Use this guide to create your own emergency plan.
You should be prepared with all the items you will need to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours in case of a disaster in your community.
Get a large portable container with a lid to use as an emergency kit. You can use a plastic storage bin, garbage can with wheels or carry-on luggage to store your items. Consider using storage vacuum bags to keep items dry and compact.
Choose an accessible location for the container near an exit and label the container. Make sure all family members know what it will be used for and where it is.
Three day supply of water
Stock your kit with at least a three-day supply of water for every family member and don't forget to include water for pets. It is best to plan for four litres of water per person, per day – two for drinking and two for food preparation and hygiene. You might consider the addition of water purification tablets.
Water storage tips
- Use two drops of unscented household bleach per gallon (4.5 litres) of water.
- Replace the stored water at least every six months.
- If you choose to store bottled water, keep no longer than the "best before" or "use before" date on the packaging.
- Containers should be suitable for water storage and not previously used for other purposes.
- Stored water should be in sealed containers, in a secure location, protected from excessive heat and from freezing.
Stock your kit with several varieties of packaged foods, canned meats and dried fruit. Include a manual can opener. If needed, include pet food and infant supplies, including disposable diapers, disposable bottles, formula, etc. Plan for a minimum three-day supply of food for each family member.
Meal ready kits costs vary from $3-10 per bar/meal and typically have a five-year shelf life.
- Consider how you might cook foods – instant meals are easier to store and prepare.
- As you stock food, take into account your family's unique dietary needs. Try to include foods they will enjoy which are also high in calories and nutrition.
- Foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking are best. Remember to rotate your supplies when they expire.
- Compact portable camping stoves are a great addition to a kit, but remember to only use outdoors.
- Include vitamin, mineral and protein supplements in your stockpile to assure adequate nutrition.
Out-of-area contact person
Each family member is to call or email the same out-of-area contact person in the event of an emergency. Choose a contact who lives far enough away that they will probably not be affected by the same event or a person in another area code. Download a printable emergency contact information card.
- After an earthquake or other major disaster, local phone service may be limited, so you should arrange with someone outside your area to be your family contact. Choose someone away from B.C. or U.S. coastal areas.
- Another useful way to contact a person is by text message.
- Keep calls short, and if possible arrange to call the contact person back at a specified time for another check-in.
Listening to the radio will alert you to important information about what is happening and what you can expect or what you can do to help. Keep a battery-powered or wind-up radio on hand in case electricity fails. Know your local radio station frequencies:
- CKNW AM 980 KHz
- STAR FM 98.3 KHz (Abbotsford/Chilliwack area)
- STAR FM 100.5 KHz (Hope)
- Self powered-wind up and crank radios can be purchased at most major retailers including Canadian Tire, London Drugs, Rona, Home Depot and Wal-Mart.
- Most cell phones can also act as a radio.
- Don’t forget the batteries and chargers. Keep in mind expiry dates and rotate the batteries, especially if you keep your emergency kit outdoors as this depletes the batteries more quickly.
Know the hazards
Know the hazards in your community. Find out if the area where you live is vulnerable to landslides, flooding, or other threats such as hazardous material spills.
Examples of potential hazards include:
- Power outages
- Landslide or avalanche
- Transportation accident
- Hazardous materials and spills
- Tsunami or storm surge
- Severe weather (heat/cold)
- Monitor local radio stations.
- Ensure your gas tank is half full as many gas pumps may not work during a disaster.
- Most hazards cannot be predicted. Plan ahead and be prepared to evacuate at any time.
- If severe weather or a severe storm is forecast, secure everything that might be blown around or torn loose – indoors and outdoors. Flying objects can injure people and damage property.
- If you must travel during severe weather, do so during the day and let someone know your route and when you plan to arrive. Have some emergency supplies in your vehicle.
- Have fire drills with your family on a regular basis and develop an escape plan.
- If you are advised by officials to evacuate, do so. Take your emergency kit with you.
First aid kit
Prepare a first aid kit that includes prescription medications, eyeglasses, bandages, sterile gauze pads, tape, scissors, tweezers, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide and other items such as over-the-counter pills. Kits can be purchased at most major retailers.
- Don’t forget local emergency phone numbers (doctor, hospital and poison control).
- Waterproof plastic packets or containers will guarantee the safety of your first aid kit under most circumstances.
- Duct tape can be used in place of medical tape or moleskin, and it has thousands of uses.
- Remember to rotate items that have expiry dates.
Home safety procedures
- Be sure all household members know where the utilities are located and how to properly shut them off. Locate the electricity circuit box and learn how to shut off the electricity to the entire house.
- Natural gas leaks and explosions are responsible for a significant number of fires following any major earthquake. It is vital that you and all family members know where the gas meter is located and that everyone knows how and when to turn it off.
- Locate the shut-off valve for the water main that enters the house.
Shelter in place
You may be instructed to "shelter in place" if chemical, biological or radiological contaminants are released into the environment. This means you must remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. The following steps will help maximize your protection:
- Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
- Turn off all fans, heating and air-conditioning systems to avoid drawing in air from the outside.
- Close the fireplace damper.
- Get your emergency kit and make sure the radio is working.
- Go to an interior room that's above ground level (if possible, one without windows). In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
- Using duct or other wide tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.
- Continue to monitor your radio or television until you are told all is safe or are advised to evacuate.
