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Before an emergency happens, it’s important to make sure you have a plan in place for your household. Follow the steps below to:
- develop your plan
- build an emergency kit
- make sure you stay informed should an emergency occur
Record the important details of your emergency plan using the format that works best for you, whether on paper or digitally. Make sure to include a copy of your plan in your emergency kit and share it with those in your household.
In an emergency, your household may not be together, or you may be asked to evacuate your home. Thinking about what you would do in different situations and making a plan with every member of your household is the first step to being prepared. Build your own Emergency Preparedness Action Plan for your household.
Emergency communications plan
During an emergency, network damage or a jammed system may make it difficult to call someone locally. It may be easier to reach someone using either:
- text messaging
- social media
- a long-distance call
Discuss with your household which way(s) you will try to get in touch with each other. Identify one or two out-of-town contacts you and your household members can call or text message to connect through and share information. Be sure they live far enough away so they will likely not be affected by the same emergency.
Record your main emergency contacts in your mobile device, post the information somewhere that is easily accessible and visible for your household members to get to and ensure a copy is kept in your emergency preparedness kit.
- contact 1
- contact 2
Make sure everyone in your household, as well as your two key contacts, knows how to use text messaging. During emergencies, these messages may often get through even when phone calls may not. Always keep your communication devices fully charged.
In case you are asked to evacuate your home, or even your area, select two safe locations you could go to. One should be nearby, such as a local library or community centre. The other one should be farther away, outside of your neighbourhood, in case the emergency affects a large area.
Record your safe meeting places, make sure all household members are aware of the locations and keep a copy in your emergency preparedness kit.
- safe meeting place 1 (near home)
- safe meeting place 2 (outside of my neighbourhood)
You should also plan how you would travel to a safe location if evacuation was advised. Have an emergency kit ready to take with you - see Step 2. And if you have pets, think of someone who can take your pet(s) if you have to leave your home. Often, only service animals are allowed at reception centres.
Record the following safety information, post it somewhere that is easily accessible and visible for your household and ensure a copy is kept in your emergency preparedness kit:
- my evacuation route
- location of my emergency kit
- location and contact information for pet assistance
Safety in your home
Make sure everyone in your household knows how to safely exit your home—by a main exit and an alternate one. Be sure to consider your living situation. For instance, if you live in a high-rise building and have accessibility needs, talk to your building manager or neighbours to make arrangements, if necessary.
- Review safe exits from home and record them.
Keep a list of emergency numbers at the ready and make sure all members of your household know where they are. Teach children when and how to dial 9-1-1 and other key numbers they may need to call. Here are some numbers you should consider having on this list:
- 9-1-1 (where available)
- family doctor
- poison control
- relatives & friends who can lend support in a crisis
- insurance contact
- utility companies
Fire and other safety
Follow general household safety rules for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. More information on how many to have, where to place them, and how often to check and replace them can be obtained from your local fire department.
- Review household fire and other safety measures and record them.
Utility shut-off procedure
Every adult in your household, and older children, should know how to turn off main utilities—water, electricity, gas. In certain emergencies, authorities will ask that these be turned off for safety reasons. Write out instructions, if needed, and post somewhere visible. Everyone should also know where the floor drain is located and ensure that it is not obstructed, in case of flooding.
- Review directions to turn-off utilities—including water valve, electrical panel and gas valve—and record them.
Make copies of important documents—insurance, main identification documents like a driver’s licence, passport, birth and marriage certificates, and wills. Keep these with your plan in a safe place. Consider sharing copies with out-of-town relatives or friends, or keep a set in a safety deposit box.
- Create a packet of important documents.
Safety beyond your home
Inquire at your workplace, and your child’s school or daycare about their emergency plans. Find out about their evacuation plans and how they will reach emergency contacts. Make sure that you keep all relevant contact information up to date at work and at your child’s school or daycare, and make sure any people designated to pick up your child are familiar with your emergency plan.
Think of your neighbours. Identify anyone who may need assistance during an emergency and discuss a plan with them and other neighbours. For instance, help them prepare an emergency plan and preparedness kit, and arrange to check in on that person during an emergency, like a power outage.
