Emergency Preparedness Week – Day Five

Food, cash, tools, medication...

Day Five – What’s in your Emergency Kit

So, we’ve talked this week about flooding and tornadoes and thunderstorms. Now, let’s zero in on your emergency kit.

You have one, right?

If not, let’s start putting one together.

There are basic items like unperishable food, water, and clothing, but also some other important items you may not have thought of, says Simcoe County’s Manager of 911 and Emergency Planning Colleen Simpson, “During an emergency you might forget that you need medication or, if you run out of medication you should have your prescriptions available so it’s easy to go and refill them. All your cooking utensils; having food is good but you want to be able to get into those cans and cook things. Maybe a deck of cards; you’re going to be bored if you don’t have any electricity.”

And don’t forget some cash. If there’s a widespread or lengthy power outage bank machines and store debit machines will not be working.

A good rule of thumb, says Simpson, is to keep at least a half tank of gas in the tank at all times, in case there’s a fuel shortage or pumps are not working.

And think about what you and the family will do, where you will meet, ff an emergency happens in the middle of the day when everyone is at work and school. Choose a common meeting place, a relative’s house, perhaps a school.

Emergency Survival Kit Checklist

  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Radio and batteries/crank powered radio
  • First-aid kit
  • Candles and waterproof matches/lighter
  • Extra car and house keys
  • Cash in the form of small bills and coins
  • Copies of important papers for each member of your family e.g. passport and birth certificate
  • Canned foods, energy bars, dried foods (consume and replace at least once per year)
  • Bottled water — 2L/person/day for drinking and an additional 2L/person/day for food preparation and hygiene (replace at least once per year)
  • Manual can opener, bottle opener
  • Cutlery
  • Cooking pot
  • Disposable cups and plates
  • Garbage bags and smaller resealable bags
  • Clothing and footwear, one change/person
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Toilet paper and other personal items
  • Alcohol based hand sanitizer
  • Non-latex gloves, dust masks
  • Medications (one week supply)
  • Backpack/duffel bag
  • Whistle
  • Basic tools — hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, etc.
  • Small fuel driven stove and fuel
  • Playing cards, games

Include any additional supplies to suit the needs of your family members. Remember, the supplies must last for a minimum of 72 hours.

Recommendations for those with special needs and people who are assisting those with special needs can be found in the Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Special Needs/Disabilities from Emergency Management Ontario.

You may be on the road when an emergency occurs.  Carry an emergency kit in your vehicle.

 Basic Car Kit

  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Windshield washer fluid/antifreeze
  • Booster cables
  • Flashlight
  • Water and food (e.g. energy bars)
  • Matches and a candle in a deep can or holder
  • Extra clothing: hat, gloves, boots
  • Emergency blankets
  • First-aid kit
  • Shovel
  • Multi-tool
  • Road map
  • Cell phone charger

Car Kit – Extra Items

  • Sand, salt or kitty litter
  • Traction mats
  • Tow chain
  • Cloth or roll of paper towels
  • Warning light or road flares
  • Axe or hatchet
  • Fire extinguisher

Day Four – Practice what you preach

We’ve been talking this week about you being prepared for an emergency, but what about the people in charge? How do they prepare?

Colleen Simpson, Simcoe County’s new Manager of 911 and Emergency Planning, says it begins with emergency exercises once a year, “They range from a table-top exercise where it’s discussion-based to a full-on exercise with actors and players involved to make it as real as possible and that gives everyone a chance to practice…and identify areas that they can improve and be more prepared for those emergencies.”

Related: Relentless “Ice Storm” Forces Evacuations In Innisfil In Mock Emergency

Simpson and her team are in constant contact with first responders, health officials and other emergency services, even before an emergency arises.

When there is an emergency, the main players gather at a central location to monitor and guide the response, while others fan out to the affected area to ensure that response is carried out and residents are taken care of.

