IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY DIAL 911
When you are instructed to evacuate because of flooding, forest fire or other emergencies, do so at once. If a large number of homes are affected, authorities will likely establish a reception centre. You may choose to stay at the reception centre or go elsewhere. Ensure you register everyone with you at the reception centre in person.
- Listen to the radio or TV and follow instructions.
- Shut off utilities if instructed to do so.
- Take your evacuation kit.
- Ensure your pets are cared for.
- Lock up your home.
- Register at the reception centre.
CHEMICAL RELEASE / SHELTER-IN-PLACE
In case of a hazardous chemical release in your community, you may be instructed to “shelter-in-place.” Take immediate shelter where you are – at home, work or school, usually just for a
Act quickly when told to “shelter-in-place.”
Follow the instructions of local authorities.
- Go inside.
- Close all windows and doors.
- Turn off furnace and exhaust fans.
- Listen to the radio or TV for further instructions.
- Keep phone lines free.
- If odour is strong, seal an inside room with wet towels at the base of the door. Breathe through a damp towel to filter air.
Summer storms can bring heavy rain, high winds, hail, intense lightning and even tornadoes, all of which can damage property and threaten lives.
- Listen to the local radio or TV Station and follow instructions.
- Remain indoors.
- During a tornado, go to the basement or under a heavy table or desk. Stay away from windows, outside walls and doors.
- Outside, find shelter or crouch in a ditch, culvert or ravine with your feet together and your head down.
- Keep away from trees, power and telephone lines. You may stay in your car.
Winter storms bring the dangers of high winds, extremely low temperatures and heavy snowfall or freezing rain. If caught in a blizzard, seek shelter and wait out the storm.
- Dress for the weather.
- Listen to the local radio or TV.
- Cover mouth and nose in extreme cold.
- Use public transportation if possible.
- Ensure you have at least half a tank of gas and your travel kit in your vehicle.
A flash flood is a rapid rise of water. One cause is rainfall intensity and duration.
- Get to higher ground.
- Listen to the radio.
- Avoid already flooded areas and fast flowing water.
- Get out of a stalled vehicle immediately in rising water.
- Move items in basement to higher levels.
Influenza is an infection of the lungs and airways caused by a virus. It usually affects people in Alberta from November until April. You can protect yourself and keep it from spreading by taking some precautions.
To limit the spread of germs and prevent infection:
- Wash your hands often, using plenty of soap and warm water. If not possible, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer liquids.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues. Or if necessary, cough into your sleeve.
- Stay away from others as much as possible when sick.
- Stay home from work and school if you become sick.
- Get an annual flu shot.
- Get plenty of rest and strive to stay healthy with proper nutrition and exercise.
Birch Hills Gas Co-op and ATCO Gas are on call 24-hours a day, every day of the year, responding immediately to calls and emergencies involving:
- natural gas odour
- hit or ruptured natural gas lines
- Carbon Monoxide
- natural gas outages
- and, in cold weather, if your natural gas furnace is not working
If you smell natural gas inside a building:
- Leave the building immediately.
- Call 911 or Birch Hills Gas Co-op / ATCO Gas using a neighbour’s phone.
Birch Hills Gas Co-op ATCO Gas 24-hour Emergency Service
1-780 694-3868 1-800-511-3447 (toll free)
Birch Hills Gas Co-op ATCO Electric 24-hour Emergency Services
1-780 538-6800 1-800-668-5506 (toll free)
To report a downed power line in Birch Hills County, call 911 immediately with
information on the exact location of the line. Always assume that downed lines are energized.
- Keep back a minimum of 10 metres (33 feet) from the wires or anything in contact with the wires.
- Warn others in the area of the danger.
If a power failure affects your whole street, locate your flashlight, emergency radio and extra batteries. Stay tuned to your local radio station for more information.
Tips for an extended power outage:
- Turn off all electrical appliances and equipment.
- Keep fridge and freezer closed as much as possible.
- Stay warm. Gather family members in the warmest room in the house. Dress in layers, draw drapes or cover windows to prevent heat loss.
- Do not use camp stoves, kerosene heaters or barbecues indoors as they emit Carbon Monoxide. Gas stoves used as a heat source for long periods without ventilation will do the same.
- Ensure you have access to a phone that doesn’t need power to operate, or a cell phone. Cordless phones won’t work without power.
- Ensure your vehicle has at least a half-tank of fuel at all times. During a power outage, fuel stations are closed.
Emergency Kit for Home
- ready-to-eat and high-energy foods for 3 days
- non-electric can opener
- bottled water, at least 4 litres per person per day
- for 3 days
- extra prescription medications
- baby supplies, special needs items, etc.
- lanterns, flashlights
- battery-operated radios, batteries, and
- alternate heat sources
- extra warm clothing and blankets
- cash and credit cards
- first aid kit
Travel Kit for Vehicle
- flares or reflective triangle
- first aid kit
- basic tools including a shovel
- fully charged cell phone
- extra clothing including hats and gloves
- in cool seasons
- booster cables
- sand or kitty litter
- ice scraper and brush in winter
- non-perishable high energy food
- drinking water
- small candle in a tin can, waterproof matches
- Keep in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container that is easily accessible
- prescription and non-prescription medications
- copies of identification for all members of the family
- current photos of family members for identification
- non-perishable food
- non-electric can opener
- bottled water
- battery-powered radio
- extra batteries
- extra clothes
- cash and credit cards
- important documents
- first aid kit
- special needs items – baby, elderly, disabled, pets
Pet Kit for Evacuation
- 3 days of food and water
- disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pan)
- litter or paper towels
- feeding dishes
- extra leash/harness
- a traveling bag or sturdy carrier and blanket
- a photo of your pet
Emergency Preparedness Week
May 2 – 8, 2010
Alberta Emergency Management Agency
Table of Contents
Message from the managing director............................................................................................................ 3
72 hours: Is your family prepared?................................................................................................................ 4
A terrifying ten minutes.................................................................................................................................. 5
Emergency preparedness in Alberta............................................................................................................. 7
Emergency Public Warning System............................................................................................................. 8
Getting ready for an emergency................................................................................................................. 10
Your family’s emergency kits...................................................................................................................... 12
What is Shelter-In-Place?............................................................................................................................ 14
Evacuation orders........................................................................................................................................ 15
Family fire fright!.......................................................................................................................................... 16
Wildfire evacuation...................................................................................................................................... 18
Power outages............................................................................................................................................. 20
Tips for preventing tragedy.......................................................................................................................... 23
Tornado facts............................................................................................................................................... 25
Planning for tornadoes and severe weather................................................................................................ 26
Overland flood notification........................................................................................................................... 28
Protecting your family during a flood........................................................................................................... 29
Flood-proofing your home........................................................................................................................... 32
After the flood.............................................................................................................................................. 34
Pandemic influenza..................................................................................................................................... 40
After the emergency.................................................................................................................................... 41
The right insurance can make recovery easier........................................................................................... 44
Fatally unaware............................................................................................................................................ 46
Alberta Emergency Management Agency
Is your family prepared for an emergency?
National Emergency Preparedness Week, May 2 – 8, 2010, is an annual campaign that encourages citizens to be prepared to cope with a range of emergencies and disasters — anytime, anywhere.
The campaign aims to teach people the value of emergency planning, why every family should be prepared to survive for 72 hours during an emergency, and simple things anyone can do to be prepared.
Why prepare for emergencies?
- Public safety begins at home. Individual and family preparedness can greatly reduce the potential impact of an emergency.
- A blackout or severe weather and other natural or manmade disasters can have serious and tragic consequences.
- When disaster strikes, emergency workers may not reach everyone immediately or even for several days. Families should be prepared to take care of themselves for a minimum of 72 hours.
How can families prepare for emergencies?
When preparing for emergencies, there are three important considerations:
- Know the risks specific to your community.
- Develop a family emergency plan and practice it.
- Prepare an emergency kit for your home and your vehicle.
Nationally, Emergency Preparedness Week is coordinated by Public Safety Canada, and provincially it is headed by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).
The AEMA leads the co-ordination, collaboration and co-operation of all organizations involved in the prevention, preparedness and response to major emergency events. This ensures the delivery of vital services during a crisis. These organizations include government, industry, municipalities, First Nations, MétisSettlements and their responders. We are accountable and responsible to our government, to Albertans, to communities and industry for the protection of people, their property, the environment and the economy from the effects of major emergency events.
We encourage each and every Albertan to participate in this year’s Emergency Preparedness Week. When we prepare for the worst, we can relax and enjoy everything our province has to offer.
Yours in safety,
E. David Hodgins S.B.St.J., B.App.Bus:E.S., CEM
"Alberta - A Province Prepared"
How long can your family survive without outside assistance? If an emergency happens in your community, it may take emergency workers some time to reach you. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours.
What kinds of risks do we face in Alberta?
Although the consequences of various disasters can be similar, knowing the risks in your region can help you better prepare. Across Canada, we face a number of hazards, such as blizzards, tornadoes and wildfires. In addition to natural disasters, there are other types of hazards, such as power outages and industrial or transportation accidents.
In Alberta a tornado can strike quickly with significant damage. Wildfires can threaten communities and restrict movement. Heavy rains can cause significant overland flooding. We all need to prepare for all hazards.
Won’t the government take care of my family?
In Alberta, while municipalities respond to local emergencies, it is vital to the community that you and your family are prepared to be on your own for the first 72 hours. It can take some time for emergency workers to reach you. Emergency services will first attend to those in need of lifesaving assistance. Even if you are not injured, you need to make sure you have the supplies and food you need to survive. By being prepared to support yourself and your family for the first 72 hours, you free up emergency workers to assist those who have been injured.
