You might be asking yourself why an Internet safety website is running a story on emergency preparedness. This is the digital age and where technology, particularly communication technology, is available people are going to use it – especially during an emergency. As well, plenty of digital resources are available to help get physically prepared.
In Canada, we have roughly 5,000 earthquakes every year, more tornadoes than any other country (except the U.S.) averaging about 50 tornadoes per year; some hailstones are the size of peas while others can be as big as baseballs, and the deadliest heat wave in Canadian history produced temperatures exceeding 44ºC in Manitoba and Ontario in 1936. Rail lines and bridge girders twisted, sidewalks buckled, crops wilted and fruit baked on trees. Emergencies happen, so it’s important to be prepared.
While is it extremely important to have a emergency kit it, it is equally important to have an emergency plan, which should now include a technology plan. Almost everyone uses mobile technology to stay in touch with family, friends or for work. During an emergency this use goes up exponentially. But, it is important to keep mobile voice communication to a minimum (use text, email or social media whenever possible) as wireless networks become clogged, making it difficult for emergency services to communicate with one another.
Let’s take a look a the resources available to prepare a family for an emergency.
First, it’s important to know the risks for your area, as all forms of natural disaster are not likely to befall all areas.
The Government of Canada website has a breakdown of natural disasters by province, or by disaster type. It’s important to be prepared for the kind of events that can occur in your area. I live in a common tornado area, so I should find out what to do in that situation.
If you’re a history buff, you can also check out the The Canadian Disaster Database. It contains “detailed disaster information on more than 900 natural, technological and conflict events (excluding war) that have happened since 1900 at home or abroad and that have directly affected Canadians.”
Next, it’s important to make a plan. Simple resources to on how to make a plan are:
- Review a short video on creating an emergency plan – this is great to do with kids.
- Download a sample plan [PDF]. It’s a fill in the blanks sort.
- Fill out a Household Emergency Contact List [PDF] to include in your emergency kit.
- Be sure to include a digital media in your emergency plan – details later in this article.
Finally, get or make an emergency kit. While 85% of Canadians think an emergency kit is important for their family’s safety, only four in ten have prepared or bought an emergency kit.
Unsure of what belongs in an emergency kit?
Download a shopping list [PDF] for a basic emergency kit here. This includes items such as water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, emergency plan, and more. Be sure your kit contains enough supplies to last 72 hours.
Don’t have time to gather all the items? You can purchase difficult to find items in a package from the Canadian Red Cross. For $59.99, this kit includes 85 essential items such as: Waterproof matches, Wind-up flashlight/radio/alarm, 50 hours candle, Multi-function knife, S.O.S. Sign, Water purification tablets, Biohazard waste bags, Collapsible water container – and the list goes on.
Other Digital Resources
The Get Prepared Mobile Site
The mobile site (m.GetPrepared.gc.ca) provides basic information to help face a variety of emergency situations. While helpful, always follow instructions from local authorities and be prepared to adapt your response as the situation develops.
You can access the mobile site directly, via the QR code below.
(A QR, or Quick Response, code is a barcode that is readable by mobile devices with a camera, such as a smartphone. By scanning a QR code users can quickly access websites via their mobile devices without the need to memorize or type a URL.)
A Guideline for Emergency Mobile Use
- If possible, use non-voice channels like text messaging, email or social media. These use less bandwidth than voice communications and may work even when phone service doesn’t.
- If you must use a phone, keep your conversation brief and convey only vital information to emergency personnel and/or family. This will also conserve your phone’s battery.
- Unable to complete a call? Wait 10 seconds before redialing to help reduce network congestion. Note, cordless phones rely on electricity and will not work during a power outage. If you have a landline, keep at least one corded phone in your home.
- Keep extra batteries or a charger for your mobile device in your emergency kit. Consider getting a solar-powered, crank, or vehicle phone charger. If you don’t have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card in your emergency kit.
- Keep your contacts up to date on your phone, email and other channels. This will make it easier to reach important contacts, such as friends, family, neighbours, child’s school, or insurance agent.
- If you have a smartphone, save your safe meeting location(s) on its mapping application.
- Conserve your smartphone’s battery by reducing the screen’s brightness, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using. You never know how long a power outage will last.
- Update friends and family members using social media as you can reach a larger group with a single message, rather than clogging cellular networks. But don’t spend large amounts of time online as it will wear out your battery.
- Ahead of an emergency, bookmark emergency services websites or sign up for services that will send emergency information directly to you. For instance, in Ontario you can receive three types of emergency notifications via email or SMS (text) message. The three types of warning are Red Alerts, Emergency Information Advisories and Severe Weather Warnings.” Check to see if similar emergency services are available in your area.
Remember, in an emergency or to save a life, call 9-1-1 for help. You cannot currently text 9-1-1. If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 9-1-1. If your area offers 3-1-1 service or another information system, call that number for non-emergencies.
These are the basics. A complete guide [PDF] to emergency preparedness can be downloaded, or you can check out www.getprepared.ca. Don’t forget, resources will also be provided by your province, state and local community – investigate before an emergency strikes.