Planning for medical needs and disabilities
If you or anyone in your household has medical conditions or disabilities, be sure your plan reflects this information. For instance, for someone with medical needs or conditions, you may want to include in your plan a medical history, copies of prescriptions and contact information for key health-care providers. Your emergency kit should also contain extra medications and supplies. You may not have access to conveniences, such as pharmacies, immediately after an emergency has occurred. It is also a good idea to teach others about any medical needs, such as how to use medical equipment or administer medicine.
To learn more about emergency planning for disabilities, consult our guide for people with disabilities.
When your plan is ready
- Discuss your plan with other close contacts so they know what you would do in an emergency.
- Keep your plan in an easy-to-reach location. A good place is with your emergency kit. Make sure everyone in your household knows where to find it.
- Once a year, review your plan with the entire household. Update it to reflect any changes you want to make.
- Refresh your emergency kit at the same time, with new food, water and other supplies.
Your emergency kit should have everything you and your household would need to be safe and take care of yourselves for at least three days immediately following an emergency.
The following list includes essential items to have in your emergency kit:
- food (non-perishable and easy-to-prepare items, enough for three days) and a manual can opener
- bottled or bagged water (4 litres per person for each day) and backup water purification tablets
- toilet paper and other personal items such as soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
- personal protective equipment (PPE) such as medical masks and respirators
- back up chargers and power banks for cell phone or mobile device
- cash in small bills
- portable light source such as a flashlight, headlamp or glow stick
- radio (crank or battery-run)
- extra batteries
- first-aid kit
- candles and matches/lighter
- hand sanitizer or moist towelettes
- important papers such as a copy of your emergency plan, identification, contact lists, copies of prescriptions, etc.
- extra car and house keys
- whistle (to attract attention, if needed)
- zip-lock bag (to keep things dry)
- garbage bags and duct tape
The following list includes additional items you may require to meet your household’s unique needs:
- items for babies and small children such as diapers, formula, bottles, baby food, etc.
- comfort and sentimental items such as photos of loved ones, irreplaceable items, etc.
- prescription medication
- medical supplies, equipment and copies of care/support plans including contact information for doctors or specialists
- extra pair of glasses or contact lenses and solution (if applicable)
- pet supplies (learn more on how to keep pets safe in an emergency)
- any other items specific to your household’s needs
Extra supplies for evacuation
The following list includes items to have ready in case you need to leave your home:
- seasonal clothes, shoes and accessories such as hats, gloves, etc.
- sleeping bags or blankets
- lightweight plates and utensils
- survival multi-tool that includes a screwdriver, pocketknife and other basic tools
- local map with your safe meeting places identified
- playing cards, travel games and other small activities
- pen or pencil and a small paper/notepad
- While the above are recommended and classified as essential, not every household has the means to secure and store all of these items. Connect with your neighbours and community to see how you can support each other. Your municipality or local government may also have services and supplies available, please contact them directly for more information.
- Pack the contents of your kit in an easy-to-carry bag(s) or a case on wheels.
- Store your kit in a place that is easy to reach and ensure that everyone in your household knows where it is.
- Group like items and package them in clear plastic bags to help organize and protect them from other items that may melt, break, or otherwise become spoiled.
- Your kit does not have to be built overnight. Spread your shopping over a few weeks. Purchase a few items every time you go to the store.
- Your water supply is meant to cover what you would drink as well as what you might need for food preparation, hygiene and dishwashing.
- Check and refresh your kit twice a year—when the clocks shift to/from daylight savings time is a good time. Check all expiry dates and replace food and water with a fresh supply. Check batteries and replace as needed.
- Keep your cell phone or mobile device fully charged , as well as your power bank.
During an emergency, you should stay tuned to local news channels. Be sure to have a portable, battery-operated or crank radio in your emergency kit in case of power outages.
Alert Ready in Ontario
Different hazards require a different approach for being prepared and knowing how to protect yourself and your household. Learn more about Ontario’s hazards, so you can better prepare for them and know what to do to protect yourself.