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10 Things You Need for Emergency Preparedness

05/06/2013 12:46 EDT | Updated 07/07/2013 05:12 EDT
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An Emergency Preparedness Checklist -- Top 10 Tips For Families

The week of May 5 to 11 is Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada. An annual event, the first week of May signals an opportunity for people to make sure that they're ready for any eventuality that may occur in their homes. After all, with the unexpected severe weather events of recent years, is it any wonder that emergency power outages are not uncommon?

Emergency preparedness is particularly important in families with children in the home. Not only should parents make sure that their kids know fire drills and how and when to act in emergency situations; they should also make sure that kids are well-versed on where certain items are in the home, and where to find them in the event of an emergency. Kids can be particularly affected by change and the unknown; for these reasons, parents should assure that they are not only prepared for emergencies, but that their kids are as well.

Following is An Emergency Preparedness Checklist -- Top 10 Tips For Families

1) Money, Money, Money -- We all love money, but never more so than when we really need it and may not be able to get it. Many of us forget that in an instance of a power outage or similar event, bank machines and access credit are down -- often leaving us in the lurch. With children in the mix, it's important to have access to funds, which may be needed to purchase food supplies, medicine, etc. Make sure to always have a supply of cash on hand to cover expenses for a short period of time. It may be sufficient to have $50-$75; just make sure that the money is broken down into smaller denominations such as $10 bills so that change for payphones and other incidentals is easily attained.

2) Doctor in the House -- A First Aid Kit is key to being prepared for any type of emergency. In times of crisis, it may not be possible to get medical attention or help as quickly as we would like. Because of this, having a First Aid Kit that includes some standard items such as bandages and gauze, medication (Advil, Tylenol and related children's doses) and more is more important than ever. The point is to be prepared until further medical help arrives. Check your kit regularly to make sure that all items are replenished.

3) Food, Glorious Food -- In addition to the First Aid Kit, it's important to have a supply of emergency food and water that will last your family for a full 72 hours. While that may seem like a long period of time to be without power or to be in the midst of an emergency, you just never know, so why not be prepared? It's always better to err on the side of caution. If you're like me, you might even include some treats to help alleviate the nervousness or to barter for better behaviour!

4) Entertainment: Make sure to include things that you can entertain the kids with in your kit. It's pretty much a sure bet that after the first hour they'll start to stir, and complain that there's nothing to do. For younger children you can easily print off a list of games to play in the dark. Also look for a site that provides a good checklist of all the things you'll need. Remember as well to pack some books, toys, and a deck of cards.

5) In a Flash -- Of course a flashlight seems like a no-brainer as part of an emergency kit, but did you know that battery-powered or wind-up flashlights are the best in situations like this? Without having to rely on electrical power (or batteries in some instances), these items will prove to be priceless when the lights suddenly go out.

6) Charge it! -- Having a smart phone is of little use if it's not charged. In the event of a sudden emergency, you may have to make a call from your wireless phone. If possible, have a charged one always at the ready; there are many reasonably priced portable, stand-alone chargers for cell phones that are now available. Consider investing in one and keeping it and your phone charged in the case of an emergency. Or, have your car charger handy as you can always use that as a back-up.

7) Get Grounded -- And despite of your best cell phone charging efforts, doing so just doesn't cut it sometimes. In some emergency situations, cell phones won't work. In other words, if you're thinking of ditching your landline, think again. While trends have led many to forgo traditional technology for the sake of wireless and mobile phones, a blackout where there's no access to wireless service reminds us that the old-fashioned home phone line is useful after all. In addition, calling 911 with a cell phone might make it difficult for emergency responders to locate you. In emergency situations, your landline is your friend. Have one available if you can.

8) Bundle Up -- A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each member of the household will come in handy in the event of a power outage or family emergency. Have these available as part of your Emergency Preparedness kit.

9) A List of Who's Who -- Scrambling in the dark for phone numbers and contact information is no fun, particularly when small kids are in the mix and possibly panicking. Make sure to have an emergency contact list of all of the people that you may need to get in touch with in the event of an emergency. These include family members, child care providers, school contacts, neighbours and more. Have this information compiled in the light of day before anything happens so that when you do need to contact people, you won't be in the dark -- literally -- trying to find the numbers.

10) Road Trip!: Have a relocation plan. Have an alternate location to go to in the event that you cannot be without power, even for a short period of time (i.e. babies might need a bottle warmed and being without heat or air conditioning might present risks to the very young). Consider a local library or community centre or even a friend or family member's home.

So as you can see, there are some simple things that families can do to assure that they're prepared in the case of an emergency situation at home. The key is being prepared before the emergency happens.