Emergency Preparedness

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

The storm in Toronto last week hit hard and fast.  The flooding in Calgary was severe.   Parts of Barrie were leveled many years ago from a tornado.  In 2004 some of Ontario suffered a power outage that lasted for days in the heat of summer.  A few winters ago there was a significant snow storm in London and Sarnia that trapped people in their cars for hours and even overnight.  Ontario and Quebec have also suffered from severe ice storms that have caused power outages in the coldest and darkest days of winter.

While I don’t like to be “doom and gloom”, I do believe in being prepared for an emergency.  I have three kits I keep in my car.  One for the car (jumper cables etc), one for first aid, and one for us should we be stranded.  When we take our kids into busy public places we take a photo of them on our phone so that we know what they are wearing when we arrived (flashback to my panicked parenting moment when we lost a twin for 45 minutes at an amusement park and could not remember what she was wearing to tell the paramedics and police).  In the “olden days” (okay, 8 years ago) we would carry walkie-talkies with us when out with our kids so we could easily communicate about which parent had which kids (flashback to the time when my husband was frantically looking for a kid who was with me the entire time).  Now, we use our cells for this.  Our pool is separately fenced from our already fenced yard and when our kids were small we had safety locks on all the doors to prevent them from leaving the house independently.  The list goes on…

I recently finished a course in Risk Management.  In this, students had to consider the many risks that face an organization, prioritize how significant those risks are to the business should they happen, and determine ways to protect a business from these, or how they should react to “stop the bleeding” following.

The same risk management process can be applied to us personally – regardless of our situation.  This is especially important for persons with disabilities who may have special equipment, housing, medical, or dietary needs that reduces the time they can safely tolerate emergency, or their physical or functional ability to react.  To look at your own risk profile consider the following:  What if you become stranded in your car?  Could not find a child?  Suffer a significant power outage?  Hear of a tornado alert?  Need to evacuate your home?  Have a failure in life-sustaining or mobility equipment?

I believe it is valuable time spent, and could be lifesaving, to outline the risks facing you and your family (including your pets) should disaster strike.  Is there anything you can do to prepare for your identified risks ahead of time?  Are there kits you can make or buy for your car, home or work (blankets, food, water, candles, first-aid, etc.)?  Do you have back-up options if you cannot heat your home, cool your home, store or prepare food for several days?  What if you have special equipment and if this fails do you have battery options, other non-power devices to use, or an emergency response number to call?

Like many things, perhaps an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Not to mention the fact that panicking in an emergency situation is rarely the right response, and having a plan in place for the emergency will reduce the likelihood of you responding poorly, making the situation worse.