If you haven’t already, the end of summer is a great time to make sure your home is prepared for the dangers bad weather can bring.
Atlantic Canada is now entering its busiest season for hurricanes. Once that’s over, snow and ice storms will soon be on his heels. Associated with this is the risk of power outages, which may last for a few days.
In the event of these or other emergencies, we must be prepared.
Anyone who’s lived in parts of Asia may be used to having an earthquake preparedness kit on hand, but do we really need an emergency kit here in Atlantic Canada?
Dan Stovel says yes.
Stovel is the Regional Emergency Management Coordinator for Kings County, Nova Scotia. His responsibilities are to oversee disaster risk reduction for the region, to focus on planning for disaster response, to develop relationships with other organizations that play a role in disaster response, and to advise elected officials, staff and the public on disaster risk reduction and to inform.
“Being prepared for an emergency also means having the necessary supplies on hand to help you and your family cope,” Stovel said.
General emergency set
To be prepared, Stovel suggested having three different kits on hand.
The first is the general emergency kit. Stovel noted that the Canadian Red Cross recommends that you keep a disaster preparedness kit at home with enough supplies to meet your family’s needs for at least 72 hours. Sample items to include:
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable foods
- Radio (battery or wind-up)
- First aid kit
- List of emergency numbers
Second, Stovel says he should have an emergency bag. An emergency bag contains your personal emergency kit pre-packaged in an easy-to-carry solution, usually a sturdy backpack. It contains all the items you’ll need if you need to leave your home or work immediately, he says. It’s a smaller version of your emergency kit in an easily accessible place in your home.
This take-away bag should contain the following:
- Small first aid kit and personal medication
- Personal toiletries and items such as an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses
- Copy of your emergency plan, copies of important documents such as insurance documents
- Redeem small bills
- Local map identified with your family meeting point
Third is the car emergency kit. Always have winter safety and emergency equipment in the car. A basic car kit should contain:
- Foods that don’t spoil, like energy bars
- Water – plastic bottles that won’t break when the water freezes (replace them every six months)
- Additional clothing and shoes or boots
- First aid kit with seat belt cutter
- Small shovel, scraper and whisk
- Candle in a deep tin and matches
- Torch to wind up
- Whistle – in case you need to draw attention
- Copy of your contingency plan
As the seasons change, so do the items in your kits, Stovel said. For example, in winter it is recommended to have extra warm clothes and blankets for each kit.
Where to store your emergency kit is up to each family, but all family members need to know where they are.
It is not uncommon for a power outage to occur during wind or snowstorms. Depending on your experience of power outages in your community, Stovel recommends having a backup generator whenever possible.
To ensure you’re using it safely, he recommends using Nova Scotia Power’s website as a resource.
If you’re not investing in a generator, Stovel suggested residents should learn where the nearest comfort center is. For example, in Kings County alone there are 24 locations that could be activated on demand, all of which are equipped with generators.
Comfort centers, he explained, are not overnight shelters but may offer different services depending on the resources available. They all provide a place to warm up, charge devices, use the laundry room, get a warm drink, see one by one, share information, and get updates on the weather and power resumption.
Unless you absolutely have to go to a comfort station, Stovel says there are a few things you can do to keep warm without electricity.
- Eliminate heat loss – avoid opening and closing external doors and block drafts
- Wear lots of layers
- Use candles safely
- Use the sun for heating – blinds open during the day and close at night
- Keep yourself and your pets warm with blankets
- Consume warm drinks
The Canadian website Get Prepared Power Out offers the following tips:
- Install a non-electric standby stove or heater. Choose heaters that do not rely on an electric motor, electric fan, or other electrical device to function. It is important to adequately vent the stove or heater with the type of chimney intended for it. Never connect two heaters to the same flue at the same time.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned every fall to prepare it for use and to remove creosote deposits that could ignite and cause a chimney fire.
- Never use charcoal or gas grills, camping heaters, or household generators indoors. They give off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can cause health problems and is life threatening because you can’t smell or see it.
- Use appropriate candlesticks. Never leave lit candles unattended and out of the reach of children. Always extinguish candles before bed.
- Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. If it’s hardwired to the house’s power supply, make sure it has a battery operated fuse.