The Government of Alberta is also there to help. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency coordinates the efforts of the government to assist Alberta communities to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from major emergencies and disasters.
Make a plan for your family
Every Alberta household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family know what to do in case of an emergency. Take 20 minutes to make your plan with your family.
Your family may not be together when an emergency occurs. Plan how to meet or how to contact one another. Discuss what you would do in different situations.
Disasters often cause confusion and distress, so it is important to take the time now to know the hazards and the risks to better prepare yourself and your family.
Use the list below to check off hazards that exist in your community. This will help you make a more specific emergency plan for your family and home.
- Proximity to dangerous goods route
- Proximity to major industrial site
- Infectious disease outbreaks
- Severe weather
- Landslides or avalanches
For more information on hazards in Alberta, contact your municipality’s director of emergency management or Alberta Emergency Management Agency at 780-422-9000 (Dial 310-0000 for toll-free access outside Edmonton) or visit www.aema.alberta.ca
By Kylie-Jane Degeling, training officer, Alberta Emergency Management Agency
It’s a hot summer evening; you’re inside with your family watching your favourite television show. You are laughing at a funny moment in the program, when suddenly the broadcast is interrupted by a loud, high-pitched alarm. Your children grab their ears with fright. A voice says, “Your attention please! This is the Alberta Emergency Public Warning System.”
Your mouth goes dry as you listen to the message. The voice warns you that a tornado is heading towards town. You are being asked to take shelter immediately and put as many walls between you and the elements as possible.
Could a tornado actually hit your home? Could this really be happening?
Your spouse looks at you terrified. Without hesitating, you grab the hand of your youngest. You motion your spouse to grab the elder child. Together, you head for the basement.
The family takes refuge, huddling in a dark crawl space. There are no windows, but you can hear the storm outside. The windows are rattling and objects blowing around. The lights flicker momentarily before the room goes completely dark.
Your children cling to you. They are whimpering in fright, scared of the darkness and loud noises. You berate yourself for not having any flashlights in the basement. It’s dangerous to move around now as unseen objects that could be hazardous.
You can only imagine the destruction that is happening outside. It sounds like a freight train tearing through the neighbourhood. You clutch your spouse and children, hoping that soon, the terror will be over.
It seems like an eternity, but in less than a minute there is silence. The only sounds you hear are the sobs of your children, and a pounding in your chest that you realise is your heart.
Although the noise outside has stopped, you are uncertain what will happen next. You don’t have a battery or crank operated radio in the basement. You can’t listen to the news to learn what has happened. The darkness makes it hazardous to move. You carefully feel your way towards the door, but you trip over a tin of paint and cut your foot on a piece of metal.
You open the door. The light from the windows reveals for the first time the destruction caused by the tornado. Objects in the room have blown around, the windows are smashed.
You climb to the top of the stairs to open the door, but it won’t budge. You push harder, throwing your weight into it, but nothing will move it. You reach for your cell phone, planning to call for help, but the lines are overloaded. You look around helpless, trying to decide what to do next.
You have no light in the crawl space. You wonder if you have food available. You have no water to drink, no toilet paper. At this point, the worst fear grips you – the essential medication your spouse must take in a few hours is upstairs and you can’t get to it. You wonder anxiously, how long it will be before someone is able to rescue you?
The first 72 hours
When an emergency or disaster occurs, it may be days before you are rescued and services become available. Having a 72-hour supply of the essentials can make a huge difference to how you and your family are able to cope. Put these items in a 72-hour kit to better help your family cope:
- Flashlight (one for each family member)
- Water (6 litres for each family member)
- Non-perishable food and a manual can opener (include baby supplies if necessary)
- First Aid Kit (include a 72-hour supply of essential medications like insulin
- Pet supplies
- Candles, matches and a lighter
- Change of clothes
- Toilet paper
- Garbage bags
In addition to these basic survival items, consider having hardcopies of important documents like photographs, passports and birth certificates stored in a separate location. You can scan or copy these documents onto a flash drive, which you can carry anywhere on your key chain or leave them at an alternative location. That way, you can avoid the inconvenience and devastation of losing your vital documents and precious memories.
For more information on hazards in Alberta, contact your municipality’s director of emergency management or Alberta Emergency Management Agency at 780-422-9000 (Dial 310-0000 for toll-free access outside Edmonton) or visit www.aema.alberta.ca
Emergency preparedness in Alberta
How are emergencies handled in Alberta?
Alberta approaches emergency management at a number of levels. Starting with individuals and families it them moves to municipalities and the provincial government and lastly to the federal government. The first response to an emergency always begins at the lowest level and escalates as needed.
Individual and family responsibilities
Each citizen is responsible for his or her own personal emergency preparedness. Everyone needs to know what to do when a major emergency or disaster occurs in their community and should be prepared to survive for 72 hours without assistance.
Role of the municipality
If a crisis moves beyond the capacity of individuals and families, the municipality takes action to respond. All Alberta municipalities are legislated under the Emergency Management Act to have emergency plans and programs, but rely on their citizens to ensure they are personally prepared.
Provincial government responsibilities
There are occasions when municipalities require support or resources from the Government of Alberta. Alberta has a plan for providing assistance to municipalities and clear guidelines for all provincial government departments and agencies when an emergency requires provincial resources.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is the coordinating agency.. The AEMA coordinates the provincial government’s response to any emergency event which exceeds local resources or expertise, or when assistance is requested by a local authority. The AEMA works with communities and across government to ensure they are prepared to respond effectively to disasters and emergencies.
For more information on hazards in Alberta, contact your municipality’s director of emergency management or Alberta Emergency Management Agency at 780-422-9000 (Dial 310-0000 for toll-free access outside Edmonton) or visit www.aema.alberta.ca
Click here for print version of EPWS Brochure: http://www.aema.alberta.ca/pa_emergency_preparedness_week.cfm
Getting ready for an emergency
Every Canadian household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family to know what to do in case of an emergency. It will take only 20 minutes to make your plan. Disasters often cause confusion and distress so it is important to take the time now to know the hazards and the risks to better prepare yourself and your family.
Emergency planning doesn’t have to be scary. Many families feel empowered after planning, knowing they can survive on their own. Remember to help children feel safe when talking about emergencies. Remind them that someone will be there to help in an emergency. Talk about people you can count on such as firefighters, police, teachers, neighbours and emergency workers.
A good first step is to put a list of emergency numbers by each telephone in your home. Tell your children what each number is for. You should also list the work and cell phone number for each person in your family or in your home.
What risks do we face?
Talk with your family about the different kinds of weather that can happen where you live. For example, do you have the risk of floods, tornadoes, wildfires, or ice storms? Use the list below to check off hazards that exist in your community. This will help you make a more specific emergency plan.
Your household plan
Know your emergency exits. Draw up a floor plan of your home that shows all possible exits from each room. Plan a main exit route and an alternate exit route from each room. If you live in an apartment, plan to use the stairs instead of the elevators. If you are unable to use the stairs, notify emergency personnel ahead of time. Also, identify an evacuation route from your neighbourhood in case you need to leave in a hurry (and think of more than one option).
Pick meeting places. Identify safe places where everyone should meet if you cannot go home or you need to evacuate.
- What is a safe meeting place near your home?
- What is a safe meeting place outside your immediate neighbourhood?
- What are two evacuation routes from your neighbourhood?
- Is there a friend outside your town that could act as a liaison?
Everyone in your home should know where to find the fire extinguisher. All adults and older children should know how to use it. See instructions regarding the lifetime of your fire extinguisher and check with your local fire department for more information.
Older children and adults should know how to turn off your home’s water, electricity and gas. Make large, easy-to-see signs for water and gas shut-offs as well as for the breaker panel or fuse box.
Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1 as well as how to call the designated out-of-town contact.
Learn about the emergency evacuation plans in the workplace and your role in the event of an emergency. You may want to have some basic supplies at work such as water and food that won’t spoil. You are encouraged to have this dialogue with your employer and colleagues on a ongoing basis.
Plan for your children
Ask your children’s school or daycare about their emergency policies. Find out how they will contact families during an emergency. Find out what type of authorization the school or daycare requires to release your children to a designated person if you can’t pick them up. Make sure the school or daycare has updated contact information for parents, caregivers and designated persons.
Plan for pets
In case of an evacuation, remember that pets are not allowed in some public shelters or hotels because of certain health regulations. In case of an evacuation, be prepared to leave your pets with a relative or friend. Take steps to identify pet-friendly hotels or pet boarding facilities in your area
What if we have special needs?
Establish a personal support network of friends, relatives, health-care providers, co-workers and neighbours who understand your special needs.
Write down details about:
- Accommodation needs
- Insurance information
- Medical conditions
- Emergency contacts
- Family medical history
- Recent vaccinations
- Health screenings
Keep a copy of this information in your emergency kit and give a copy to your personal support network.
Talk to your doctor about preparing a grab-and-go bag, if possible, with a two-week supply of medication and medical supplies. Include prescriptions and medical documents. Remember that pharmacies may be closed for some time, even after an emergency is over.
Neighbourhood safety plan
Work with your neighbours to identify people who may need extra help during an emergency. To help make sure everyone is taken care of, assign “block buddies.”
In an emergency
- Follow your emergency plan.
- Get your emergency kit.
- Make sure you are safe before assisting others.
- Listen to the radio or television for information from authorities. Local officials may advise you to stay where you are. Follow their instructions.
- Stay put until all is safe or until you are ordered to evacuate.
All families should have two emergency kits: a ready-to-stay kit and a ready-to-go kit. These two kits will help you survive 72 hours, whether you stay in your home or need to evacuate.
