is taking place, outside, or in another part of the building? Your location affects your choices.
  • Is it safe to evacuate?
  • Where would I hide and lockdown, if I could not evacuate safely?
  • If my life depended on it, would I take aggressive action (fight) against the assailant?
  • What can I use to defend myself?

Respond

  1. Run (evacuate), Hide (lockdown), or as a last resort, Fight (take aggressive action against the assailant).
  2. Call 9-1-1 when it is safe to do so.
  3. If indoors, and you are being asked to lockdown, find a safe place to hide. Lock the doors. Clothes the blinds. Stay away from windows and doors. Turn your cell phone to silent mode. Remain quiet. Stay in lockdown until the Police arrive, and then follow their instructions.
  4. If outdoors or a safe distance away from the assailant, run away from the affected area. Do not stop until you are a safe distance away from the assailant and can seek shelter in another building.
  5. If you are in the immediate area of the assailant and you cannot get yourself to safety, take aggressive action toward the assailant. If possible, work with others to attack the assailant with a heavy object, cause a commotion by yelling and throwing items at the assailant, etc.
  6. At all times, trust your judgment.

Bomb threat

Plan

It is important to read through this information today so that if you are ever confronted with this situation, you will know what to do to keep you, your family or your colleagues safe. You may not have this information near you at the time, but you will remember and recall what you are reading now.

Evaluate

If you receive a bomb threat, do not assume it is a joke, prank or hoax. Respond immediately. Use the Bomb Threat Telephone Procedures Form to record information.

Respond

Remain calm; try to get someone's attention to listen in on the call; and obtain as much information from the caller:

  1. When is the bomb going to explode?
    1. Where is it?
    2. What does it look like?
    3. What will cause it to explode?
    4. Why did you place the bomb?
  2. If you have caller I.D., write down the number that is displayed. Remember:
    1. Woman's or man's voice?
    2. Approximate age?
    3. Accent?
    4. Tone of voice?
    5. Background noise?
  3. Notify police by calling 9-1-1. Provide the following information:
    1. Location of the emergency (building, floor number, room number)
    2. Nature and extent of the emergency
    3. Your name and a telephone number to reach you
    4. Follow the instructions of emergency personnel

Fire, smoke, explosion

Please refer to Peterborough Fire Services.

Flooding

A prolonged rainfall over a number of days, a large amount of rainfall in a short period of time, or a spike in warm temperatures causing rapid ice and snowmelt can cause rivers and streams to overflow their banks. These conditions can also cause roadways and properties to flood. You can find more information on on our website page for flooding.

Environment Canada and Otonabee Conservation issue flood messages for Peterborough:

Flood Watch – means a flood is possible in the area

Flood Warning – means that flooding is about to happen or is already happening in the area

Flash Flooding – means a rapid rising of flood waters that is usually caused by a large amount of rainfall in a short period of time that cannot be absorbed by the ground or storm sewer system fast enough.

Hazardous material spill

  • Call 9-1-1 to report a hazardous materials spill.
  • Alert others nearby of the problem and safely leave the immediate area.
  • Refer to Material Safety Data Sheets (M.S.D.S.) for details about the chemical.
  • If the spill is at your home or in your workplace, arrange to meet Emergency Responders to discuss the affected area, safe entry procedures, and any other hazardous or unknown conditions.
  • Follow instructions of Emergency Responders.

Shelter-in-place

Plan

Shelter-in-place means finding a safe location indoors and staying there until you are given an “all clear” or told to evacuate. You may be asked to shelter-in-place due to a chemical or radiological concern or other hazard.

Plan ahead for this type of situation by identifying a safe location in your home / workplace, etc. The safe room should be away from exterior doors, windows and walls if possible. If you cannot find a safe interior room, have materials on hand, such as plastic and duct tape to seal around doors and windows.

Think of what you might need in the safe room, (i.e. water, food, medication, phone charger, radio or internet access to monitor the situation and obtain up to date emergency information, etc.) if you had to shelter-in-place for several hours.

Label shut-off switches for H.V.A.C. systems and include written instructions if necessary. Ensure family members, employees, etc. know how to shut down these systems if it is necessary in the event of an emergency.

Respond

• Stay calm.

• Follow the direction of emergency services personnel.

• Go or remain indoors, and proceed to your safe location.

• Turn off H.V.A.C. systems, lights, etc. as directed by emergency services personnel.

• Seal doors and windows with plastic and duct tape, if advised to do so.

