After an emergency

These are general instructions that apply to many emergencies but not every situation is the same. Refer to the section: How to prepare for specific emergencies, for additional tips for specific emergency situations.

  • Try to stay calm
  • Check yourself and others for injuries. Give first aid to people who are injured or trapped. Take care of life-threatening situations first. Get help if necessary.
  • Check on neighbours, especially the elderly or people with disabilities
  • Confine or secure pets
  • Use the battery-powered or hand-crank radio from your emergency kit to listen for information and instructions
  • Do not use the telephone except to report a life-threatening injury. Please leave the lines free for official use.
  • If possible, put on sturdy shoes and protective clothing to help prevent injury from debris, especially broken glass
  • Stay away from damaged areas unless you are asked to help or are qualified to give assistance
  • Do not go near loose or dangling power lines. Downed power lines can cause fires and carry sufficient power to cause harm. Report them and any broken sewer and water mains to the authorities.

Returning home

Take care when re-entering your home. You should only re-enter your home when local authorities say it is safe to do so.

Re-entering your home

  • If you are inside, check the building for structural damage. If you suspect it is unsafe, leave and do not re-enter.
  • Do not turn on light switches or light matches until you are sure that there aren’t any gas leaks or flammable liquids spilled. Use a flashlight to check utilities.
  • Do not shut off utilities unless they are damaged, leaking (a gas leak smells like rotten eggs) or if there is a fire. If you turn the gas off, don’t turn it on again. This must be done by a qualified technician.
  • If you smell gas leave your house immediately and call 9-1-1
  • If tap water is available, fill a bathtub and other containers in case the supply gets cut off
  • If there is no running water, remember that you may have water available in a hot water tank, toilet reservoir or in ice cube trays
  • Water supplies may be contaminated so purify your water (Refer to: Water purification methods)
  • Do not flush toilets if you suspect that sewer lines are broken
  • If you are in a high-rise building, do not use the elevator in case of power failure. If you are in an elevator, push every floor button and get out as soon as possible.
  • If the power has been off for several hours, check the food in the refrigerator and freezer in case it has spoiled
  • Assess the damage systematically and thoroughly (Refer to: Damage checklist)
  • Notify your insurance agency of any damage
  • Don’t throw out damaged goods until an official inventory can be made by your insurance company or an emergency official
  • Keep records of all clean-up and repair costs incurred as a result of
    the disaster, including hotel, meal and travel costs
  • Get direction from authorities on how to clean and decontaminate after emergency situations such as a flood or hazardous material incident

Safety tip

Do not eat any food you think may be unsafe. When in doubt, throw it out.


For individuals and families who are adequately prepared for a disaster, recovery can begin almost as soon as disaster strikes.

Depending on the nature and severity of the disaster, recovery will need to occur on individual, family, community, provincial or national levels.

Individual and family recovery

  • Seek medical attention for any lingering complaints, unattended wounds, etc.
  • Expect to feel different for awhile (e.g. confusion, numbness, shock, anger, relief at being alive, grief, are all normal reactions)
  • Talk to family members about what they experienced and how they are feeling
  • Listen to one another; take advantage of available counselling
  • Make sure all family members (including children) have a specific tasks to do
  • Make every effort to stay together as a family as much as possible. Make rebuilding a group effort.