Before an emergency

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning.

It can force you to evacuate your neighbourhood or confine you to your home. When an emergency occurs in our community, local government and non-government emergency services organizations will be there to assist you. It’s important to remember that in the event of a large-scale incident, local emergency responders can quickly become overwhelmed and may not be able to reach you immediately. To ensure the safety and well-being of you and your family, you should prepare now to take care of your own basic needs for at least the first 72 hours following a major disaster. It is important that you are prepared and understand your responsibilities during an emergency.

Safe home instructions

  • Post emergency contact numbers near all telephones. Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1.
  • Have a working carbon monoxide detector, smoke detector and fire extinguisher. If you live in an apartment, know where the fire alarms and fire exits are located.
  • Everyone in your home should know where to find the fire extinguisher. All capable adults and older children should know how to use it.
  • Identify the possible emergency situations in the community. Discuss how you will respond to each emergency.
  • Create a Home Escape Plan. Identify two escape routes from each room, and two meeting places: one near your home, one outside of your neighbourhood.
  • Prepare an emergency kit. Keep the kit in an accessible location and make sure it’s easy to carry.
  • Have a battery–powered or hand-crank radio available and listen to CJOY 1460 AM or Magic 106.1 FM for local information and emergency instructions
  • Locate and label shut-off switches. Know how to turn off your home’s water, electricity and gas. Make large, easy-to-see signs for water and gas shut-offs as well as for the breaker panel or fuse box. Clearly label the on-off positions and show family members how to shut off these services. Natural gas service should be left on, unless officials tell you to turn it off. If advised to turn off your gas meter, or the supply of gas is interrupted, the gas company or an authorized technician must turn it back on. Please do not attempt to re-activate your gas meter.
  • Identify local and out-of-area contacts for family members to call if separated
  • Make arrangements for members of your family with special needs: children, elderly, disabled, medical illness, pets
  • Take a Basic First Aid or CPR class
  • Know your insurance. Make sure that you have adequate coverage to meet your needs (type of coverage, amount of coverage, hazards covered).
  • Keep family records in a water and fireproof safe (passports, birth certificates, etc.)

Develop a plan

Your best defence in protecting yourself and your family during an emergency is knowing what to do and planning ahead. Emergency preparedness is the planning process a family takes to ensure they can survive a disaster. Your Personal Preparedness Guide will help your family prepare for and respond to disasters when they occur.

When creating your home emergency plan, you will need to think about:

  • Safe exits from home and neighbourhood
  • Meeting places to reunite with family or roommates
  • Designated person to pick up children should you be unavailable
  • Local and out-of-area contacts
  • Health information
  • Place for your pet to stay
  • Risks in our community
  • How you and your family will respond to each possible emergency situation
  • Location of your fire extinguisher, water valve, electrical box, gas valve and floor drain

After developing your household emergency plan you should review it with your family every six months to make sure that it’s up-to-date.

Home escape plan

During a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate your home on a moment’s notice. You and your family should be ready to get out fast.

  • Draw a floor plan of your home using the grid. Include the location of doors, windows, stairs and large furniture.
  • Indicate the location of emergency supplies, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, first aid kits and utility shut-offs
  • Use a coloured pen to draw a broken line charting at least two escape routes from each room, if possible
  • Mark a place outside of your home where family members should meet after the evacuation
  • Make sure you include important points outside such as garages, patios, stairs and porches
Escape plan showing doors, windows, stairs, furniture, emergency supplies, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, first aid kits, utility shut-offs, emergency kit and escape route and meeting place.

If you live in an apartment, make sure that everyone in your family knows where the emergency exit is. Locate the fire alarm and explain when and how to use it. In a fire or other emergency, never use the elevators. They may not work if the power goes out.

Safety tip

Practice emergency evacuation drills with all household members every six months.

Basic emergency kit

Emergencies and disasters can happen at any time. Utilities can be out, roads closed, and crucial supplies unavailable. While local, provincial and federal officials prepare for emergencies, individuals can plan to be prepared at home and at work.

Everyone should be prepared to take care of themselves and their families for up to three days in the event of an emergency or disaster.

You may have some of these basic emergency kit items already, such as a flashlight, battery-operated radio, food, water and blankets. The key is to make sure they are organized, easy to find and easy to carry (in a suitcase with wheels or in a backpack) in case you need to evacuate your home.