• Monitor local media and social media for up to date emergency information.

• Do not open doors and windows until you are instructed to do so by emergency services personnel.

• Wait in the safest location possible until you are given the “all clear” or told to evacuate.

Suspicious package

Do not touch, move, or open the object.

Typical characteristics of a suspicious letter or parcel include:

  • Excessive postage, no postage, or cancelled postage
  • No return address or obviously false return address
  • Packages that are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you
  • Excessive tape
  • Improper spelling or addressees names, titles, locations
  • Packages that are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or otherwise outdated
  • Rigid, bulky, lopsided, or uneven
  • Unexpected envelopes from foreign countries

Treat item as suspicious.

Isolate the area.

Evacuate the immediate area.

Notify the police by calling 9-1-1.

Request immediate assistance and follow instructions of emergency personnel.

Thunder/lightning storms

Before lightning strikes

  • Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Listen for weather updates on the radio or television, or monitor social media for the latest weather forecast.

When a storm approaches

  • Find shelter in a building or a car (avoid convertibles). Keep windows closed.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Leaving lights on does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightening.
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering in your home.

If caught outside

  • Seek shelter immediately. Do not take cover under tall trees or other tall structures.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
  • If you cannot get to a shelter, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible.
  • Do not lie flat on the ground. This will make you a larger target.

After the storm passes

  • Stay away from the storm-damaged areas.
  • Listen to the radio or television, or monitor social media for information and instructions.

If someone is struck by lightning

  • People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
  • Call for help or get someone to dial 9-1-1. Report your location and condition of the injured person.
  • The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both when they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Check for burns in both places. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight.
  • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give C.P.R.. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries.

Tornado

Familiarize yourself with these terms:

  • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Stay tuned to radio, television and social media for important weather alerts and updates.
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.

If you are in a structure:

  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level.
  • If there is no basement, go to the centre of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • Do not open windows.

If you are in a vehicle:

  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor or a sturdy, nearby building.
  • Follow the instructions noted above.

If you are outside, with no shelter:

  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression, and cover your head with your hands.
  • Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most injuries and fatalities.

Winter weather

Familiarize yourself with these terms:

  • Winter Storm Watch – means a winter storm is possible in your area.
  • Winter Storm Warning – means a winter storm is headed for your area.
  • Blizzard Warning – means strong winds, blinding driven snow, and dangerous wind-chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately.

When a winter storm watch is issued:

  • Listen to local radio or television stations, or monitor social media such as Environment Canada or The Weather Network for updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel.

When a winter storm warning is issued:

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves or mittens and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin.
  • As the wind increases, heat is carried away from a person's body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks
  • After the storm, if you shovel snow, be extremely careful. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion.
  • Avoid travelling by car in a storm, but if you must….
    • Carry a Disaster Supply Kit in the trunk
    • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing
    • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route

If you get stuck:

  • Stay in your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly coloured cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up into the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.

After the emergency or disaster

The dangers associated with a disaster are not over once the floodwater has receded or the tornado has passed.

Don't visit the disaster area. You may hinder rescue efforts. Monitor local media reports for when it is safe to return to your home or call the Public Inquiry number at 705-876-4636. They can also provide other post-incident advice and assistance.

Drive carefully and watch for debris, dangling or broken wires and damaged bridges and roads. Report problems to Police or Fire departments.

Use extreme caution. Wait until authorities advise you that it is safe to enter buildings that may have been structurally damaged.

Use only battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to examine your home for damage. Do not use candles or matches. Check for leaking gas pipes in your home. If you smell gas:

  • Immediately open windows and doors
  • Leave the house
  • Turn off the main gas valve
  • Go to another location and notify the gas company, Police and Fire departments
  • Do not re-enter the house unless authorities advise you that it is safe to do so.

If electrical appliances are wet (and you are not wet or standing in water) turn off the main power switch. Then, unplug the wet appliances and let them dry before checking them for visible damage. If there is no damage, reconnect the appliances and turn on the main power switch. If fuses blow when the power is restored, turn off the main power switch again and look for short circuits in your home wiring, appliances and equipment. If a problem still exists, call your utility company.

For employers

Public Safety Canada provides a guide to business continuity planning.

While governments, not-for-profit institutions, and non-governmental organizations also deliver critical services, private organizations must continuously deliver products and services to satisfy shareholders and to survive. Although they differ in goals and functions, Business Continuity Plans can be applied by all organizations.