The end of October a terrible time for disasters in the news in North America. Haida Gwaii, on the west coast of Canada, experienced the biggest earthquake recorded in the country since the quake in the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1949. Meanwhile, on the east coast of both Canada and the US, Hurricane Sandy causing huge amounts of damage to many areas due to flooding and high winds. The storm affected Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and at least 14 states. Fallout from the storm included high wind damage, flooding across coastal areas, and blizzards in mountainous regions.
In many areas of both Canada and the US, residents do not feel like they need to be prepared for natural disasters. While it seems important if you live in a hurricane or tornado area, most people don’t see the value in preparing for events that they’ve never seen happen before. It’s human nature, apparently, to deny to yourself that bad things can happen unexpectedly. According to the Canadian Red Cross, over 60% of people are not prepared at all for a natural disaster.
The truth is though, that it’s a good idea to be prepared for a disaster, no matter where you live. While it does take some time and money to get prepared, you will sleep easier knowing that you and your family will fare better if something does happen.
Emergency preparation will be, at least in part, dictated by what kind of problem is likely to happen in your area. Some areas are more prone to big storms, while others might be far more likely to be hit by an earthquake, a blizzard, or a wildfire. Plan out your house/contents insurance accordingly, based on your area, so that if something happens to your home your insurance will cover the damage. Don’t take it for granted that you are covered for any disaster by your regular insurance, there are many specific types of damage that aren’t covered by a standard policy!
Don’t be like so many people and just franticly run to the store when you hear that a disaster is headed your way. Take some time to plan ahead so that you have enough food and water to sustain yourself, other family members, and your pets, for at least 72 hours. Don’t just stock up on salty snacks and junk food either, in times of emergency it’s extra important to make sure that you are eating food that will keep you fueled to deal with your situation.
Some vital supplies to have:
- 2L of water per person per day (for 72 hours, this will be 6L of water each just for drinking)
- Non-perishable food that doesn’t need to be heated/cooked (also, food that doesn’t require water is best, in case something happens to your water supply)
- Can opener
- Crank/battery powered radio
- Crank/battery flashlights
- Extra batteries
- First Aid kit (make sure that your kit includes: numerous pairs of latex gloves, antiseptic wash, steri-strips (for any wound that would potentially require stitches), ibuprofen/aspirin, antihistamines, menstrual pads (these can double as wound dressings), and extra medication for anyone in the family that requires prescriptions). While having a first aid kit is a necessity when you’re preparing for an emergency, it’s also a good idea for someone in your home to have taken at least a basic or emergency first aid course.
- Specialty items: babies, special needs family members, or the elderly may require additional items particular to their needs
- Emergency blankets, wool blankets, and/or sleeping bags.
- Cash in small bills
- Extra keys
- Change of clothing: comfortable, dry clothes can be a life-saver in times of emergency. Pack these either in zippered freezer bags or use a vacuum sealer to make sure that they’ll stay dry.
- Hygiene products: toilet paper, toothpaste & toothbrushes, feminine hygiene products, hand sanitizer.
- Other: plastic sheeting (plastic painter’s drop cloth or cheap shower curtain works well for this), duct tape, multi-tool, scissors, knife, whistle (to alert rescuers)
Many of the supplies for an emergency may overlap with your family’s camping gear. The first (or last) camping trip of the year can provide an ideal time for renewing your food and water supplies; once a year, it’s a good idea to restock your emergency water supply and depending on the best before dates, restock your emergency food as well. If you keep your camping gear sorted into plastic totes and kept in a convenient location in your home, additional emergency preparedness will be minimal.
Plan for Your Pets!
If you have pets, make sure that you consider their needs as well. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to keep your pet safely confined in the case of a natural disaster if they are injured or scared. It’s a good idea to make sure that you have a crate or carrier for that type of situation. Also keep in mind that your pet will need bottled water in addition to the water for the rest of the family. Make sure that for large dogs, you have at least as much water set aside for them as you would for an adult human.
No matter how unlikely it may be for your family to be affected by a disaster, it is always a good idea to be prepared. Preparing a collection of emergency stores can literally be the difference between life or death in the case of a natural disaster. For more information about preparing yourself and your family for this kind of situation, check out the Canadian Red Cross website.