As we get ready to celebrate our country’s national day, my thoughts are with friends and our myBestHelper members in Calgary. The impact of a major weather event on one of our largest cities was serious and lasting well beyond the few days of media attention it gathered. It’s still clean up time for too many Calgarians for whom it’s not yet back to life and business as normal let alone for celebrations. Well, actually knowing our tough and hard Canadian spirit, I am sure celebrations will be big and festive, but my point remains – emergencies disrupt lives, especially if we are not prepared and most of us aren’t.

So please – on this holiday – consider sparing an hour from the festivities and put in place a few simple things to keep your family safe. Here are some great points of advice from Elora Chow, Communications Manager, ePACT, the emergency network. Here is what she recommends:

Family Emergency Preparedness: 4 simple steps to keep you safe!

Last week, Calgary residents witnessed a flood like never before. The devastation left behind is astounding, with more than 100,000 residents evacuated from their homes and an estimated $3-5 billion in damage.  The fact that this natural disaster happened right in our own backyards reminds us of the importance of personal preparedness. Thousands of families did not have the supplies they needed when they evacuated and have since returned home to find that they will be without power for days. If your family was suddenly faced with an emergency like the flood, would you be ready? If not, we’ve put together these simple steps to kick start your family’s emergency preparedness:

1)     Create an emergency kit: Building an emergency kit that will last your family 72 hours is one of the most basic, yet important aspects of emergency preparation. To start an emergency kit, find a large sturdy bag or portable container, and fill it with:

  • A first aid kit
  • Non-perishable foods (granola bars, dried fruit, canned beans or tuna, and nuts are all great options)
  • Water (a gallon of water per person, per day is recommended)
  • Blankets
  • Extra clothing for each member of your family (while keeping the current climate in mind)
  • Prescription medication if needed
  • Leisure items to help children relax in an emergency (decks of cards and coloring books are great distractions)
  • Additional items for those with special needs. This could include anything from diapers for your toddler, or food and a leash for your pet.

2)     Keep your kit up to date: Think of your emergency kit as something you check every season. It’s always a work in progress, because as your family grows, your emergency kit will need to as well. Is your child now potty trained and will only eat one type of granola bar? Simply take out diapers you previously packed, and replace it with that new granola bar. Also ensure your kit is appropriate for the season – if the weather begins to cool down, remove your summer clothing from the kit and replace it with warmer pieces.

3)     Create a plan: In emergency situations it’s easy to be overwhelmed. By planning ahead, families can focus on quickly putting a plan into action instead of worrying about what their plan should include in the first place:

  • Work with your family to set the evacuation routes out of your home. Consider all the hazards that could obstruct your route, like a fire near the staircase or an earthquake that causes furniture to fall in front of your door, and plan around them. Ideally, you should have at least three to four different ways out of your home.
  • Set a meeting place near your home in case you are separated from your family. A local spot that children are familiar with is ideal, such as their school or neighborhood park.
  • Practice the evacuation routes out of your home to ensure that children know the routes, and what to do in an emergency.

4)     Build a support network: Identify and ask relatives and friends to act as emergency contacts who will help your family in a crisis. If a neighbor or relative is the alternate guardian for your child at school, daycare or sports, make sure they know their responsibilities in an emergency. Also be sure to select an out of area contact for your family. Long distance calls are more reliable than local calls in a large-scale crisis, so this person can pass on messages to several family members when you are unable to connect with each other. They can also provide you with critical information they may find via media. So if you do not have power and cannot access updates, they can alert you to details like evacuation requirements or crisis supplies in your community.

Happy and safe Canada day to all!

Introduction by Alexandra T. Greenhill, MOM, MD, CEO and Co-founder myBestHelper

Guest post by Elora Chow, Communications Manager, ePACT, the emergency network, that helps to better connecting and protecting families, organizations and communities with access to emergency information and communications when it counts the most.

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