Natural disasters

A natural disaster is a natural process or phenomenon that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.”

In Alberta, whether it’s severe storms, wildfires or snow storms, these unpredictable natural disasters occur frequently and could quickly develop as a real threat in our daily life. It might cause serious traffic collisions, being stuck in the snow on the highway for hours, flooded houses, canceled school transport, power outrages, serious injuries, shortages of food and fuel, shut off utilities, unavailable banking services and the authorities issuing an evacuation order.

The preparedness to face natural disaster emergencies is a responsibility and a challenge for us all. Individuals and families should be prepared to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours.

Know the risks you face in your area and make a strong plan to mitigate these risks.

Breaking preparedness down into steps will help giving you a better understanding of natural disaster management and to become better prepared to face a range of emergencies. Making trainings a habit will make you resilient.

Here is an example of 5 steps to work on that can help you to get ready:

1/ Make an emergency plan:

Think about your personal needs to create an emergency plan that works for you and your family. Make a list. This list must include the phone number of people you might have to call, in case of a natural disaster, like your insurance company or utilities service provider, and all the supplies needed to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours. It should also include a communication plan, financial preparedness and an evacuation plan. Your emergency plan should be flexible enough to cover the most common situations.

The number of people involved, their age, their illnesses, their disabilities, their life experience or their professional skills and your means of communication will impact your plan.

Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Keep in mind that phone connections and electricity may be shut down during that time. Every plan needs regular practice and updates.

2/ Gather supplies:

Having the supplies you need helps to keep you and your family safe, especially when the usual services are unavailable or essential groceries are out of stock.

Your supplies could include basic gear such as waterproof evacuation bags, sleeping bags, safety jackets, candles, first aid kit, gas, an emergency stove, as well as clothing according to the season, an emergency food supply, clean water, family medications, all important documents such as passports, insurance, and emergency cash in case the banking services are unavailable. (This list is not exhaustive)

3/ Build a personal and family kit:

When an unexpected situation occurs, you are your first own responder and it is easier to prioritize your safety and well-being if you have an emergency bag you can grab and go at a moment’s notice.

But, while working on building your kit, keep in mind the following items:

  • Duration of the emergency (at least 72 hours).
  • You may not be able to use your vehicle or to load it last minute before an evacuation.
  • How much weight can each person in your family carry?
  • Weight is your enemy in an evacuation context.
  • The optimization of your supplies is essential to minimize the weight of your bags.

4/ Safety skills:

Make sure you have some basic safety skills such as CPR & First Aid, learn to use a fire extinguisher and to know how to shut off utilities, as well as to teach your children how to act during emergencies.

5/ Recover from a disaster:

Recovering from a disaster is a gradual process. Your first concern after a disaster is your family’s health and safety. You need to consider possible safety issues and monitor your family health and well-being.

If you are returning home following a disaster, use caution, return home only if it is safe to return and if you are allowed by local officials.

If you have damages following a disaster, contact your local officials and your insurance agent to file a claim. Make sure to document all the damages. Before you start cleaning up, always take photos, videos and make a list. Save all your receipts for post-damage repairs and clean up.

Do not enter your damaged home if you smell gas or if floodwaters remain around the building. Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring and slippery floors, chemical spills, downed power lines, etc.

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