Thinking about what you would do in different situations and preparing an emergency plan with every member of your family is a major step in emergency preparedness. Your plan should include:
1. Family communications plan
During an emergency, it may be easier to reach someone using text messaging or social media or to make a long-distance call than to call someone locally (due to network damage or a jammed system). Discuss with your family which way(s) 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 message to connect and share information. Be sure they live far enough away so they will not likely be affected by the same emergency.
Make sure everyone in your family, as well as your two key contacts, knows how to use text messaging. During emergencies, these messages may often get through even when phone calls may not. Always keep your communications devices fully charged.
2. Evacuation plan and route
Make sure everyone in your family knows how to safely exit your home using the main exit and an alternate one. Be sure to consider your living situation. For instance, if you live in a high-rise and have special needs, talk to your building manager or neighbours to make special arrangements, if necessary.
In case you are asked to evacuate your home, or even your area, select two safe locations you could go to. One should be nearby, such as a local library or community centre. The other one should be farther away, outside your neighbourhood, in case the emergency affects a large area. You should also plan how you would travel to that safe location if evacuation was advised.
If you have pets, think of someone who can take your pet(s) if you have to leave your home. Often, only service animals are allowed at receptions centres. If you plan to take your pet with you, consider what supplies your pet may need during an emergency. (See "Special Considerations" section below for more information.)
3. Emergency numbers
Teach children when and how to dial 911 and other key numbers they may need to call. Also keep a list of emergency numbers handy and make sure all members of your family know where to find the list with these phone numbers:
- Family doctor
- Family and friends who can lend support in a crisis
- Insurance contact
- Utility companies
4. Fire and other safety
Follow general household safety rules for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. More information on how many to have, where to place them, how often to check and replace them can be obtained from your local fire department.
5. Utility shut-off procedure
Every adult in your family, as well as older children, should also know how to turn off main utilities – water, electricity, gas. In certain emergencies, authorities will ask that these be turned off for safety reasons. Write out instructions, if needed, and post somewhere visible. Everyone should also know where the floor drain is located and ensure that it is not obstructed, in case of flooding.
6. Important documents
Make copies of important documents (insurance, main identification documents like driver's licence and passport, birth and marriage certificates, wills). Keep with your plan in a safe place. Consider sharing copies with out-of-town family members or keep a set in a safety deposit box.
Emergency Planning and Safety Beyond Your Home
Inquire at your workplace and your child's school or daycare about their emergency plans. Find out about their evacuation plans and how they will contact family in an emergency. Make sure that you keep all relevant contact information up to date at work and at your child's school or daycare, and make sure any people designated to pick up your child are familiar with your emergency plan.
Think of your neighbours. Identify anyone who may need assistance during an emergency and discuss a plan with them and other neighbours. For instance, help them prepare an emergency plan and emergency kit, and arrange to check in on that person during an emergency, like a power outage.
a) Planning for special needs
If you or anyone in your family has special needs, be sure your plan reflects them. For instance, for someone with special medical needs or a medical condition, you may want to include in your plan a medical history, copies of prescriptions, information for key health-care contacts. Your emergency kit should also contain extra medications and supplies. You may not have access to conveniences, such as pharmacies, immediately after an emergency has occurred. It is also a good idea to teach others about any special needs, such as how to use medical equipment or administer medicine.
b) Special considerations: planning for your pets
Animals, like every other member of your family, deserve the protection and security of emergency preparation. A comprehensive emergency plan includes planning care for your pets before, during and after an emergency.
Before an emergency occurs, contact motels and hotels in communities outside of your area to find out if they will accept pets in an emergency. If you have made plans to evacuate to the home of a friend or family member, ask if you can bring your pets. It is also a good idea to ask your veterinarian if he/she will take your pets in an emergency.
Keep your pet's shots current and know where the records are. Most kennels require proof of current rabies and distemper shots to accept pets. It is a good idea to keep these papers with the other documents you would carry if you need to evacuate.
For more tips and ideas to help with emergency preparedness, visit Public Safety Canada.
When Your Plan Is Ready
Keep your plan in an easy to reach location. A good place is with your emergency kit. Make sure everyone in your family knows where to find it.
Discuss your plan with other family and friends so they know what you would do in an emergency. Once a year, review your plan with the entire family. Update it to reflect any changes you want to make. At the same time, refresh your emergency kit with new food, water and other supplies.