Ensure everyone’s safety during an emergency
Learn how to be prepared for an emergency to ensure the safety of children, people with disabilities, seniors and pets.
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All households should develop a plan and emergency kit to be prepared in case of an emergency. If your household includes children, people with disabilities, seniors and/or pets review the following information when developing your plan and kit to ensure safety for all.
During emergencies, remember that your child looks to you for guidance and comfort. Children follow their parent/guardian’s lead. The calmer you are, the calmer they will be.
Here’s what you can do:
- Talk with your children about emergencies that are common to your community and how to prepare for them.
- Have children help you put together your family emergency plan and household’s emergency survival kit.
- Practice family evacuation drills regularly and talk about why you are doing it. Children will not be as frightened because there will be some familiarity.
- Learn more about what you need to include in your emergency survival kit for infants and toddlers.
When protecting your children during an emergency, you should:
- never dismiss their fears or anxieties and let them know they can ask questions
- listen to what they have to tell you and be patient with them
- allow them to express what they are feeling, for example by drawing a picture
- monitor what they watch on television, news coverage of certain emergency situations can be distressing for children
- talk to them openly and honestly about what is happening
- try to explain the nature of the problem in a way they will understand and what is being done to correct it
- reassure them by explaining that everything is under control and they will be safe
- if you must evacuate, bring a toy along (or a favorite board game), this may help to keep them occupied and provide them with additional comfort
People with disabilities
There are 2.6 million people in Ontario with a disability. Emergency Management Ontario and the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility have developed an Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities. To best prepare for an emergency according to one’s individual needs, please refer to the appropriate category in this guide for a list of suggested emergency survival kit items and contingency planning considerations.
Seniors (older adults)
An emergency situation or an evacuation can be a frightening and confusing time. It is important that seniors are educated about:
- the potential for emergencies
- the steps to take to be prepared
- the programs and services available to help get them through the emergency
- returning to their regular routine
In addition to the basic emergency survival kit, it is essential that seniors being evacuated during emergencies take all equipment or devices they may need immediately with them.
Emergency survival kits for seniors
The emergency survival kit includes the basic items every individual should keep in an easy-to-reach place. In addition to their basic emergency survival kits, it is essential that seniors being evacuated during emergencies take with them any other equipment or devices they may need immediately.
Additional items may include:
- assistive devices such as canes, walkers, hearing aids, breathing apparatus, etc.
- prescription eyewear and footwear
- extra medications and vitamin supplements (including a list of allergies and all prescribed medications with required dosages)
- supply of food items appropriate to any dietary restrictions
- extra dentures (if required) and cleanser
- personal documentation and identification
- list of names and telephone numbers, such as family members, doctors, caseworkers, seniors’ group contact person, etc.
Part of being prepared for an emergency involves developing an emergency plan. When you develop your plan, you should consider the following:
- Familiarize yourself with all escape routes and the location of emergency doors/exits in your home.
- If you live in a high-rise building, know the building’s evacuation plan, who conducts evacuation drills and how often, who are the floor monitors in the event of an emergency and the location of emergency buttons.
- Always wear your MedicAlert identification (if applicable).
If you anticipate needing assistance during an emergency, talk to family members, friends and others to see if they can provide support.
You will also want to make sure that you do the following:
- Include your support network in the development of your plan so they will know where you will go in case of an emergency. Arrange for someone to check up on you.
- If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services, such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify backup service providers and incorporate them into your personal support network
- Ensure that someone in your local network has an extra key to your home and knows where your emergency survival kit is stored.
- Teach those who will help you how to use any necessary equipment and administer medicine in case of an emergency. Be sure they will be able to reach you.
- Practice your plan with those who have agreed to be part of your network.
Dos and don’ts when assisting seniors
- Check on neighbours to find out if they need your help during an emergency or evacuation.
- Allow the person to describe what help they need and how it can be provided to them. Be patient, listen actively. If the person appears anxious or agitated, speak calmly and provide assurance that you are there to help.
