When I was growing up, my father worked as a safety manager at a petrochemical plant in Alberta. Safety was his job, but also his passion, and so sitting around the kitchen table reviewing our family emergency plan was a yearly ritual: What do we do if the fire alarm goes off? How do we get out of each room of the house? Where do we meet up?
I always found it pretty exciting as a kid, and the importance of planning for the unexpected stuck with me. Also, once I’d moved away from home, I could expect my visiting father to look for the fire extinguishers and ask about my escape route within minutes of setting foot in any new place I was renting - and I’d better be ready with an answer!
These days, I’ve come to realize that “emergency preparedness” means more than it used to when I was growing up. Every year, the number of severe weather or dangerous environmental situations affecting Canadians seems to increase. The reality is that we could find ourselves encountering a crisis at any time of year, whether we're at home or on the road.
The general guidance from our government is that in the event that we’re cut off from power, supplies and assistance, we should be able to look after our own needs for at least 3 days. This allows strapped emergency crews to focus on the most vulnerable people first.
Despite my upbringing, I initially found the idea of preparing for these types of situations to be a little overwhelming. Putting together an emergency kit seemed like a great place to start. I found a good checklist online and assembled the following:
- Water: a couple of larger containers and some smaller water bottles that are easier to carry
- Food: cans, granola and energy/protein bars (small with lots of calories) - and an extra can opener just for the kit
- This awesome hand-crank flashlight that my mom put in my Christmas stocking one year
- A tiny little radio that runs on batteries (+ back up batteries)
- First aid kit - I bought a small one that was pre-packed with all the essentials like bandages, wipes, and ointments
- Some painkillers, and an extra doses of my allergy medications
- A key ring with a set of extra house keys
- An envelope with cash in smaller denominations
- One of those little toothpastes I got from the dentist on my last check-up, and an extra toothbrush
- A little bottle of hand sanitizer
- Candles and matches
- A photocopy of my passport and insurance info, sealed in a plastic bag
- An extra charging cord for my mobile phone
I tucked my life-saving kit somewhere out of the way, but easy to grab. As a final check, I made sure my kit was not too heavy or cumbersome to carry should I need to throw it in the car, or travel somewhere by foot.
Packing all the items on the list got me thinking about emergencies in a less panicky and more proactive manner. Now that that was done, what about a plan for me and my loved ones? What happens if an emergency hits, and we’re not together? Where would we meet-up? How would we get word to each other, if communication systems were down? With the help of this online guide I was able to put together a plan that covers those scenarios, and review it with my partner and family.
Of course, my car is the final piece of my emergency prep package. I always make sure its maintenance is up to date and I keep the tank full. That way, in the case of a sudden evacuation order, I’m ready to go. I also keep an extra kit in the trunk packed with anything I might need if I were to be stranded on the road.
This year, I updated my emergency kits by purchasing ones put together by the experts at the Red Cross. The great thing about these is that they are compact, light and packed with all of the essentials mentioned above PLUS some useful extras: Mylar sleeping bags! Light sticks! Multi-purpose tools! I gotta say, these kits feel COMPLETE.
The world around us continues to be unpredictable, but I feel a little better about things, knowing that I’ve taken some steps to look after myself and my loved ones in the event of a crisis. If you haven’t already, I hope you will too. The first week of May is Emergency Preparedness Week #ReadyForAnything so the timing is just right to give your kits, plans and cars a once over, and make sure you’re ready for whatever surprises might come our way.
How do you stay prepared for the unexpected? What emergency kit items did I forget? Leave your tips and stories in the comments below!
(My Dad is going to be so proud when he reads this post.)
~ Paul D.