Emergency preparedness: be ready, be safe

A smiling child holds a flashlight. After a tumultuous summer in which out-of-control wildfires and intense rains and flooding affected thousands of people in Nova Scotia, the oncoming hurricane season may feel like insult added to injury. The best way to stay safe in a natural disaster is to be prepared.

Know the risks
Nova Scotians may face a variety of weather-related disasters over the course of the year, including hurricanes; extreme cold, snow and ice; and fire and flash-flooding. Industrial accidents are possibilities all year round, especially if you live close to an industrial area, power station, train tracks or a port.

Make a plan
An emergency preparedness plan needs to consider your family, your belongings and your home. See this template to create your own emergency plan.

Your emergency plan should include a document that summarizes each of your family members’ location and contact details, plus designated people who can pick up your kids if you are unable to do so, and emergency contacts within and outside your community. Keep in mind that if power and internet go down, you won’t be able to search for contact information online. Add any relevant information, such as pet supplies and documentation. Know what you’ll do and where you’ll go in an emergency, including likely travel routes and destinations.

Make sure that you know where the following items are in your home, and how to use them:

  • fire extinguishers
  • water main and gas shut-off valve
  • electrical breaker box
  • basement floor drains

Gather what you’ll need
It’s a smart plan to make an emergency kit (here’s a handy checklist). You’ll need to be prepared for two scenarios: that you’ll need to shelter in place for 72 hours or more, or that you’ll need to evacuate your home.

Your emergency kit should contain enough to sustain you and your family for 72 hours, including:

  • drinking water (2L/person/day and 1L/pet/day)
  • non-perishable food for people and pets
  • manual can opener
  • medication or specialized medical supplies

You should also have the following emergency supplies:

  • power packs for your devices
  • battery-operated or wind-up radio
  • flashlight and extra batteries
  • first aid kit
  • spare house and car keys
  • cash in small bills

 If it looks likely you’ll need to evacuate, add:

  • essential paperwork: a copy of your emergency plan and contact info, identification and insurance information
  • appropriate outdoor gear (rain gear, winter clothing, boots, etc., as appropriate)
  • a change of clothes and shoes per person
  • sleeping bag/blanket
  • basic toiletries, face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer
  • camping supplies, such as disposable cutlery/dishes, garbage bags, toilet paper, bleach or water purifying tablets, basic tools, a camping stove and fuel, whistle, duct tape

If you are travelling in severe winter weather, it’s also smart to ensure you’ve got an emergency kit in your car. This should include: a small shovel, ice scraper and brush; sand/cat litter; tow chain; booster cables; antifreeze; warning lights/flares; flashlight and batteries and/or glow sticks; extra clothing and footwear; blanket; food and bottled water; hatchet; a first aid kit; and a compass. Always make sure your car is fuelled up and you have cash on hand.

Stay informed
Pay attention to the weather report and make sure you’re aware of the location of major industrial locations (such as oil refineries or power stations) near where you live. Tune in to a local news source (on the radio or online) to keep up with local news, and if there is a weather alert or warning in effect, ensure you know how to stay up to date on Nova Scotia emergency alerts and information.

Be ready to go
In emergency situations, you might not get much notice if you have to evacuate. Being prepared will make it easier to get to safety in a hurry, and may make it easier to return after the storm, too.

Once every quarter, invest some time in general preparedness:

  • Update your emergency plan
  • Check your emergency kits and restock if necessary
  • Update emergency information and check to make sure your paperwork is in order
  • Clean out your fridge and freezer to prevent excess food waste in case of a power outage
  • Check around the property – remove debris and branches, remove or secure loose items in yard

Act now. Take advantage of good weather conditions and ample availability of supplies to stock up your emergency kit and review your plans for keeping yourself and your family, pets, home and belongings safe in a crisis.

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