Home evacuation planning
Determine the best escape routes from your home. Draw a floor plan of your home. Identify two escape routes from each room. Establish a safe place in your area where your family can meet in an emergency. For example, designate a certain spot in the local park to gather at, and should you have to leave your area, designate a relative or a friend's home as the gathering place. Be sure to include arrangements for any pets in these plans, since pets are sometimes not permitted in shelters and hotels.
Pick two places to meet:
- One place near your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
- One outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return to your neighbourhood. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
- Include meeting places and phone numbers on the back of the floor plan.
- Include the location of emergency kits, utilities shut off and safety equipment such as fire extinguishers.
- Vacate your home when advised to do so by local emergency authorities.
Flashlights, extra batteries and spare bulbs are all important. Disasters can strike at any time (especially at night) and without warning. Keep a small flashlight at your desk, in your car, purse and briefcase. Don't forget to batteries or chargers.
Remember the other sources of light that may be around your home:
- Cell phones can be a great temporary source of lighting but this may deplete your battery.
- Camping lanterns – battery or fuel. For fuel lanterns, include extra fuel, wicks, mantles and waterproof matches.
- Light (glow) sticks – these can provide light for one to 12 hours and can be purchased at camping or outdoor supply stores.
- Candles – place these in glass jars taller than the candle to provide extra protection if the candle is knocked over. Remember that the glass can become very hot.
Garbage bags and disposable eating utensils
Stock your kit with both large and medium-sized plastic garbage bags (orange or yellow make good visible signals). Large bags can be used as a shelter, poncho, ground cover or blanket. Medium bags can be used for personal sanitation or to carry water.
Add plastic or paper dishes, cups and cutlery.
Spare clothing and toiletries
Add a change of clothing for each family member to your kit. Be sure to include warm clothing, heavy work gloves and sturdy shoes.
- Gloves are very important. They will protect your hands from broken debris from windows, for example.
- Sturdy waterproof shoes will make walking over uneven terrain much safer.
- Clothing with expandable waist bands is beneficial.
- Add personal items such as toilet paper, handi-wipes, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, sanitary supplies, diapers, feminine needs, etc. to your emergency kit.
Technology and social media
- 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 or family. This will also conserve your phone’s battery.
- If you are unable to complete a call, wait 10 seconds before re-dialing to help reduce network congestion. Note that 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. You may also need to unplug and re-plug your cordless phone once power is restored.
- Keep extra batteries or a charger for your mobile device in your emergency kit. Consider getting a solar-powered, crank or vehicle phone charger.
- 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.
- Charge your phones in the car during power outages. Remember your chargers when leaving home.
- Turn off Bluetooth and other services and set your backlight to a minimal level to conserve your battery.
- Use your phone as a camera to document your personal belongings and any damages.
- Use your phone as a flashlight if needed.
- Follow @Get_Prepared on Twitter and/or visit GetPrepared.ca
Gather important documents such as wills, insurance papers, medical records, credit card numbers and an inventory of possessions.
Make copies and store originals in a fireproof/waterproof container that will be accessible if your home is damaged.
- Consider your pictures when thinking about important documents.
- A home inventory list will greatly assist with insurance claims.
- Pictures of your house will assist you in remembering items you own.
- Use your cell phone to take photos of all important documents.
- Photocopy your credit/bank cards and store in the event you lose your wallet.
- Consider keeping some cash and coins in your kit for pay phones or other emergency purchases.
- Make sure your pets have a collar, identification tag and contact information on at all times.
- Make sure they have enough food and water for at least five days.
- Have their medications and medical records in a waterproof container.
- Have a pet first aid kit.
- Have an extra leash and collar and a large enough pet carrier for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down as they may be in it for several hours.
- Have a couple of towels or small blankets available for warmth and comfort.
- Keep current photos and a description of your pet in case you need to find your pet.
Large bucket and tools
Get a large bucket with a tight-fitting lid to use as a toilet, and put it with your emergency kit.
Use the bucket to store other emergency tools like an axe, a folding shovel and rope. Consider the camping supplies you may already have around the home.
Sleeping bags and blankets
Add sleeping bags or blankets (foil blankets take up less space) and consider adding plastic emergency ponchos to your kit.
Emergency blankets can retain up to 90 per cent of body heat in cold weather.
Whistle, pocket knife and spare keys
Add a pocket knife, a whistle and spare sets of house and car keys to your kit.
You may want to add other items such as books, toys and cards to help pass the time during an extended power outage.
Meet with neighbours to discuss emergency preparations. Consider joint meeting places and plans to assist the elderly and those with mobility issues in your neighbourhood.
Store and label your emergency kit
Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members and clearly mark it "emergency supplies."
- Inside the front hall closet
- Inside the door of your garage
- Inside your garden/storage shed
- Keep a smaller version of the family emergency kit in the trunk of your car.
- Keep items in air-tight plastic bags.
- Change your stored food, water supply and batteries every six months so they are ready to go.
- Re-evaluate your kit and family needs at least once a year.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about storing prescription medications.
- Get Prepared
Make a plan and build your emergency kit with Get Prepared's resources.
- Emergency Management BC
The Province's lead coordinating agency for all emergency management activities, including planning, training, testing and exercising, to help strengthen provincial preparedness.
- Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities/Special Needs
This guide provides information on preparing an emergency plan and kit for people with disabilities/special needs and for caregivers.
- Canadian Red Cross
Offers an extensive network of programs and services that actively reach out and serve local communities throughout the regions.
- St. John Ambulance
Get more information on first-aid kits, community services, and safety tips and resources.