Your ready-to-stay kit should include the items you will need to stay safe at home for a few days. You can keep these things at home in a plastic tub or a special cabinet.
In an emergency, you will need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without power or tap water. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.
You may have some of the items already, such as food, water and a battery-operated or wind-up flashlight. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. Ask yourself, would you be able to find your flashlight in the dark?
Basic emergency kit
- Water – at least two litres of drinking water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
- Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (replace food and water once a year)
- Manual can opener
- Wind-up or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)
- Wind-up or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
- First aid kit
- Extra keys to your car and house
- Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones
- A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
- If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)
Recommended additional items
- Two additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning
- Candles and matches or lighter (place candles in sturdy containers and do not burn unattended)
- Change of clothing and footwear for each household member
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
- Hand sanitizer
- Garbage bags
- Toilet paper
- Household chlorine bleach or water purifying tablets
- Basic tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask, pocket knife)
- Small fuel operated stove and fuel (follow manufacturer’s directions and store properly)
- A whistle (in case you need to attract attention)
- Duct tape (to tape up windows, doors, air events, etc.)
Canadian Red Cross kits are available at www.redcross.ca. St. John Ambulance and Salvation Army emergency kits can be purchased at www.sja.ca or from retailers across Canada. Visit www.GetPrepared.ca or call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) for a listing of retailers by province and territory.
Keep ready-to-go kit items in a backpack, duffle bag or suitcase, in an easy-to-reach, accessible place, such as your front-hall closet. Make sure your kit is easy to carry and everyone in the household knows where it is. Take it with you if you have to leave your home so you can be safe.
Recommended items for ready-to-go kits
- One gallon of water for each person
- Food that you don’t have to keep cold and a manual can opener
- Plastic or paper plates, cups, and utensils
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Radio with batteries
- A change of clothes
- A card with emergency contact information and the number of someone to call who lives out of town
- Pet food and supplies for at least three days
- Small first aid kit
- Personal identification card
- Personal hygiene items, soap and hand sanitizer
- Store medicine you usually take near your ready-to-go kit
Emergency vehicle kit
Prepare a small kit and keep it in your vehicle. The basic kit should include:
- Candle in a deep can and matches
- Extra clothing and shoes
- First aid kit with seatbelt cutter
- Flashlight (wind-up or battery-powered)
- Food that won’t spoil (such as energy bars)
- List of contact numbers
- Radio (wind-up or battery-powered)
- Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush
- Warning light or road flares
Recommended additional items
- Windshield washer fluid
- Fire extinguisher
- Road maps
- Sand, salt or cat litter (non-clumping)
- Tow rope and jumper cables
Shelter-In-Place is the practice of going or remaining indoors during a sudden outdoor release of a hazardous substance. It has been demonstrated to be the most effective response during the first few hours of a substance release. Sheltering indoors creates a buffer between you and any toxic hazard that may be in the outside air.
The goal of Shelter-In-Place is to reduce the movement of air into and out of the building until the hazard has passed. It is based on using a building that is constructed tightly enough to withstand typical Canadian winter weather conditions.
An event such as a fire, motor vehicle crash, train derailment, industrial incident, or a natural disaster may cause a substance release. As a result, emergency responders may request that you Shelter-In-Place.
When asked to take shelter, you need to take the following steps:
- Immediately gather everyone indoors and stay there.
- Close and lock all windows and outside doors. If convenient, tape the gaps around the door frames.
- Extinguish indoor wood burning fires. If possible, close flue dampers.
- Turn off appliances or equipment that either blow out inside air or suck in outside air such as:
- Bathroom and kitchen fans
- Built-in vacuum systems
- Gas stoves
- Clothes dryers
- Air conditioners
- Turn down thermostats by about five degrees Celsius to minimize the on-time of furnaces.
- Leave open all inside doors.
- Avoid using the telephone, except for emergencies, so that you can be contacted by emergency response personnel.
- Stay tuned to local radio and television for possible information updates.
- Even if you see people outside, do not leave until told to do so.
- After the hazardous substance has passed you will receive an "all-clear" message. You may receive instructions to ventilate your building by opening all windows and doors; turning on fans and turning up thermostats. Once the building is completely ventilated, return all equipment to normal.
By Kylie-Jane Degeling, training officer, Alberta Emergency Management Agency
Linda and Andrew Bolten were watching television when they received a knock at the door. Standing there was a peace officer telling them that they were evacuating the area.
“A fire had been burning a few kilometers from our home,” said Andrew, “When the wind strengthened, the firefighters were concerned for the safety of our neighbourhood.”
The Boltens were prepared and had a large plastic tub in their hallway closet with items they wanted to bring.
“We live in an area where fires are a possibility each year, so wanted to be sure we were prepared. We have photo negatives and back-up CDs in the tub, as well as copies of important documents and a week’s supply of Linda’s medication,” Andrew said.
In addition, the Boltens included in their tub a couple of changes of clothing, personal items like toothbrushes and shampoo, flashlights, a transistor radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, emergency cash, and some protein bars.
“There were still items we wish we’d had with us, but it was a relief to know our photos were safe and we had the bare necessities.”
Anyone could find themselves needing to evacuate in a hurry – whether it is a fire, gas leak, severe storm, or other emergency. Being prepared can reduce the stress you experience both during and after the event.
If your community is experiencing an emergency, listen to a radio tuned to a local radio station. Get ready for an evacuation order by gathering your emergency kit and reviewing your plan. Authorities will not ask you to leave your home unless they have reason to believe you are in danger. If you receive an evacuation order, you must leave quickly.
If you are ordered to evacuate:
- Take your emergency kit, essential medications, copies of prescriptions, personal identification of each family member, copies of essential family documentation and a cellular phone.
- Use travel routes specified by local authorities.
- If you have time, call or e-mail your out-of-town contact. Tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Once you are safe, let them know.
- Tell them if any family members have become separated.
- If you have time, leave a note telling others when you left and where you are.
- Shut off water and electricity if officials tell you to.
- Leave natural gas service on unless officials tell you to turn it off. (If you turn off the gas, the gas company has to reconnect it. In a major emergency, it could take weeks for a professional to respond. You would be without gas for heating and cooking.)
- Take pets with you.
- Lock your home.
By Kylie-Jane Degeling, training officer, Alberta Emergency Management Agency
When Cheryl and Bill Roberts tucked their children into bed one cold December evening, they felt warm, safe and secure. Their baby boy slept soundly in his crib, sharing a room with Grandma, who was visiting for Christmas. Their toddler and preschooler snuggled contentedly into their bunks, as they said goodnight to the 10-year-old boy who had recently joined them in their home.
They never imagined that around midnight they’d all be standing outside in the cold, watching a fire rip through their house in Sherwood Park, Alberta. The terror began when the ten-year-old entered their room and announced that the basement was on fire.
“Bill ran downstairs expecting to find a small fire, but a whole side of the basement was engulfed in flames and roaring towards him,” Cheryl recalled,
“When I saw how big the flames were, I realized there was no way the extinguisher I had would be enough,” Bill added.
Without hesitating, Bill ran upstairs and yelled for everyone to get out. The first challenge was waking the sleeping kids.
“When I woke our two-year-old, he leapt out of bed straight away, but our four-year-old, who was in the top bunk, sat up and then went back to sleep again,” Cheryl said, “I grabbed the bunk bed and slammed it into the wall. That was the force I had to use to wake her up enough to come down. Then I ran down the hall to the crib and tucked our baby under my arms, grabbing a bag of photo negatives I had nearby. I was wearing only a t-shirt, no pants, and bare feet. But we ran out the door.”
Pullquote: “Previously, I never understood how anyone could die in a fire – but now I get it, because it was so fast. It was roaring through the house. You can actually feel the oxygen leaving. We could hear the fire burning under the floorboards as we ran down the hall,” said Cheryl.
The entire family, including Grandma, was lucky to escape the fire without injury, and had a neighbour call 9-1-1. However, their home was completely gutted. Today, many years later, they still find it difficult to sleep at night.
One thing the family learned is that anyone can find themselves in a position where they need to evacuate. While they were able to save their precious negatives, they found themselves needing to borrow clothes from neighbours.
Today, they keep a pack in the car containing a change of clothes. They store negatives in a safety deposit box and back up digital images on CDs to be sure they won’t lose their memories if they need to evacuate again.
Are you prepared to evacuate?
Whether it’s a gas leak, toxic chemical spill, wildfire, house fire or severe storm, you may find yourself leaving home in a hurry. Follow these tips to prepare yourself for the unthinkable.
- Important documents: Consider keeping a hardcopy of vital documents like birth certificates, citizenship papers, passports, home insurance certificates, and home ownership deeds in a safe destination. A safety deposit box is a good location. Additionally, consider storing a copy of photographs and documents of secondary importance, like your home contents inventory, in the home of a relative. All documents and photographs can also be easily scanned, stored and encrypted onto a flash drive that you could wear on your keychain. Be sure to purchase one that can be encrypted though, to ensure your information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
- Baby’s needs: If you have an infant, they’ll need diapers, wipes, food and drink kept in a pack by the door. If you need to evacuate in the middle of the night, you won’t want to be searching for these items.
- Clothing: Keep a pack of fresh clothes for the family in your car in case you need to get away quickly.
- Medication: If you or your family takes medication regularly, be sure to have at least a three-day supply handy.
- Pet’s needs: Determine the items you’d need if you were taking your pet on a vacation and have them ready to go at a moment’s notice. A cage, food, water, medication, collar, and leash should start your list depending on your animal.
- Food and water: Keep a stash of non-perishable food, like energy bars, and bottles of water.
- Contacts: Have a list of key contacts, like friends, relatives and coworkers, in your car’s glove box. If you need to evacuate in a hurry, you have their details.