If needed, the county has three generators it can roll out to locations in need. Rec centres, for instance, which may be used as shelters in the event of extended power outages, flooding or evacuations due to chemical spills or other environmental issues.

Day Three – Thunderstorms

We’ve had a lot of rain this spring…the odd crack of thunder…but nothing serious as yet. 

That severe weather will make the rounds though as the temperature and humidity rise.

Like tornadoes, Simcoe County’s Manager of 911 and Emergency Planning, Colleen Simpson, says thunderstorms are not to be taken lightly.

The best place to be is inside.

If you get caught outside, in an open area, you want to curl up in a ball on the balls of your feet, making yourself as small as possible. Wet fields are particularly dangerously since water is a great conductor of lightning and energy and can travel through the ground to get to you.

And because lightning can still occur after the thunder has passed, Simpson recommends staying indoors for at least 30 minutes after the last crack of thunder.

Day Two – Tornadoes

They are among the most powerful forces of nature – tornadoes.

There has been at least one touch down in Simcoe County every year, but one since, 2005.

In 2014, there were five in the county, including a devastating twister that hit Angus.

None has been as devastating as the tornado that spun through Barre in 1985.

85 percent of tornadoes in Canada occur between 1 pm and 8 pm

Simcoe County’s new Manager of 911 and Emergency Planning, Colleen Simpson, says many tornadoes swirl, unnoticed, through fields and remote areas with little or no impact.

Related: Tornadoes Reported In Edgar As Pair Of Mean Storms Swirl Past

The tornado season in Ontario runs from May until the end of August, but it’s not unusual for one to hit in October. The twister that struck Stayner in 2016 did.

A Tornado Watch is an indication that conditions are such a tornado could occur but forecasters aren’t really sure.

A Tornado Warning is an indication conditions are such a tornado could develop at any moment; that funnel clouds may have already been spotted

If you are in an area where a tornado is happening, follow these tips from Simcoe County Emergency Management:

DO 

  • seek shelter in a structurally sound building, preferably in a basement; failing that, an interior room with no windows
  • lay down in a ditch away from overhead power lines; the lowest point of land you can find will be the safest; use your arms to protect your head and neck

DO NOT

  • stay out in the open
  • seek shelter in a shed
  • stay in your car; it can be lifted from the ground and tossed around like a toy; there have also been cases of people being sucked out of their vehicle through a sunroof
  • seek shelter under a bridge; debris will blow under a bridge and there’s a danger of collapse
  • seek shelter in a culvert; there’s the potential for flash flooding that could be deadly
  • risk your life by taking photos or videos

Day One – Flooding

The kind of flooding we have been seeing in Muskoka is not a common occurrence in Simcoe County. There has been high water in northern reaches of the county this spring, and historical flooding in Ramara, Severn, Adjala-Tosorontio, Essa, and Springwater, but nothing too serious
this year.

Still, Simcoe County’s new Manager of 911 and Emergency planning, Colleen Simpson, says we should all be prepared no matter what the extent of the flooding. “Put some sealant around the windows…(check) valves in sewer traps. In your basement, don’t put valuables on the floor. Take them up or put them in resealable containers.

What’s more, Simpson says you’ll want to keep handy the instructions for shutting off gas and water valves until the flooding emergency has passed.

Tips for protecting yourself and home from floods

  • The key to staying safe is to prepare and to have an emergency plan and an emergency kit in place.
  • Put weather protection sealant around basement windows and ground-level doors
  • Install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home
  • Install the drainage for downspouts a sufficient distance from your home to ensure water moves away from the building
  • Move documents and keepsakes out of the basement
  • Keep instructions for shutting off gas and water valves handy and read them carefully

Related: Focus turns to recovery, repair in Muskoka

Simpson will be dispensing advice on a number of fronts this week from tornadoes to thunderstorms to putting together your 72-hour emergency kit as we course through Emergency Preparedness Week

In the meantime, click here for more from the county on emergency planning.