Most of us don’t think about emergencies especially now that the Holiday season is upon us. And living in Muskoka we are blessed not to be subject to too many natural disasters. However, have you made a plan for what you need to do to protect your family in case of fire, flood, winter storm or any type of possible disaster? When disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Take a look at the home safety plan that I have put together with help from many internet resources and revise it to fit your family’s needs.
Have an Emergency Plan
- Meet with household members. Discuss with children the dangers of floods, fire, severe weather like tornados and other emergencies.
- Discuss how to respond to each disaster that could occur.
- Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.
- Learn how to turn off the water, gas/propane and electricity at main switches.
- Post emergency telephone numbers near telephones or make sure they are programmed into cell phones. Teach children how and when to call 911, police and fire.
- Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information. Make sure you have a battery operated radio – and a supply of batteries for it. (Your cell phone charge will not last long if you are using it for everything).
- Develop a Home Escape Plan with your family and post it where each person has access. Everyone should be aware of at least two ways out of the house and know where a pre-arranged meeting place is outside.
- Take a basic first aid and CPR class.
- Keep family records in a water and fire-proof container.
Prepare an Emergency Supplies Kit
Prepare an Emergency Supplies Kit for each member of your family. Store in a convenient place, known to all family members, near an exit. Keep the kit in a backpack or bag that can be easily carried. Check periodically and replace products whose “best before” dates that have expired. Regardless of the additional needs your family may have, the bare essentials for an Emergency Supplies Kit include:
- Water. In almost any scenario, having enough drinking water for at least 3 days is essential. You will need a minimum of one gallon per person per day and more if it’s hot. Keep at least one gallon of water in your car at all times; rotate through your supply to maintain freshness.
- Food. Store non-perishable, ready to eat food, including individual special needs for each family member and for pets if you have any. Be as simple or extravagant as you have time and money to be. If you will be staying at home through an event, start by eating the contents of the fridge first, then the contents of the freezer. Many foods can be prepared over a camp stove, barbecue grill, or open fire. And remember to keep a manual can opener in your emergency kit.
- Flashlight and spare batteries. Candles and oil lamps are fine, but can pose a fire hazard. Batteries should be replaced regularly.
- Swiss Army knife. Get a good one for your emergency kit. Even if you don’t get any other tools, the Swiss Army knife has enough basic tools to be useful.
- Vital personal needs such as diapers and formula for babies, medication for health conditions, spare eyeglasses.
You may also decide to include some or all of the following items:
- A change of clothing, rain gear, jackets and sturdy shoes.
- Blankets or outdoor sleeping bags.
- Matches in a waterproof container.
- Whistle (in case need to attract attention).
- First aid kit to include several sizes of adhesive bandages, gauze, breathable tape, hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, an anti-bacterial ointment, tweezers, and small scissors. Add more items as you deem necessary.
- Toilet paper and other hygiene items.
- Copies of important documents such as personal ID, insurance and home inventory, etc. Scan, digitize, and add a CD of other important records to your Emergency Supplies Kit. Revise at least once a year.
- Books or games (it will be important to keep your children occupied if you have a long wait before things start to be restored).
Store your Emergency Supplies Kit in a place known to everyone in the family. If you need to leave in a hurry, you should be able to pick up your Emergency Kit and head out the door. Keep your vehicle gas tank at least half full in case you have to evacuate and gas is not available.
Other emergency supplies in case you have to stay at home during a power outage include:
- Alternate power source such as portable generators. However, this must never be operated indoors or in an attached garage.
- Alternate heat sources such as portable space heaters and recommended fuel, wood for fireplace/wood burning stove.
- Clean fireplace/wood burning stove. If it has not been used for a long time, have the chimney and appliance checked by a professional technician to ensure the unit is not a hazard.
- Alternate cooking methods – candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots; barbeque and fuel, stored in approved container and used outdoors only. Use propane or charcoal barbeques outside only.
During an Emergency
- Use 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies only.
- Use non-emergency telephone numbers only as required keeping your calls short.
- Listen to the radio or television (if you have power) for emergency updates, location of emergency shelters and instructions, including emergency routes.
- Check on neighbours, especially the elderly or disabled.
- In case of fire or other home threatening occurrence, follow your Home Escape Plan. Get everyone out of the house immediately. Do not re-enter for any reason until it has been declared safe.
- In the case of a power failure, turn the thermostat down to minimum and turn off all appliances, electronic equipment and tools. Power can be restored more easily when the system is not overloaded. As well, this will help to prevent injury, damage to equipment and fire.
- Avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer unnecessarily. To minimize the number of times, post a list of the contents on the door and remove all the items you need at once. Use perishables and food from the refrigerator first, then from the freezer and lastly use non-perishable supplies.
- Use only recommended fuel in portable space heaters, keep at least one meter (three feet) away from combustibles. Never refuel appliances indoors or when hot.
- Spend time outdoors each day in fresh air or keep windows open to provide necessary ventilation.
- Use flashlights sparingly to extend battery life during power outage.
- Secure candles in solid protective containers. Keep away from all combustible materials. Never leave candles unattended. Don’t let young children carry or play with them. Never carry candles throughout the home, use flashlights for portability.
- Check every room before going to bed to make sure candles are extinguished and portable heaters are turned off.
If You Need to Evacuate
- Make sure you have a reliable source of information. Listen to the radio for the location of emergency shelters and follow the instructions of local officials.
- Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
- Take your Emergency Supplies Kit.
- Lock your house.
- Use travel routes specified by local officials.
- Leave notification for additional family members.
- When you get to the shelter sign up there so you can be located If you are sure you have time …
- Shut off water, gas and electricity, if instructed to do so.
- Let others know when you left and where you are going.
- Make arrangements for pets. Animals may not be allowed in public shelters.
After an Emergency
- Stay calm and help the injured.
- Check on neighbours, especially elderly or disabled.
- Don’t use the telephone unless absolutely necessary.
- Before returning home, make sure your home is structurally safe and hazard free. Check for fire risk, gas leak, unsafe electrical wiring, damaged utilities and make sure that the water supply is clean.
Preparation is the key to minimizing the adverse effects of any kind of emergency situation. I hope that you never need this check list but protecting your family and your Muskoka home is important. The holiday season is a time when fire emergencies are more frequent, so please make extra sure you have a safe and happy season filled with love, peace, joy and safety.