- Cash: If you don’t have a chance to grab your wallet, you’ll be relieved to find a small stash of cash hidden somewhere in your car. Keep enough to tide you over until the banks open.
Finally, be sure to have a plan. Where should your family meet if evacuated? Is there a person you can use as a contact to relay your information if you become separated? Keep this information in your car, as well as on the refrigerator. Remember to practice and re-evaluate your evacuation plans with your family at least twice per year. The kids will think it’s fun, and you can have the peace of mind that comes from knowing everyone is prepared.
When fire danger is extreme or wildland fires are actively burning in the forest adjacent to your property, be cautious and prepare for a worst-case scenario. Do what you can, but remember that as soon as an evacuation order is given, you must leave. Large moving fires are dangerous and should be left for firefighters to manage.
Safety measures during wildfires
- Ignite no new fires and report any open fires or smoke to authorities.
- Check fire pits and burn barrels to make sure they are extinguished. Be careful when smoking outside.
- Try to remain at home until the fire danger drops. Keep in touch with any absent household members.
- Keep the radio on all day, tuned to a local station. Have a battery-powered radio ready in case of power failure.
- Move grazing animals to a central safe refuge. Keep pets close to the house.
- Ensure your vehicle is fueled and operational.
Be prepared to evacuate your home or workplace
Do not assume an evacuation will last only a few hours. Plan to evacuate with enough items to keep your family comfortable for at least five days.
If a fire approaches:
- If you see a fire approaching your home, report it immediately by dialing your provincial forestry office, local fire department emergency number, or 911.
- Activate whatever alert signal is used by your community disaster warning system.
- Dress properly to reduce risk of burn injuries. Wear long pants, shirts made of cotton or wool and sturdy footwear.
- Have firefighting tools and ladders propped against the house in a visible place.
When an evacuation alert is given:
Outside the house
- Cover all openings with metal coverings or fire-resistant material such as 12 millimeter plywood. This helps keep sparks and embers out. Move any combustibles well away from the house or inside.
- Attach garden hoses to tap spigots and place them so they can reach any exterior surface of the building (including the roof). Place a connected sprinkler on the roof and nail it down. Do not turn it on unless the fire is an immediate hazard.
- If you have an outdoor pool or hot tub, make is as accessible as possible for firefighters. Fill garbage cans and buckets with water and leave them where firefighters can find them.
- Block downspouts and fill rain gutters with water.
- Turn off propane or natural gas valves. Clear vegetation and debris from around outdoor tanks.
Inside the house
- Close all windows and doors (closing interior doors will slow fire spread inside the home).
- Move combustibles away from windows and sliding glass doors.
- Fill sinks, bathtubs and buckets for use as extra water reservoirs. Attach inside hoses and gather buckets and towels.
Time to evacuate
When you get the evacuation order, do not panic. Use your pre-planned evacuation route or the route singled out by authorities on site. Move away from the wildland fire, never toward it. If in doubt, use the principal evacuation route.
Drive carefully with headlights on making way for pedestrians and emergency vehicles. Stop at the pre-determined marshaling point(s). Report in to authorities and wait for further instructions. Do not leave again without informing officials. Do not return to your property until permitted to do so by authorities.
Protecting your farm resources
Owners should have an evacuation plan for livestock if threatened by fire. If your animals cannot be moved onto a safe area on your property, make and confirm transportation and feeding arrangements in advance. Obtain insurance coverage for all farm resources at risk from fire including crops and livestock. Government disaster financial assistance is limited and only covers uninsurable perils.
The risk to farm animals can be reduced by preparing and maintaining fuel-reduced areas onto which stock can be moved and held during a fire. Use a plowed or heavily grazed field with a minimum of grass or stubble if possible. This field should be shaded and located well away from any forested areas and to the leeward side of your property. Water should be available. Concrete or metal buildings located away from forest vegetation provide another livestock shelter option.
As a last resort, if you are unable to move livestock into a safer area, cut fences, turning the animals loose to take their chances with the fire as long as there is no danger to people or traffic.
Most power outages will be over almost as soon as they begin, but some can last much longer – up to days or even weeks. Power outages are often caused by freezing rain, sleet storms and/or high winds which damage power lines and equipment. Cold snaps or heat waves can also overload the electric power system.
During a power outage, you may be left without heating/air conditioning, lighting, hot water, or even running water. You could also be left without phone service. If you do not have a battery-powered or crank radio, you may have no way of monitoring news broadcasts.
You can greatly lessen the impact of a power outage by taking the time to prepare in advance. You and your family should be prepared to cope on your own during a power outage for at least 72 hours. This involves three basic steps:
1) Finding out what to do before, during, and after a power outage.
2) Making a family emergency plan, so that everyone knows what to do, and where to go if you need to leave your home.
3) Getting an emergency kit, so that you and your family can be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours during a power outage.
Preparing your home
- You can install a non-electric standby stove or heater. Choose heating units that are not dependent on an electric motor, electric fan, or some other electric device to function. It is important to adequately vent the stove or heater with the type of chimney flue specified for it. Never connect two heating units to the same chimney flue at the same time.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned every fall to eliminate creosote build-up. This build-up can ignite and cause a chimney fire.
- If the standby heating unit can use the house oil or gas supply, have it connected with shut-off valves by a certified tradesperson.
- Before considering the use of an emergency generator during a power outage, check with furnace, appliance and lighting fixture dealers or manufacturers regarding power requirements and proper operating procedures.
Emergency preparation for people with disabilities and special needs
- Consider how you may be affected in a power outage.
- Know your evacuation route (without elevator service, if applicable)
- Plan for a backup power supply for essential medical equipment
- Have a flashlight and a cell phone available
- Establish a self-help network to assist and check on you during an emergency
- Enroll in a medical alert program that will signal for help if you are immobilized
- Keep a list of facilities that provide life-sustaining equipment or treatment
- Keep a detailed file of your medical condition(s) and treatment(s)
- If you live in an apartment, advise the property management that you may need assistance staying in your apartment or that you must be evacuated if there is a power outage. This will allow the property manager to plan and make the necessary arrangements on your behalf.
During a power outage
- First, check whether the power outage is limited to your home. If your neighbours’ power is still on, check your circuit breaker panel or fuse box. If it is not a breaker or a fuse, check the service wires leading to the house. If they are obviously damaged or on the ground, stay at least 10 meters back and notify your electric supply authority. Keep the number along with other emergency numbers near your telephone.
- If your neighbours’ power is also out, notify your electric supply authority.
- Turn off all tools, appliances and electronic equipment. Turn the thermostat(s) down to minimum to prevent damage from a power surge when power is restored. Power can be more easily restored when there is not a heavy load on the electrical system.
- Turn off all lights, except one inside and one outside. This will let hydro crews outside know if power has been restored.
- Don’t open your freezer or fridge unless it is absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if the door remains closed.
- Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or home generators indoors. They give off carbon monoxide. Because you can’t smell or see it, carbon monoxide can cause health problems and is life-threatening.
- Use proper candle holders. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep out of reach of children. Always extinguish candles before going to bed. House fires due to candles increase during power outages.
- Listen to your battery-powered or wind-up radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities.
- Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. If it is hardwired to the house’s electrical supply, ensure it has a battery-powered back-up.
- Protect sensitive electrical appliances such as TVs, computer, and DVD players with a surge-protecting power bar.
How can I protect my home if we have to evacuate?
Evacuation is more likely during winter months, when plummeting temperatures can make a house uninhabitable. If your home must be evacuated, protect it by taking the following precautions:
- Turn off the main breaker or switch of the circuit-breaker panel or power-supply box.
- Turn off the water main where it enters the house. Protect the valve, inlet pipe, and meter or pump with blankets or insulation material.
- Drain the water from your plumbing system. Starting at the top of the house, open all taps, and flush toilets several times. Go to the basement and open the drain valve.
- Drain your hot water tank by attaching a hose to the tank drain valve and running it to the basement floor drain. If you drain a gas-fired water tank, the pilot light should be turned out. Call the local gas supplier to re-light it.
- Unhook washing machine hoses and drain.
- Do not worry about small amounts of water trapped in horizontal pipes. Add a small amount of glycol or anti-freeze to water left in the toilet bowl, and the sink and bathtub traps.
- If your house is protected from groundwater by a sump pump, clear valuables from the basement floor in case of flooding.
When the power returns
You may be tempted to return to life as usual when the power is turned back on. Take a few minutes to do the following checks to ensure your safety and to protect your belongings.
- Do not enter a flooded basement unless you are sure the power is disconnected.
- Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse-breaker panels until they have been checked and cleaned by a qualified electrician.
- Replace the furnace flue (if removed) and turn off the fuel to standby heating units.
- Switch on the main electric switch. Ensure appliances, electric heaters, TVs, microwaves computers, etc. are unplugged to prevent damage from a power surge).
- Give the electrical system a chance to stabilize before reconnecting tools and appliances. Turn the heating-system thermostats up first, followed in a couple of minutes by reconnection of the fridge and freezer. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting all other tools and appliances.
- Close the drain valve in the basement.
- Turn on the water supply. Close lowest valves/taps first and allow air to escape from upper taps.
- Make sure that the hot water heater is filled before turning on the power to it.
- Check food supplies in refrigerators, freezers and cupboards for signs of spoilage. If a freezer door has been kept closed, food should stay frozen 24 to 36 hours, depending on the temperature. When food begins to defrost (usually after two days), it should be cooked; otherwise it should be thrown out.
- As a general precaution, keep a bag of ice cubes in the freezer. If you return home after a period of absence and the ice has melted and refrozen, there is a good chance that the food is spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Reset your clocks, automatic timers, and alarms.