- If evacuation is necessary, offer a ride to those who do not have access to a vehicle. If time permits, offer to carry the person’s emergency survival kit to your car, along with any equipment or assistive devices they will need. Follow instructions posted on their equipment and/or assistive devices during an emergency.
- Refrain from shouting or speaking unnaturally slowly.
- Avoid being dismissive of the person’s concerns or requests.
Seniors in high-rise buildings
High-rise buildings present unique challenges when evacuating. Residents should make themselves aware of the following:
- Location of emergency buttons. Many seniors’ buildings have emergency buttons, strategically located in bedrooms and washrooms, which have a direct link to 911 or the building’s superintendent.
- The building superintendent’s phone number.
- The members of the Building Safety Committee.
- The names and phone numbers of on-site doctors, social workers and the hours they keep (if applicable). These people will likely be on call at various times throughout the week and will usually have an office in the building.
You should create a buddy system with your neighbours and regularly practice your emergency response plan with them.
If you have any life sustaining equipment/apparatus, develop an emergency backup plan that will ensure the equipment is operable in the event of a power outage.
High-rise building managers
High-rise building managers can help those senior residents who may have difficulty evacuating on their own due to a physical impairment or disability, by:
- maintaining an up-to-date list of names and addresses of all seniors in the building, noting the needs and requirements of each and copying that list to superintendents
- making large printed signs available for those requiring assistance to place in their window in the event of an emergency, indicating that they require assistance
Pets are part of our families. During an emergency situation, it is important to know how to keep our pets safe. Prepare a pet emergency kit and arrange for your pet in the event that you must evacuate.
Pet emergency kits
When preparing an emergency kit for your pet, be sure you have:
- food, potable water, bowls, paper towel and a can opener
- blanket and a small toy
- sturdy leash/harness
- cat litter/pan (if required) and plastic bags
- carrier for transporting your pet
- medications and medical records (including vaccinations)
- current photo of your pet in case your pet gets lost
- information on feeding schedules, medical or behavioral problems in case you must board your pet
- up-to-date ID tag with your phone number and the name/phone number of your veterinarian
- copy of licence (if required)
- muzzle (if required)
Keep this kit in the same spot as your family emergency survival kit for easy retrieval.
Animals get anxious during emergencies. If possible, keep your pet in a carrying cage with a familiar blanket, so your pet(s) feels as secure as possible. Do not leave your pet alone, with strangers or without a leash at any time. During an emergency, your pet may:
- behave in a distressed manner
- run away and end up lost
- bite someone because of the distressed state
Pets and evacuations
If safety permits, take your pet with you. Pets should not be left behind during an evacuation, as they may be injured, lost or even killed as a result of the emergency. Remember to take your pet emergency kit with you when you evacuate.
It is important to note that some evacuation centres may not accept pets, with the exception of service animals. Please do research ahead of time to ensure that you are not separated from your animal. You can take the following steps to be more prepared:
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area and check their policy on accepting pets during an emergency.
- Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they could shelter your pets in an emergency.
- Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency (include a 24-hour phone number).
- Contact local animal shelters and ask if they provide shelter for pets in the event of an emergency. This should only be used as a last resort, as animal shelters have limited resources and will be very busy in an emergency.
- Record this information on a sheet and keep it in your pet emergency kit. Review it regularly to ensure the information is accurate.
Rely on a neighbour if you aren’t home
You may not be at home when an evacuation order is issued. In advance of an emergency, ask a trusted neighbour to evacuate your pet if needed, and meet you in a prearranged location.
This individual should:
- have a key to your home
- know where the pet emergency kit is located
- be comfortable with your pet
- know where your pet is likely to be
In the days following an evacuation, don’t let your pet go outside unattended. Familiar scents and landmarks may have changed and your pet may get easily confused or lost. If there has been damage to your property, be aware that there could be sharp materials, electrical wires or other hazards in and around your home. Inspect your property carefully before allowing your pet to enter.
Remember, the behaviour of your pet may be different after an emergency. Monitor your pet and contact your veterinarian if you are concerned.
For more information about pets and emergencies, contact the for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA).