Be prepared for an emergency
Learn how you can be prepared for emergencies by making an emergency plan and kit.
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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.
Step 1: make a plan
In an emergency, your family 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 family is the first step to being prepared.
Family 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 family which way(s) you will try to get in touch with each other. Identify one or two out-of-town contacts you and your family 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 family to get to and ensure a copy is kept in your emergency preparedness kit.
- contact 1
- contact 2
Make sure everyone in your family, 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 family 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 survival 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 family and ensure a copy is kept in your emergency preparedness kit:
- my evacuation route
- location of my emergency survival kit
- location and contact information for pet assistance
Safety in your home
Make sure everyone in your family 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 special needs, talk to your building manager or neighbours to make special 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 family 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
- family & 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 family, 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 family members 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 contact family in an emergency. 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 survival kit, and arrange to check in on that person during an emergency, like a power outage.
Planning for special needs
If you or anyone in your family has special needs, be sure your plan reflects this information. For instance, for someone with special medical needs or a medical condition, 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 special needs, such as how to use medical equipment or administer medicine.
To learn more about emergency planning for disability and special needs, consult our guide for people with disabilities/special needs.
When your plan is ready
- Discuss your plan with other family and friends 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 family knows where to find it.
- Once a year, review your plan with the entire family. Update it to reflect any changes you want to make.
- Refresh your survival kit at the same time, with new food, water and other supplies.
Step 2: build an emergency survival kit
Play the 72-hour emergency kit Bingo game
Download and print this Bingo game to find out if you have the essential items you need in your emergency kit. Learn how to make sure everyone in your household is prepared for an emergency.
Your emergency survival kit should have everything you and your family would need to be safe and take care of yourselves for at least three days immediately following an emergency.
The following list is broken down into the essentials, items you may need to meet your family’s unique needs, and items to have ready in case you have to leave your home.
- food (non-perishable and easy-to-prepare items, enough for three days) and a manual can opener
- bottled water (4 litres per person for each day)
- radio (crank or battery-run)
- extra batteries
- first-aid kit
- candles and matches/lighter
- hand sanitizer or moist towelettes
- important papers (identification, contact lists, copies of prescriptions, etc.)
- extra car keys and cash
- whistle (to attract attention, if needed)
- zip-lock bag (to keep things dry)
- garbage bags
- items for babies and small children—diapers, formula, bottles, baby food, comfort items
- prescription medication
- medical supplies and equipment
- pet food and supplies
- any other items specific to your family’s needs
Extra supplies for evacuation
- clothes, shoes
- sleeping bags or blankets
- personal items (soap, toothpaste, shampoo, comb, other toiletries)
- playing cards, travel games and other activities for children
- 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 family knows where it is.
- 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.
Step 3: be informed
During an emergency, you should stay tuned to local news channels. Be sure to have a portable, battery-operated or crank radio in your survival 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 family. Learn more about Ontario’s hazards, so you can better prepare for them and know what to do to protect yourself.