Preparing for an Emergency

How to Prepare

Emergency Preparedness Begins at Home

Often, disasters seem like a remote possibility – they always seem to happen somewhere else.  At anytime however, in any community, a natural or human-caused disaster may occur, requiring a large scale, coordinated response.  Police, fire, public health, social services, public works, emergency medical services and municipal officials may need to work together to prepare and respond to the incident and protect the public.

You can also play a part during an emergency and prepare for your own safety and the safety of your family.  Begin by learning about the potential risks and hazards in your community and then make sure everyone in your family knows what to do before, during and after disaster strikes.  Also, prepare to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours during an emergency.  By doing so, you can help your community by helping yourself.  Prepare for emergencies before they happen, you’ll be better able to respond when the unexpected happens.

Photo of a family that is preparing for emergencies with a kit

During an Emergency

Here are some important tips to keep in mind during an emergency:

  • Tune to a local radio station and listen for information and instructions from emergency officials.  Do as emergency officials advise and stay away from the disaster scene.  Be prepared to relocate if you are advised to do so and follow all instructions carefully.

The main local radio stations serving Lambton County are:

1070 AM CHOK / 103.9 FM CHOK
99.9 FOX FM
K106.3 FM

  • Visit a news media or municipal website for information and instructions.
  • Do not call 9-1-1 looking for information about an emergency.  Call 9-1-1 to report an emergency or if you or someone else needs police, fire, or medical assistance.    If you are looking for information following or during a major emergency, Ontario 211 will be activated by County or municipal officials to handle information calls from residents.  Simply dial 2-1-1 to connect to a call-taker.
  • Do not use your telephone (either land-line or cellular) unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e. you are calling for assistance or checking on the welfare of someone who might be in trouble).  Telephone usage often soars during disasters or crises but telephone systems are not designed to allow every customer to use their phones at once.  If telephone networks are overwhelmed, people in need of assistance might not be able to reach 9-1-1, and emergency responders might not be able to communicate with one another.
  • Keep your 72 Hour Emergency Supplies Kit handy when you have to take shelter (i.e. during a Tornado Warning).

72 Hour Supplies Kits

Prepare for Emergencies with a 72 hour kitOne of the best ways you can prepare for emergencies is to have enough supplies at home to feed and take care of you and your family for at least three days. This is called a 72 Hour Emergency Supplies Kit.

If you are advised to leave your home or stay inside for a period of time, having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable.  To prepare for an emergency, assemble a Kit and store the items in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or plastic storage bin.  That way, everything will be kept together and, if you have to leave your home, you will easily be able to take your Kit with you.  Store your Kit in an accessible location such as a closet shelf on the main floor.  Your Emergency Supplies Kit should have enough food, water and basic needs that will keep your household self-sufficient for at least three days.  Below is a link to a 3:45 minute video provided by Public Safety Canada that explains how to create an Emergency Supplies Kit.

Public Safety Canada video

Your kit should include the following items:

  • “special needs” items for any member of your household (i.e. baby formula, diapers, prescription medication etc.)
  • first-aid supplies (bandages, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic towelettes, cleansing agent or soap, cold pack, eyewash solution, cotton swabs, disposable gloves, gauze pads, hydrogen peroxide, lip balm etc.)
  • a change of clothing for each household member (footwear as well)
  • candles and matches or lighter
  • a sleeping bag or bedroll for each household member (in case you have to evacuate)
  • flashlight and batteries
  • battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • duct tape
  • non-perishable food (this should be replaced every year)
  • bottled water
  • whistle (in case you need to attract someone’s attention)
  • playing cards or games
  • toilet paper and other personal care supplies
  • extra car and house keys
  • extra cash (change too – for vending machines etc.) and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licences).  Copies of essential documents should also be kept in a safe location outside your home – in a safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good idea.

Your 72 Hour Emergency Supplies Kit could prove to be very useful if electricity is lost or weather keeps you from leaving your home.  You should bring your Kit if you are advised to evacuate, so include any other items you think you might need.  Being organized and having essential and comfort items with you will lessen the stress of evacuating.

