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?)
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?