Over the past several years, Ottawa residents have experienced first-hand several different types of emergencies: tornadoes and a derecho damaged homes, uprooted trees, and downed power lines; two major floods in 2017 and 2019 caused significant damage to homes in impacted communities; and, a recent freezing rainstorm caused branches and power lines to freeze, impacting the hydro infrastructure and leaving many residents in the dark.
Emergency Preparedness Week is May 7 to 13, which is a good time to reflect on lessons learned and better prepare for the next emergency.
In the event of an emergency, everyone should aim to be able to take care of themselves and their families for up to three days. The following provides some guidelines to help you get started.
Emergency kit – supplies for 72 hours
One of the easiest tools to prepare in advance is an emergency preparedness kit. Some items that are useful for your kit can include:
- Two litres of drinking water per person per day
- Battery-operated or crank radio
- Power banks for wireless charging
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and a manual can opener (note: be sure to rotate the food in your emergency kit to keep them fresh)
- Pet food for our family members from the animal world
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Copies of important documents in a waterproof and portable container (e.g., insurance cards, birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- Clothing and footwear (one change per person; more for children)
- Toilet paper and other personal hygiene supplies
- First aid kit
It is also a good idea to be prepared by ensuring you have:
- A paper or digital note with a list of contact names and information of family members, daycares, schools, etc.
- Trusted people in place as emergency backup to pick up your children from school or daycare, check in with vulnerable family members and neighbors, and/or take care of and feed your pets.
- Emergency money or a Presto card on-hand for transportation home.
- A small quantity of your prescriptions on-hand, should you be unable to get home to take them.
Know how to stay up-to-date with the latest information and warnings
During any emergency, it is important to stay informed. You can follow the City’s website at ottawa.ca and follow our social media channels on Twitter and Facebook. Also, many weather apps are available for your devices that will provide you with the latest severe weather watches and warnings – giving you advance notice to prepare or seek shelter.
Many emergencies – such as severe weather events – can cut off our power for hours or even days.
That’s why it is important to have a crank radio or a battery-operated radio with a supply of extra batteries. While the Internet and social media dominate our landscape, the City always uses traditional mainstream media – like radio stations – to help broadcast messaging and keep our residents informed.
On a well? fill your bathtub or containers with water – just in case
If your home operates on well water and you see or hear weather warnings involving high winds, severe lightning, or ice, fill your bathtub or some containers – just in case the power the goes out. This water can be used to flush toilets, for example.
Be sure gas generators operate outside of your home
Many residents have purchased gas-powered generators to keep such items as fridges and sump pumps running and to charge their handheld devices. But remember, it cannot run inside your garage or house. Exhaust from the generator can poison you and your family with deadly carbon monoxide. Keep it running outside.
Check in with neighbours, friends and families – help pass on important information
During emergencies, you can act as a vital line for those who need assistance or important information. Contact your neighbours, friends and family members – especially those who are vulnerable – to see if they need assistance and update them with the latest information and instructions.
In an emergency, know who to call
In an emergency, you need to know who to call and when. Here are a few numbers to remember and keep on-hand:
- 9-1-1 - For life-threatening emergencies
- 2-1-1 - For information on provincial government and local community-based health and social services including food
- 3-1-1 - For City of Ottawa services such as garbage collection, by-laws, forestry services and childcare services
For inquiries to Hydro Ottawa about power outages
For inquiries to Hydro One about power outages
Preparing ahead at home saves time and stress during emergencies. Please refer to the City’s emergency preparedness site for more information.