Pets & Emergencies

Photo of two kitties sleeping.

Caring for Your Pet During an Emergency

Prepare for emergencies - pet carePast emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina have shown that families with pets need to plan how they will take care of them during a crisis.  If time and safety permit, take your pet with you!  Pets should not be left behind during an evacuation because they could be lost, injured or even killed as a result of the emergency.

If it is absolutely not possible to take your pet when you evacuate, follow these guidelines:

  • Post a highly visible sign in a window to let rescue workers know how many pets were left behind.
  • Leave plenty of water in a large, open container which cannot be tipped over.
  • Leave dry food in timed feeders to prevent your pet from eating a week’s worth of food in one day (check local pet stores).

Have an Emergency Supplies Kit for Pets!

Prepare for Emergencies - Pet Supply KitJust as you should prepare an emergency supplies kit for you and your family, prepare an emergency kit for your pet(s) to keep them comfortable for at least seven days.  This kit should be stored in an easy to carry duffle bag or container next to your own emergency kit.  The following is a list of items that should be included in your pet’s emergency supplies kit:

  • Food and water for seven days (an average-sized dog needs about four litres of water per day and cats, one litre)
  • Bowls, paper towel and a manual can opener
  • Blanket
  • Small toy or chew toys
  • Sturdy leash and harness (Note: harnesses are recommended for safety and security as pets may act unpredictably when stressed)
  • Scoopable litter or a week’s worth of cage liner
  • Long leash and yard stake
  • Litter/pan and plastic bags
  • Carrier for transport
  • Medications and medical records (including vaccination records)
  • Current photo of your pet (in case your pet gets lost)
  • Pre-written information on feeding schedules, special needs or medical or behavioural problems
  • Up-to-date ID tag with your phone number and the name/phone number of your veterinarian
  • Copy of license (as required, depending on the pet)
  • Muzzle (remember, pets may act out of character when stressed or frightened)

Emergency supply requirements vary for different kinds of pets. Should you have questions about the care of your pet and the items that should be included in their emergency supplies kit, please refer to the web links at the bottom of this page, or contact your veterinarian.

Pet Behaviour During a Crisis

Prepare for Emergencies - Pet BehaviourAnimals can become anxious during emergencies.  If possible, keep your pet in a carrying cage with a familiar blanket and toy, so your pet feels as secure as possible.  Do not leave your pet alone, with strangers or off a leash at any time.  During an emergency, your pet might panic, behave in a distressed manner, run away, or because of their distressed state, they may even bite or attack someone.

Remember, during an emergency, you are still responsible for your own pet!

Appoint a Caregiver

You may not be home when an emergency happens, or an evacuation advisory is issued.  So, prepare now and ask a trusted neighbour to evacuate your pet if necessary.  This person should know and be comfortable with your pet, have a key to your home and know where your pet’s emergency kit is located.

Prepare for Emergencies - Pet CaregiverWhen choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close by.  They should typically be home during the day while you’re at work, or have easy access to your home.  This could work well with neighbours who have pets of their own – you may even agree to look after each other’s pets, depending on when an emergency occurs.

When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other things – this is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet should something happen to you.  When selecting this “foster parent,” consider someone who knows your pet and has cared for animals in the past.

Information sources: Sarnia & District Humane Society, Emergency Management OntarioBritish Columbia SPCA, American SPCA.

Additional information:

Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet: The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifies the steps to take to develop a disaster preparedness plan and kit.

Caring for Pets: Ready.gov shares guidelines for taking care of pets before, during, and after an emergency that requires evacuation.

Assemble a Pet Emergency Preparedness Kit: The American Red Cross shares a checklist of items to include in a pet emergency preparedness kit.

Protect Yourself from Animal and Insect-Related Hazards After a Natural Disaster: Learn how to protect yourself and your pets from wild animals and insects after a natural disaster.