  • Emergency plan – include a copy of it and ensure it contains local and out-of-area contact information
  • Water – two litres of water per person per day (include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order)
  • Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods
  • First aid kit
  • Manual can opener
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank flashlight(and extra batteries)
  • Candles and matches or lighter
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries)
  • Special needs items – prescription medications, infant formula or equipment for people with disabilities
  • Extra keys for your car and house
  • Cash – include smaller bills, such as $10 bills (travellers cheques are also useful) and change for pay phones

Safety tip

Replace water, canned food and dry goods once a year.

Additional emergency supplies

The basic emergency kit will help you get through the first 72 hours of an emergency. In addition to this kit, we recommend you also have the following additional emergency supplies. Then you will be well equipped for even the worst emergency situations.

  • Change of clothing and footwear for each household member
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
  • A whistle in case you need to attract attention
  • Garbage bags for personal sanitation
  • Toilet paper
  • Safety gloves
  • Disposable plates and cups, knives, forks and spoons
  • Soap, liquid detergent, unscented household chlorine bleach
  • Basic tools – hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, fasteners, work gloves
  • Small fuel-driven stove and fuel – follow manufacturer’s directions and store properly
  • Two additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning
  • Other personal care supplies – shampoo, hairbrush, tooth brush and toothpaste, soap and a towel and face cloth
  • Copies of personal documents such as passport and birth certificate

Safety tip

Store copies of important family documents in a watertight, fireproof, portable container. Keep copies of your important documents in a safe place outside your home as well, such as a safety deposit box.

Emergency car kit

Every driver should carry a survival kit in his or her vehicle.
Here are some important items to consider:

  • Food that won’t spoil, such as energy bars
  • Water in plastic bottles so they won’t break if frozen (change every six months)
  • Blanket
  • Extra clothing and shoes
  • First aid kit
  • Small shovel, scraper and snow brush
  • Candle in a deep can and matches
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank flashlight
  • Whistle in case you need to attract attention
  • Road maps
  • Copy of your emergency plan and personal documents

Also keep these inside your trunk:

  • Sand, salt or cat litter (non-clumping)
  • Vehicle fluids (windshield washer, gas-line antifreeze, motor oil, transmission oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, anti-freeze)
  • Tool kit, including various screwdrivers, pliers, utility knife, ratchet socket set, a four-way wrench, Vice-Grip pliers, rolls of electrical and duct tape, seat belt cutter
  • Assortment of spare fuses
  • Tow rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Warning light or road flares

Safety tip

Keep you vehicle’s gas tank at least half full at all times, especially in the winter. Remember to have your vehicle serviced regularly. Drive carefully.

Food preparation

  • If the power goes out, use a barbecue, charcoal grill or camp stove, outdoors only. Your cooking area should be well ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Food can be heated indoors using candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots
  • During a power outage use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator. Next, use the foods from the freezer. Finally, begin to use non-perishable foods and staples.

Safety tip

Minimize the number of times you open the freezer and fridge by posting a list of contents on it. Food in a freezer will remain safe to eat for 24 to 36 hours without power. A refrigerator will keep food cool for four to six hours without power.

Safe food handling

Wash hands properly before handling food

  • Wet hands with warm water, add soap and rub palms together to create lather
  • Thoroughly cover all surfaces of your hands and fingers with lather and work fingertips into palms to clean under nails
  • Rinse well under warm running water
  • Dry with a single-use towel and then use towel to turn off the tap
  • Hands should be washed for a minimum of 15 seconds

If running water is not available, follow the steps above using a bucket or pail of water

If a water source is not available, a liquid hand sanitizer is recommended

  • Apply enough product to keep hands moist for 15 seconds
  • Rub product into palms and thoroughly cover all surfaces of the hands and fingers
  • Rub fingertips of each hand into the opposite thumb
  • Keep rubbing until hands are dry
  • Do not rinse with water or use paper towel to dry hands

Water Safety

Contaminated water can contain micro-organisms that cause disease. It may be necessary to purify water if you are unsure of its quality before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene.

If your drinking water is made unsafe as a result of an emergency situation, the Medical Officer of Health may issue a Boil Water Advisory (BWA) or a Drinking Water Advisory (DWA).

BWA is issued when there is a known or suspect bacterial contamination of the water system.