- Restock your emergency kit so the supplies will be there when needed again.
By Kylie-Jane Degeling, training officer, Alberta Emergency Management Agency
If you ask a group of firefighters about their most memorable emergency call, you’re bound to leave the discussion feeling a little bit shaken. The stories they tell are the variety that could give anyone nightmares, yet they seem to have a common theme — human error. The vast majority of the emergencies they respond to are easily preventable. This means that if we were all a bit more prepared, we could substantially reduce the number of injuries, deaths, and losses of property Albertans face each year due to emergencies.
At a recent personal emergency preparedness course, I caught up Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services Regional Fire Chief, Cammie Laird, volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder, Gennifer Laird, and Travis Bartsch, a peace officer and volunteer firefighter. When asked if they would agree to an interview about tips for preventing tragedy, their enthusiasm was tangible. Firefighters are very passionate about emergency preparedness. Although they each love helping people in the community they’d be much happier if their citizens were safe and didn’t need them at all.
Pullquote: Regional Fire Chief Cammie Laird said, “There’s no honour in going to a call that could have been prevented.”
“There are signs at every gas station that say, ‘Shut your car off’,” said Cammie. “So shut your car off! It’s so easy for your car’s engine to spark an explosion.”
Travis adds, “Don’t talk on your cell phone while filling up either; few people realize it can actually be an ignition source, and it’s the fuel’s vapors all around you that could ignite and cause an explosion.” He remembers news stories of abductions by car thieves. “Also remember to take your child out and lock the door when you go inside to pay. It takes seconds for someone to drive away with your kid.”
Both Cammie and Gennifer vividly remember a horrific crash involving a minivan and a car. The young female driver of the car was distracted due to simultaneously driving while chatting with her boyfriend on a cell phone. She caused a crash killing two children in the minivan, as well as herself and a passenger in her car. The boyfriend she was talking to was actually two cars in front of her, heard the screams through the cell phone, and ended up witnessing the crash she caused through his rearview mirror.
“He was so distraught, he later attempted suicide,” said Gennifer. On the topic of road safety, all three firefighters have seen more than their fair share of tragedy. Through the many examples they gave, the common theme was clear — pay attention to the road.
Cammie said, “In severe weather, don’t drive unless you absolutely must — drive slowly and give the road your full attention.”
Gennifer said, “We’ve seen way too many drunk driving crashes. Please don’t drink and drive!”
Travis would like people to be prepared in case their car breaks down, or they are in a crash. “Have blankets, a first aid kit, and appropriate weather gear like toques, jackets and mittens in your car.”
Pullquote: Many of the firefighters’ tips seem obvious, yet numerous crashes in Alberta are caused by people not following them. These tips include wearing a seatbelt, wearing a helmet on ATVs and bikes, not texting or chatting on your cell phone while driving, and driving for the road conditions and within the speed limit.
The three firefighters would like people to be aware of exactly where they are driving, incase they need to call 9-1-1, they can give an accurate description.
Travis said, “People frequently call with the wrong directions, so we go the wrong way!”
Gennifer adds, “There’s often a small window of time for us to save lives and prevent a bad situation from getting worse. Inaccurate information can be the difference between life and death.”
All three firefighters live in a rural environment and have some extra tips for anyone on a farm or living in a small community. Their first concern is the time it takes for emergency services to respond.
“Unlike the major cities, where emergency services can often respond in a matter of minutes, rural areas rely largely on volunteers. This means that they need to leave their job or home, drive to the station, get suited up, and pick up the truck. Depending on the time of day, it could take anywhere from seven to 20 minutes for the first unit to roll with additional units responding as needed shortly thereafter. And then we need to find you wherever you are,” said Gennifer. This increases the need for personal preparedness – having a first aid kit handy, being trained in first aid, and knowing your legal land description in case you need to make a call to 911. “So many people try to describe where they live, but having the actual legal land description makes it much easier for us to find you.”
Cammie would like all rural home and farm owners to fill out a copy of the Alberta Rural Emergency Plan, and attach it to the power pole in front of their home. “Many know it as the Emergency Farm Plan, but really, every rural homeowner should use it, as it tells us where the hazards are on your property so that we can do more to protect you and your family during a call-out.”
To get started visit www.ruralemergencyplan.com.
Gennifer would like all children in rural areas to take farm safety courses, and for their parents to ensure they have thoroughly discussed all the hazards with them. “So many kids lose limbs and lives on farm equipment, but it can be easily prevented with education and following safety guidelines.”
Whether in the home, car, or workplace, it becomes evident when talking to the three firefighters that preparedness is the key to preventing and surviving emergencies.
A tornado is nature’s most violent form of storm activity. It can produce upwardly spiraling winds of between 120 to 450 kilometres per hour and cause devastating damage along a path 50 to 300 metres in width. The forward motion of the tornado funnel may be quite erratic as it zigzags along a southwest to northeasterly direction (usually) at a forward speed of 50 to 70 km per hour.
Tornadoes occur in many parts of Canada between the months of May and September. In an average year, 80 tornadoes cause two deaths, 20 injuries, and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Although we can’t do anything to prevent a tornado, we can certainly be prepared.
Understanding tornado watches and warnings
A severe thunderstorm is the driving force behind a tornado. Hot, humid weather combined with a cold front could be a sign that a tornado is brewing. A funnel cloud hanging from a dark cloud may be visible before the tornado actually occurs. A tornado may be accompanied by lightning, high winds, and hail.
The weather office issues watches and warnings. Radio and television stations communicate that information to the public. Stay tuned to your local TV and radio stations for updated storm information especially when weather conditions exist for generating a tornado.
- A tornado watch is an advisory only. It means that all the conditions that make a tornado are present. Nothing may happen, but a watch could develop into a warning. Stay alert. Listen to your radio.
- A tornado warning means that the event is imminent or a tornado has touched down. Take immediate precautions and listen to your radio.
When Environment Canada has reliable evidence that a tornado has been detected or is imminent, a tornado warning is issued for a specific area through the media or through Alberta's Emergency Public Warning System.
Contrary to popular belief:
- Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are not safe from tornadoes
- The low pressure caused by a tornado does not cause buildings to explode as the tornado passes overhead
- Open windows do not equalize pressure and minimize damage
- You're not safer if you're downtown
- You are not safer sheltering beneath an underpass
What can I do to protect my family?
A tornado will contact the ground with very little warning. The wisest action is to be prepared in advance for all major emergencies and disasters. Develop your own family emergency plan and emergency kit.
A tornado touches down and makes contact with the ground with very little advance warning and can be devastating. The wisest action is to be prepared in advance for all major emergencies and disasters. Develop your own family emergency plan and emergency kit.
- Select a shelter area in the basement that would offer protection. Underneath a stairway that leads to the basement and is secured to the main floor is preferred. The shelter area must be easily accessible and able to offer protection from flying glass, debris and furniture.
- Decide on shelter options in advance for your home, place of employment and school. If forced to take shelter away from home, avoid large halls, auditorium, cafeterias, arenas and or any large building with large span roofs. Seek out an inner hallway, washroom, closet, etc.
- In high-rise buildings, an inner room, closet or washroom away, from flying glass or debris, offers protection. An inner stairwell that has no windows would be the best exit to the basement level if there is time to evacuate the upper floors.
- When a severe storm (tornado) strikes, you may be separated from family members. Avoid unnecessary worry and travel by determining, in advance how your family will stay in contact. Pick two meeting places, including a location at a safe distance and a place outside your neighbourhood in case you cannot return home.
- Ask a relative or friend who lives outside your municipality, to act as a central “point-of contact” for everyone to call after the storm has passed.
- Your municipality has plans in place to set up a Registration and Inquiry service following a major emergency or disaster event, and will publicize telephone numbers for citizens to call to register, and to inquire about missing family members.
Keep a fairly full tank of gasoline in the family vehicles, since local service stations in a disaster area may not be open. In a major disaster area, downed electrical services, ruptured gas lines and broken water mains constitute a driving hazard. The need to be mobile must be weighed against these hazards.
When a severe tornado storm threatens
- During heavy storm activity, have a wind-up or battery powered radio to provide you with warning information or advice.
- Check access to the designated shelter area and your emergency kit
- Stay away from windows.
- Avoid traveling so that you will not be caught out in the open.
- If the storm is severe, go to your designated shelter area.
- If caught outdoors and you cannot reach your designated shelter, lie flat in a ditch, excavation or culvert. If possible, lie flat holding onto the base of a small tree, bush or shrubbery to avoid being lifted or blown away.
- If caught while driving, drive away from the funnel at a right angle or to its direction of travel. If you cannot escape the path of the funnel, get out of your vehicle immediately and seek shelter in a ditch or ravine, keeping its slope between you and the funnel.
- If caught away from home in a built up area, seek shelter in a sturdy building. Go to an interior hallway or washroom on the lower floor. Avoid buildings with large span roofs such as malls or supermarkets.
Special precautions for mobile home owners
Mobile home owners must take special precautions to protect themselves. Mobile home residents are the exception to the “stay indoors” rule.
- Severe storms usually travel from a southwesterly direction. Mobile homes facing these directions present a smaller profile to an approaching storm.
- Mobile homes are vulnerable to being overturned, lifted, and then hurtled to the ground. They may be protected somewhat by being anchored to the ground. This is done using heavy cable or chain which is secured to the mainframe and embedded into solid concrete set deeply into the ground. The manufacturer should be consulted about tie down measures.
When the storm has passed
The dangers associated with a disaster are not over once the tornado has touched down. Take steps to protect yourself, your family, and others in your community.
- Listen to your radio for information and follow instructions.
- Don’t visit the disaster area. You may hinder rescue efforts.
