Emergency Preparedness

None of us want to imagine the worst - but as many Ottawa residents have experienced in the past couple of years, sometimes the worst happens. The tornado that touched down in Orleans last night is the latest in unusual weather events (like 2018’s tornado and the 2017-2019 floods) that we can expect to be coping with as climate change intensifies.

Ottawa tornado

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 a tornado, or freezing rain (or even a pandemic) carrying me away any time soon, I am conscious of the need to prepare for any disaster.

Trees bent under the ice

Trees bent under the ice

The City of Ottawa has a great page 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?