Emergency Preparedness

There is a room at the hospital labelled with a sign: "Pandemic Storage." I walk by this room every day on my way to get a coffee at Second Cup. Sometimes I stop and peer in through the window. There are ladders, drywall and shelves, and everything is covered in a layer of dust. But it is busy in there, and preparations are being made. I'm not one to be an alarmist, and I recently read a great blog post on the threat of Ebola to non-African countries. In my work as a health researcher, I am well aware of the multitude of diseases that might kill me - it could even be my drive in to work one day. We are at risk of dying from many things, including disease, accidents, and natural disasters.

Despite a healthy perspective on risk, as a mother, I still worry. And as a former Girl Guide, the motto "be prepared" is ingrained in me. Although I don't see an Ebola epidemic sweeping through Canada any time soon, I am conscious of the need to prepare for any disaster (we all remember the Ice Storm, right?)

 Trees bent under the ice

Trees bent under the ice

The Government of Canada has a whole website dedicated to emergency preparedness. After years of a niggling voice telling me to get my butt in gear, I've finally decided to put together our family's Emergency Preparedness Kit.

Experts urge us to prepare for 72 hours. If a pandemic were sweeping the country, I'm not sure what 72 hours would do for us, but it makes sense when it comes to something like a natural disaster. Here's what the government includes as part of a basic emergency kit:

  • Easy to carry: think of ways that you can pack your emergency kit so that you and those on your emergency plan can easily take the items with you, if necessary
  • 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 (remember to replace the food and water once a year)
  • Manual can opener
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Battery-powered or wind-up radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • 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 payphones

This is a great list, and they also include "extras" that you can add. Given that we're a family who loves camping, we already have a lot of these supplies. It's just a matter of compiling all of this into a couple of bins, which could be transferred to backpacks if necessary.

Here's some of the extras I'll be adding to our family's emergency kit:

  • extra water for washing/cooking
  • basic tools (hammer, knife etc.)
  • our camping stove, fueled by white gas (we can fill several bottles full and keep them stored)
  • water purification tablets - safe, effective little tablets that will kill bacteria and viruses
  • carbon water filter (my husband owns one, and it's essential for backcountry camping!)
  • Flint fire starter and matches
  • Camping pots, dishes and cutlery
  • Waterproof food storage bags
  • Some personal toiletries

This might seem excessive to some (just check out this website, and you'll think my list is tame in comparison!), but it makes me feel better knowing I have this stuff available to me. Living in the modern world, we all too easily rely on convenience - we know we can buy what we need any time of the day. When preparing for an emergency, imagine what you would do if you couldn't access a store; if your cell phone was no longer working; if you were driven from your home; and if you had no access to electricity. Makes you think, right?

Do you have an emergency preparedness kit? What's in it?