- Avoid using the telephone except for emergencies.
- Monitor local media reports and municipal web pages for information on when it is safe to return to your home. They can also provide other post-incident advice and assistance.
- Drive carefully and watch for debris, dangling or broken wires and damaged bridges and roads. Report problems to police or fire departments.
- Wait until you are advised that it is safe to enter buildings. They may be been structurally damaged.
- Use only battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to examine your home for damage as there may be flammable items. Do not use candles or matches.
- Check for leaking gas pipes in your home. If you smell gas:
- Immediately open windows and doors
- Turn off the main gas valve
- Leave the house
- Notify the gas, as well as the police and fire department
- Do not re-enter the house unless you are told it is safe to do so
- If electrical appliances are wet (and you are not wet or standing in water) turn off the main power switch. Then unplug the wet appliances and have a qualified technician inspect them. When all the wet appliances are unplugged, turn on the main power switch. If any fuses blow when power is restored, turn off the main power switch again and have your home checked by a qualified electrician or call your utility company.
- Follow the instructions of your local health unit.
- Check to see that sewage lines are intact before flushing toilets.
- Report damaged water, sewage, and gas lines to the proper authorities.
- Notify your insurance agent or broker if your property was damaged.
- The emotional impacts of disasters on those affected are well known. Pay attention to your feelings and those of your family members. Alberta Health Services can provide assistance in coping with trauma resulting from a disaster.
Alberta Environment monitors weather patterns, precipitation and provincial water levels and flows. They provide comprehensive public advisories about potential flooding.
These public advisories include river stage-up advisories, ice-jam warnings, high streamflow advisories, flood watches and flood warnings.
- A High Streamflow Advisory means that stream levels are rising or expected to rise rapidly and no major flooding is expected. Minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible. Anyone situated close to the affected streams (campers, fishermen, boaters and the general public) is advised to us caution.
- A Flood Watch means that stream levels are rising and will approach or exceed the bank. Flooding of areas adjacent to these streams may occur. Anyone situated close to the streams is advised to take appropriate precautionary measures.
- A Flood Warning means that rising river levels will result in flooding of areas adjacent to the affected streams. Anyone situated close to the river should take appropriate measures to avoid flood damage.
Municipal governments are responsible for informing their residents about possible flooding and providing detailed information about what to do to protect their families and property. This information is often provided through local newspapers, and radio and television stations.
Floods can have a big impact on Albertans. You and your family can minimize your loss in a flood situation. Information is your best defence when emergencies occur. Contact your local director of disaster services or municipal government office to find out what emergency or disaster events could occur in your area. Ask what you should do to prepare.
The most important thing to do when considering any emergency is to develop an emergency plan. Learn more about your flood risks and incorporate that into your plan.
Create a flood plan
- Know the warning systems your municipal government uses. Make sure you know what the signals mean, how they will be used, and what you should do when you hear it.
- Develop a family emergency plan. Include arrangements for family members with special needs in your plan (disabled and elderly who use special medical equipment).
- Make arrangements for your family pet(s) when planning. Contact your local disaster services office or your veterinarian for information.
- Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated during a disaster or emergency. Pick two meeting places. One location that is a safe distance from your home. The second place should be outside your neighbourhood in case you cannot return home.
- Choose a relative or friend who lives outside your municipality, as a check-in contact for everyone to call.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone in your home.
- Teach children to call fire, police and emergency medical services and which local radio station to tune into for emergency information.
- Prepare an emergency kit for the home and each vehicle. Maintain the kits, replenish supplies, and make sure everyone knows where they are stored.
- Show family members how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
- Learn your community’s evacuation routes; some hazards may force you to leave your home.
- Learn first aid and CPR.
- Meet with your neighbours and plan how you would work together in a disaster. Include neighbours with special needs in your planning. Contact your municipal administration to ensure that your plan is consistent with municipal actions.
Prepare to evacuate
- Prepare a list of family members’ prescribed medications including generic names and prescribed dosage. Include the name and telephone numbers of your doctors. For those who rely on medical devices such as a pacemaker, list the style, serial number, and other pertinent information. Carry it with you at all times.
- Collect all vital family records and other irreplaceable items in one central location where they can easily be transported if you must leave the area quickly. Keep them in a waterproof and fireproof container.
- Ensure that you have a portable solar, hand wind-up, or battery-operated radio and spare batteries. Listen to the radio for flood advisories and warnings and follow instructions from your local government.
- Have a full tank of fuel in your vehicle. An electrical outage due to flooding may shut down service station pumps. If you don’t have personal transportation, make alternative arrangements with a neighbour.
- Stock up on food that requires little or no cooking or refrigeration. Gather emergency lighting and cooking supplies like flashlights, candles, camp stoves, spare batteries, fuel and waterproof matches. Ensure fuel is stored and handled properly. Keep this gear operational and within easy reach.
- Know how to use the manual override of your garage door. Have an emergency key release if your garage door is the only access and exit to your home. Perform a manual operation safety test regularly.
- Store water in clean containers. The water supply may be contaminated before it becomes necessary to evacuate.
- Decide what basic supplies your family requires and stock up immediately. Pack supplies in waterproof containers or plastic garbage bags. Essentials include:
- Warm clothing and waterproof rubber boots
- Rain coats
- Blankets or sleeping bags in sealed plastic bags
- Prescription medicines and first-aid supplies
- Personal identification for each family member (name tags and wallet cards)
- Towels, soap, personal hygiene and toiletry items
How can we protect our home in case of a flood?
- Know where to obtain sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber
- Remove as many household items you can. If this is not possible, move possessions from the basement to an upper floor.
- Seal hazardous materials such as weed killers and insecticides in plastic garbage bags and move them into safe storage or dispose of them safely.
- At the first warning of a flood, turn off electrical power and leave it off. If the basement is already wet, be cautious. If you are confident that you can do it safely, stand on a dry wooden chair or box and use a dry board or stick to turn off the main switch.
- Water usually ruins electrical motors. Move all portable electric heaters, power tools and electrical appliances to a safe place.
- If this isn’t possible, and if qualified to do so, consider removing the motors, controls and switches from furnaces, refrigerators and washers.
- If you can, consider moving all thermally insulated appliances such as freezers and refrigerators to upper floors of the house. This precaution should save you the expense of replacing them.
- At the first warning of flooding, turn off all gas-fired appliances and put out the pilot light. Turn off the gas inlet valve to your home, which is located at the gas meter. This will prevent gas from escaping when the inlet valve is re-opened.
- Do not remove any gas-fired appliances without ensuring that the main gas inlet valve has been closed.
- There should be no smoking or open flames of any kind in the area. To avoid causing sparks, use a flashlight taped in the “on” position.
- For a forced air furnace, move the fan motor and fan to a dry storage place.
- Do not drain the hot water tank — it will serve as ballast to secure the tank in place.
- If gas appliances are removed, the gas outlets should be made tight using a plugged valve, a cap, or a plug on the piping system.
- Remove any basement toilet bowls. Plug these outlets and all other basement outlets (floor drains, sinks, laundry drains) to prevent floodwater from entering.
- Use wooden plugs or beanbags and secure these outlets with plank braces nailed securely to floor joists.
- Anchor propane tanks to keep them from moving, even if they are full.
- Turn off the tank valve.
- Disconnect the tubing and seal the end.
- Secure the tank with heavy rope or chain, something heavy enough to resist the force of floodwaters.
What to do during a flood
- Listen to your radio. Important instructions for your safety and information on the situation will be broadcasted.
- If you are requested to leave the area, do so immediately and follow instructions issued by your municipal officials.
- Remember your neighbours, particularly the elderly. They may need your help or the assistance of municipal emergency services.
- Stay out of the flooded area until the municipal authority gives permission to return.
- Barricades are placed on roads for your protection. If you encounter a barricade, go another way.
- Avoid standing water. It may be electrically charged from ground or downed power lines.
- Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. You could be stranded. Floodwaters can conceal debris or areas where the road has eroded. The ground underneath will probably be slippery.
- Watch for damaged roads, loose or downed wires and fallen objects on the road.
- Do not drive through water unless you are certain the road is safe and the water is no higher than the wheels of your vehicle. Proceed slowly to avoid splashing water on the engine and stalling it. When emerging from water, drive carefully because wet brakes do not work well.
- If your car stalls in rising waters, get out immediately and make your way to higher ground.
- Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. You can be swept off your feet by only 15 centimeters (six inches) of moving water.
- Whether in a car or on foot, avoid areas prone to flash flooding.
- Do not phone the disaster services office, police or fire department unless you need help or are calling on behalf of others requiring assistance. Your radio will keep you informed.
- Do not attempt search and rescue operations on your own.
Municipal governments prevent flooding by maintaining the sewage systems. If you experience drainage problems at your home, ensure that the source of flooding is not on your property. Take steps to flood-proof your home.
What is a sanitary sewer?
A sanitary sewer is a pipe is located in the street and designed to transport wastewater from your home. This consists of water from sanitary fixtures and floor drains inside your house as well as groundwater from weeping tiles around the foundation of your home.
What is a storm sewer?
A storm sewer is a pipe, located in the street, which is designed to carry storm-related water runoff. Storm sewers are normally much larger than sanitary sewers because they are designed to carry much larger amounts of flow.
What causes sewer backup?
- Extra storm-related water from sources other than wastewater and groundwater should flow into the storm sewer or soak into the ground without entering the sanitary sewer.
- If excess storm water does enter the sanitary sewer system, it causes a supercharged sewer flow. An eight-inch (20 centimetre) sanitary sewer can handle wastewater from up to 500 homes; however, it takes only a few unexpected water sources to overload this kind of system.
