Do you have a plan for you and your family in the event of an emergency? Many of us talk about doing this but life sometimes gets in the way of best intentions. The current flooding and mud slide emergencies in our province and across the country serve as a good reminder that natural disasters are beyond our control. Emergencies can happen anytime and anywhere. In recognition of National Emergency Preparedness Week (May 7-13) you are encouraged to take action to be better prepared.
The first 72 hours of an emergency are critical. It is important that we are able to be self-sufficient while rescue workers are mobilized to help those in urgent need. There are three simple steps to help you to take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Every community and region has specific risks and it is helpful for you to be aware of the risks in your area. In coastal BC there are numerous hazards that can trigger emergency situations such as earthquakes, severe storms, tsunamis, wildfires, etc. By educating yourself about these risks you can be better prepared.
During an emergency we can often feel helpless and overwhelmed. Having a family plan will save time and can make the situation less stressful. It will take about 20 minutes to put your plan together. Often family members are not together so you will need to agree upon places to meet and who/how to contact each other. You should include a neighbourhood safety plan by identifying those neighbours who may require extra help. You may also want to develop a plan for your pets as some emergency shelters will not be able to include pets during an evacuation. Make copies of your plan and keep it in a safe and accessible place.
As previously mentioned, it is important for you and your family to be self-sufficient for a period of at least 72 hours. An emergency kit should contain basic supplies including a battery-operated flashlight and radio as well as water, food and a first aid kit including critical medications. You will need additional personal items for each family member. The kit should be kept in an easy to find location and all family members should know where to find it. You can use a backpack, duffle bag or a suitcase with wheels. It is also a good idea to have an emergency car kit.
Make a plan to check your kit annually and replace expired food, water, and medications. It is also helpful to store a copy of your emergency plan in your emergency kit.
By preparing today you will be better able to cope both during and after a natural disaster or emergency. It will also give you peace of mind knowing that you have a plan in place for your family. You can find helpful information and checklists at the "Get Prepared" Government of Canada website.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for the Sunshine Coast and Powell River.