Water purification methods during a BWA

Boiling is the safest method of purifying water

  • Bring the water to a rapid boil for one minute
  • Let the water cool before drinking
  • Pour the water back and forth between two containers to add oxygen and improve the taste

Disinfection uses liquid chlorine bleach to kill micro-organisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 per cent sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient. Do not use scented bleaches, colour-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.

  • Add one to two drops of bleach per litre of clear water
  • If the water is cloudy, treat with three to four drops of bleach per litre
  • Stir and let stand for 30 minutes
  • If the water does not have a slight bleach odour, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes

DWA is issued when there is a known or suspect chemical contamination of the water system. When a DWA is issued boiling your water will NOT make it safe to drink. The water must not be consumed under any circumstances and there may be restrictions on other common household uses. During a DWA, the City will attempt provide an alternate source of drinking water.


The information in this guide applies to everyone; however, people with special needs such as young children, the elderly, persons with disabilities or persons with medical illness may want to consider some of the following steps as well.

For baby and children

Disasters have a big impact on children. Parents typically work or act more effectively when they know their children are secure. To make sure that children feel secure and useful, involve them in the family emergency planning process.

Essentially, children need the comfort of knowing that they will be cared for.

Teach your children – according to their age:

  • How to identify hazards
  • How to evacuate and where to go
  • Basic survival skills in cases of fires, tornadoes or other disasters when adults may not be with them
  • Where your emergency kit is located
  • How to reach an out-of area contact and when to call 9-1-1

Add necessary items to your emergency kit, such as:

  • Bottles and formula (include extra water if powdered or concentrate)
  • Special foods
  • Disposable diapers
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Extra clothing
  • Medications
  • Toys and books
  • Special comfort items (blanket, stuffed animal, soother)

For elderly adults

  • Involve senior family members in your plan. Their experience of living in a less complicated and technologically dependent world can be extremely valuable.
  • If older adults are likely to be separated from you in times of disaster, have prearranged meeting places and share out-of-area contacts
  • If members of your family live in senior housing or nursing homes, make sure you know the facility’s emergency policies and how to contact key individuals
  • Consider hearing and sight impairments in your emergency planning (e.g. will smoke detectors be loud enough, etc.)
  • Practice evacuation plans to test how they work and make necessary changes
  • Review and adjust your plans if health or living conditions change
  • Register any health needs with appropriate agencies (e.g. continual power or oxygen supply)

 Add necessary items to your survival kit, such as:

  • Medications
  • Daily living aids (hearing aids and spare batteries, glasses, denture care, etc.)

For persons with disabilities

Persons with disabilities represent a wide range of physical, intellectual and mental health issues.

  • Involve persons with disabilities in your plan. Ask for feedback and listen to suggestions.
  • Consider special evacuation needs and equipment such as ramps, ambulatory devices, etc.
  • Practice evacuation plans to test how they work and make necessary changes
  • Wear medical tags or bracelets to identify your illness or disability in an emergency

Add necessary items to your survival kit, such as:

  • Medications
  • Daily living aids (hearing aids and spare batteries, glasses, denture care, walking aids, etc.)

For persons with medical illness

  • Create a network of relatives or friends to assist you in an emergency. Involve them in your emergency planning. Show them how to operate any medical equipment you use and practice your emergency procedures.
  • Persons who receive home health care services should discuss emergency plans with their caregiver or home care agency. Individuals should check with their physicians to establish whether prior arrangements would be necessary to evacuate to a hospital.
  • Wear medical tags or bracelets to identify your illness or disability in an emergency

Include necessary aids or special supplies to your emergency kit:

  • Batteries for medical equipment or hearing aids, assistive devices, etc.
  • Current prescription names, strengths and dosages
  • Detailed information about the medication regime
  • Names and contact information for physicians and pharmacists

For pets

Pets are an important part of many families. Preparation and planning for the care of pets should be considered when planning for an emergency and will help you to evacuate your pets quickly and safely. Keep in mind that animals react differently under stress and should not be left unleashed or unattended.

  • Contact your veterinarian, local animal shelter, or animal hospital for advice on pet boarding or emergency shelter for pets in a disaster
  • Arrange for out-of-area friends or relatives to shelter your pet in
    an emergency
  • Keep a list of hotels and motels outside your immediate area that allow pets. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead to make reservations.

Include pet supplies in your emergency kit:

  • Three-day supply of pet food and water
  • Bowls, kitty litter and pan, can opener
  • Medications, medical records, first aid supplies
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavioural problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers to safely transport pet
  • Pet treats and toys