How can a supercharged sanitary sewer cause basement flooding?
A supercharged sewer flows at a greater than normal level. Basement flooding can occur if the home has sanitary fixtures or floor drains below the supercharged level.
Downspouts and roof drainage
- Most homes are equipped with downspouts which discharge the water collected by eaves troughs directly into the ground. Excess water runs into the front street where it enters the storm sewer. It is very important that this water does not enter the sanitary sewer. If your downspout drains too close to the side of your house, this water can drain into the sanitary sewer through the weeping tile adjacent to your house foundation.
- Damage or sanitary sewer surcharging can occur if rainwater drains too close to your house on ground that may not be tightly compacted. The excavation for your basement may have been dug a few feet wider on all sides to allow working room during construction of the basement walls. When this extra space was backfilled, the soil may not have been tamped down as tightly as the original soil, making it more likely to settle and trap surface water.
- Surface water soaking down to your foundation can create problems: it can damage your foundation; seep through cracks in your basement wall, causing dampness; or overload the sanitary sewer by draining through weeping tiles, causing a sewer backup.
What can I do to prevent flooding in my home?
You may be able to do some “flood-proofing” tasks yourself, while other changes need a qualified contractor or tradesman.
- Fill in any settlement next to your house.
- Redirect storm water away from your house.
- Make sure the ground slopes away from your house on all sides.
- Always keep your downspout extension in place.
- Check to see that your downspout extension drains a good distance away from your house in an area that will not erode.
- Be careful that water does not drain into your neighbour’s property.
- If your downspout is connected to the weeping tile adjacent to your home, disconnect it immediately.
- If you are constructing a new home and plan to build on a slab, or install a washroom in the basement, consider taking the necessary precautions to prevent sewage and water from backing up into your house through the sanitary drains.
- One aspect of flood protection involves the installation of backflow valves on toilets, floor drains, washing machine drains, rain downspouts, sump pumps and any sink drains in the basement. Main sewer lines and septic connections should also be considered. These are designed to prevent sewage and water from backing up through these waste lines. Some backflow valves operate automatically while others may have to be closed by hand. In most cases the backflow valves may need to be installed by a qualified plumber or contractor according to existing building codes.
After a flood, your municipal government will notify the public through the media when it is safe to return home. The following are some important tips to help you clean up and restore your property. If you require more specific information on cleanup, contact your municipal office or your local health unit. Let your insurance agent or broker know as soon as possible about any loss or damage. If you are a tenant, inform your landlord about any flood damage to the property.
Protecting your emotional health
A flood disaster is both mentally and physically stressful. Take steps so that you and your family maintain their health:
- Rest often and eat properly
- Make a list of jobs that need to be done and do them in the order of priority, one at a time
- Talk to others about your concerns and don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Check your newspaper and listen to your local radio or television stations for information and help from your municipal government and/or Alberta Health Services on coping with the emotional effects of a disaster.
Protecting yourself and your family
- Floodwater may be contaminated with sewage and other contaminants, and could pose a health hazard. Proper clean-up is essential. Contact your local health unit if you suspect sewage contamination. Be sure to comply with their recommendations about using respirators, special clothing, or other protective measures. Do not try to save carpets, clothing or bedding that have been exposed to sewage. Sewage-contaminated waste materials should be placed in heavy-duty garbage bags and tagged. Follow your municipality’s instructions for disposal.
- Do not allow children into the house or yard until everything has been cleaned and disinfected. If children must be present during clean up, supervise them closely.
- Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and eye protectors to prevent injuries.
- Be vigilant about good personal hygiene, i.e., wash face and hands with soap before eating or drinking.
- Check your newspaper and listen to your local radio or television stations for information about help that may be provided by your municipal or the provincial government, Alberta Health Services or other agencies.
- Prompt action will help to prevent mold. Try to get all wet surfaces clean, disinfected and dry as soon as possible.
- Cleanup priorities include:
- Removing water as soon as possible
- Clean out mud and other debris
- Discarding all materials that cannot be saved. Place them in a bag and dispose of them according to municipal regulations
- Wash and rinse all fabrics and furniture that will be sent out for cleaning, then dry and take them to the cleaners as soon as possible
- Wash and rinse all surfaces, then disinfect them
As soon as floodwaters have receded and you have been notified that the flood danger is over, you will want to return to your house and start cleaning up. Do not attempt to live in the house, however, until you take the following precautions:
- Have the electric power system checked by an electrician.
- Have natural gas and propane appliances checked by a gas fitter.
- The water supply has been declared safe for drinking.
- Your sanitation facilities are working.
- All flood-contaminated rooms have been cleaned and disinfected.
Entering your home
- Make sure the building is safe before entering. Check for foundation damage and make sure all porch roofs and overhangs have their supports intact. If you see damage, contact a building inspector.
- If you see downed power lines or smell gas, leave the building and contact your utility company.
- If your basement was flooded, do not switch on the electricity until the complete system has been checked by a qualified electrician.
- Be very careful when you enter the building. A door sticking at the top could mean that the ceiling is ready to fall. If you have to force the door open, make sure you stand outside, well clear of any falling debris.
- Look for wet plaster on the ceiling. Knock it down with a stick before moving around.
- Use a flashlight to inspect for damage inside the house. Do not strike a match or use an open flame unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.
- Watch your step. The floors and stairs can be very slippery, and silt on a basement floor may conceal nails or broken glass.
- Open all doors and windows to dry out the building.
Starting the clean-up
- Pump out the basement when it is safe to do so. If water has been standing for some time, is visibly cloudy, and/or has a foul smell, it is likely polluted and requires urgent treatment and removal. Pumps, wet/dry vacuums, and dehumidifiers may be available to rent. To hire a professional service, look in the telephone directory Yellow Pages under “Water Damage Restoration Services.”
- Move your belongings out of the wet area. Clean them and then spread them out to dry.
- If your home was flooded by sewage, discard exposed carpets, clothing, bedding and stuffed toys. Place these items and any other items you do not want to keep in heavy-duty garbage bags for disposal.
- Remove all mud and debris by scraping and washing with detergent, using a stiff broom or brush. This may be contaminated material and may need to be properly disposed of. Follow your municipality’s instructions for disposal.
- Never leave waste on the ground where children are at risk and insects or animals could pick up disease-causing organisms.
- Disinfect all walls, floors, ceilings and fixtures after they have dried. Make your own disinfecting solution by adding 125 millilitres (a half cup) of household bleach to 9 litres (2 gallons) of water or use a commercial disinfectant according to directions. Rinse metals after washing with a chlorine solution to prevent corrosion. Coat cast-iron items with vegetable oil to prevent rusting.
- DO NOT use gas-powered generators, camping stoves or charcoal barbecues indoors. The fumes are hazardous indoors.
- Water must be boiled or chlorinated before use until flooded and contaminated wells, cisterns, dugouts and dams have been treated and water samples analyzed as safe by your health unit.
Cisterns must be emptied, thoroughly cleaned, and refilled with chlorinated water. The following procedure should be used to get a cistern back into service:
- Remove all mud, cleaning the cistern thoroughly with broom or brush.
- Disinfect with a concentrated solution of chlorine bleach: 450 millilitres (2 cups) to 450 litres (100 gallons) of water.
- Pump a thoroughly mixed, concentrate solution of chlorine bleach through the system. Then close all outlets and allow the solution to remain in the system for eight hours.
- Thoroughly rinse the whole system with disinfected water. The odour of chlorine must disappear completely. This step is essential because chlorine can corrode metal pipes and tanks.
Dugouts and dams
Follow this procedure to put a dugout back in service:
- Pump out and remove sludge and debris.
- Make any repairs required.
- Refill the dugout.
- Consider installing a continuous chlorination-filtration system. Technical advice and information may be obtained from your Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development district office.
- During a flood, the water pressure in plumbing lines can reverse, and water in hot and cold pipes can be contaminated with floodwater. Have a plumber inject bleach into the lines to disinfect them.
- The footing drains outside your foundations may have been overloaded or blocked during the flooding. Have them checked by someone trained in plumbing and drains.
- Floor drains may be partially or fully blocked because of the flooding. Carefully flush, clean and disinfect floor drains and sump pumps.
Wells must be thoroughly pumped out and inflow water chlorinated. This procedure should not be attempted on shallow wells until at least two weeks after floodwaters have receded. Otherwise, they may be re-contaminated by polluted ground water.
Use the following procedure for getting a well back into service:
- Pump out the well.
- Thoroughly clean bored or dug wells. Remove floating debris and scrub or hose foreign material from well cribbing or casing. Then pump the well until water is clear.
- Pump 900 litres (200 gallons) of water into clean storage near the well.
- Pour 9 litres (2 gallons) of household laundry bleach (5.25 per cent chlorine) into well. You can get an equivalent strength of chlorine by substituting 4.5 litres (I gallon) sodium hypochlorite (12 per cent chlorine) or 0.6 kilograms (22 ounces) by weight of calcium hypochlorite (70 per cent chlorine.)
- Allow water to return to the non-pumping level in the well.
- Mix 9 litres (2 gallons) of household laundry bleach into the 900 litres (200 gallons) of water stored near the well and siphon the mixture into the well.
- Open each hydrant, faucet and other outlet in the distribution system and let it run until water at the outlet has a chlorine odour.
- Allow chlorine mixture to stand in the entire distribution system at least eight hours, preferably overnight.
- After the chlorine mixture has been in the system for at least eight hours, open an outside tap and let the mixture run onto the ground surface until all chlorine odour has disappeared. In high capacity wells it may be necessary to add enough clean water to the well during pumping to displace the water stored above the pump intake. Backwash all filters and softeners and flush the hot water tank.
- If the wastewater has a chlorine odour and you have difficulty removing the chlorine from the well, it indicates that too much chlorine was used. When the correct quantity of chlorine is used, the wastewater will have a chlorine odour, but the odour will disappear after the well has been pumped continuously for two to three hours.
- Don’t pump the wastewater into the septic tank. It will impair operation and cause flooding.
- After you have followed these procedures, obtain a sterile water-testing bottle from your local health unit and return a well water sample for analysis. Do not use the well water without first disinfecting it and until you have been notified that the water sample is safe.
Restoring your sewage system
A house should not be re-occupied until satisfactory toilet facilities have been restored. Solid or liquid wastes must never be deposited on the ground where insects and animals can pick up and spread disease-causing organisms.
For advice on insect control, contact your local health unit or a professional pest control company.
Householders will be notified when the municipal sewage system has been restored.
Outhouses (pit privies)
- Ensure that the outhouse is securely over the pit.
- If water remains in the pit, add ½ litre (2 cups) of household laundry bleach or 0.45 kilogram (1 lb.) of chloride or lime every week until the water disappears.
- If the outhouse has been washed away, cover open pits to prevent accidents and the spread of disease, until it can be replaced.
- Septic tanks won’t operate until the disposal (leaching) field has dried. Check the siphon/pumping chamber (second compartment) to ensure that the intake of the siphon or pump is not blocked.
- NEVER enter a septic tank to check out a pump or siphon system without being protected by a certified air pack and a safety harness with rope. The atmosphere in a septic tank can be lethal, causing death without the use of proper safety equipment. At least one observer must be present when anyone enters a septic tank. This is for safety reasons and for quick removal of a person from the tank if anything should happen to cause a dangerous situation.
- Follow your municipality’s instructions for disposal of contaminated and other materials.
- Locate garbage for collection by municipal services at a safe distance from the home and downgrade of a well.
- Make sure that materials, which attract insects or animals, are sealed in animal-proof containers.
Restoring your heating system
- Before starting up the heating system, protect yourself against the hazards of fire, suffocation and explosion. Be careful to take all precautions to ensure the heating system is safe before resuming use. Have it inspected by a qualified technician.
- Before lighting the furnace, examine the inside of the combustion chamber and clean it thoroughly.
- Wash sediment from all pipes and ducts with a hose or a swab on a long stick. Access can usually be made through the clean-out door above the fire door. If the heater has a jacket, clean between the heater and the outside casing.
- Ensure that the chimney isn’t plugged. Take the smoke pipe out of the chimney and remove any mud from the lower part of the chimney.
- Have the heating system checked by a qualified technician before using it again.
Hire a contractor to clean and inspect ductwork.
- Do not touch any electrical fixtures or switches. If the odour of gas is present, leave the building immediately, leaving the doors open. Contact the gas utility company. Do not re-enter the building until the leak has been repaired.
- When it is safe to clean gas appliances:
- Disconnect the vent connectors from appliances and clean thoroughly.
- Open the clean-out door at the base of the chimney and clean it thoroughly, removing mud and debris.
- Remove and clean any fan assemblies that have gotten wet. If any electric motor has been wet, have it checked by an electrician. It may be dangerous to use.
- Do not touch any gas controls or attempt to reconnect gas appliances. The system must be checked by a licensed gasfitter before being put back into service.
- Have propane systems checked by a licensed gasfitter before turning them on.
Water heaters are insulated with glass fibre, which can become soggy and saturated under its cover if flooded. If the appliance can be repaired, have the insulation replaced, as it is contaminated by the floodwaters.
Restoring electrical appliances
- If the electrical panel was submerged, have a qualified electrician replace all circuit breakers.
- All electrical appliances that got wet by the floodwaters should be checked by an electrician before being used.
- Depending on the depth of water in which the appliance was submerged, it may be less costly to replace rather than repair appliances.
- Appliances with foam insulation, such as ovens, refrigerators, and freezers that were submerged in floodwater, may have to be discarded because they cannot be disinfected. Check with an experienced serviceperson as to whether or not it is possible to remove and replace the insulation.
- All lighting fixtures, which were submerged in water, should be removed, cleaned and dried, and checked. Clean outlet boxes, wiring and sockets but do not remove connections or disconnect wiring. Connections in wiring and lights and small appliances can be wet and soggy even after the cover tape looks dry. Be sure they are dry before using. If you have any doubt about appliances or wiring, contact your electrician.
MAKE SURE THE POWER SUPPLY IS TURNED OFF BEFORE WORKING ON OUTLETS AND FIXTURES.
- Floor and table lamps should be completely disassembled, cleaned and dried thoroughly, before using.
- Extension cords that are not in good condition should be discarded.
- Household liquid chlorine bleach (5 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution) is an effective disinfectant for most bacteria and fungi (like mold). Use bleach carefully and be sure you have cross ventilation.
- Surfaces and structures with mold growth - use full strength household bleach and let it remain on the surface for 15 minutes.
- For surfaces (not cement), structures, dishes, cutlery and utensils where no mold is visible - use one (1) part bleach to three (3) parts water.
- Bleach can destroy organic fabrics so do not use on silk and wool items. It can also weaken cotton fibres so use with care.
- Bleach can affect the colours of many surfaces and materials. Test on a small area before using.
- Never mix bleach with ammonia. The fumes produced together are very toxic.
- For wooden surfaces which could be damaged by a bleach solution - use a 5 to 10 percent borax solution with dishwashing detergent. Then next day wash with a one (1) part vinegar to three (3) part water solution and then rinse.
Floodwaters carry disease from raw sewage. The only safe flood-exposed foods are those in sealed metal cans, and even then, only if cans have not been dented. Use the following procedures with foods:
- Thoroughly clean all undamaged cans before opening. Use a brush to clean around the rims and caps. Disinfect, rinse and dry before storing.
- Dispose of the following items:
- The contents of your freezer or refrigerator, if electricity has been interrupted and contents thawed, or if appliances have been exposed to flood waters.
- All exposed meats
- All exposed fresh fruits and vegetables
- All exposed boxed foods
- All products in jars, including home preserves, cans and bottles that have been under water. The area under the seal of a jar or bottle cannot be adequately disinfected
- Products in coolers, if the coolers have been without power for four (4) hours
- All exposed medicines, cosmetics and other personal care items
- If in doubt about any items, contact your local health unit.
Pandemic influenza (world-wide flu) happens when a new influenza virus spreads easily from person to person throughout the world. Since people have no protection against the new virus, it will likely cause more illness and a larger number of deaths than the type of influenza virus seen each winter (seasonal influenza).
It is not known which strain of influenza virus will trigger a pandemic. The spread of avian influenza is currently being monitored because it has the potential to mutate and become pandemic influenza.
There is currently no pandemic influenza in Canada or in the world. However, it is important for all Albertans to be prepared and ready to respond when pandemic influenza does occur. It may be scary to consider pandemic influenza, but with preparation and knowledge, we can be ready if it occurs.
Alberta’s pandemic plan
While there is currently no pandemic influenza, preparation is the best protection. Unlike the seasonal influenza that we see each year, pandemic influenza results when a new strain of virus spreads rapidly around the world. This can cause serious illness and death for millions of people.
Alberta has a plan to respond to pandemic influenza, called Alberta’s Plan for Pandemic Influenza. This plan aims to slow the spread of disease, minimize serious illness or death and avoid disruptions to essential community services. The provincial plan will reduce the impact of the disease, but not eliminate it. The plan outlines the coordinated and phased-in responses for the Government of Alberta, the health system, municipalities and other partners to work together to assist Albertans.
What should I do during a pandemic?
- Be alert to information on radio, television, in newspapers, orthe internet and elsewhere. Alberta Health and Wellness and Alberta Health Services will advise you about the steps you can take to avoid becoming ill, the availability of immunization and medications for early treatment, and any changes that may be made in health-care services to deal with the pandemic. Health-care professionals will provide care to the very ill and provide information on self-care or caring for family members at home.
- If you are not feeling well or have further questions, contact Health Link
- There are things you can do to control the spread of influenza and take care of yourself and your family:
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing; and
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water – this is one of the best defences against influenza.
- If you develop influenza:
- Avoid contact with others while contagious (about five days after the start of symptoms) if possible;
- Drink extra fluids;
- Treat symptoms with over-the-counter (non-prescription) medication with careful attention to the guidelines included with the medication;
- Throw away tissues after wiping your nose;
- Wash your hands frequently and always after coughing, sneezing or using tissues;
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing;
- Keep your fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth; and
- Know how to take care of yourself and your family if you have influenza.
Natural or human-caused disasters challenge our coping skills, even if we only witness them on television. If they touch our lives more closely (for example, if they occur near where we live, or affect people we know) they can cause a lot of distress, fear and anxiety. We worry about our own safety, the safety of our loved ones and our community.
Events of this kind can also stir up memories and feelings about violent or painful events that we may have experienced in the past: the death of a family member or friend in an accident; a serious illness or injury; the loss of a job; family violence or sexual assault. And of course, the stress of a large-scale disaster can make any stressful circumstances we are currently facing more difficult to handle.
It is important to be aware that stressful feelings are normal when our lives are touched by catastrophic events, and that there are steps we can take to feel better.
Things to keep in mind
It is important to know that:
- People of all ages are strong and resilient, and most recover within a short period of time.
- You have knowledge and experience that can help your family and your community cope with the stresses triggered by catastrophic events.
- Reassuring people about their safety and explaining what measures are being taken to protect them is an important step in helping them cope.
- Parents', caregivers' and community leaders' own responses to an event strongly influences children's and community members' ability to recover.
Feelings and reactions to violent events
In the wake of stressful events such as a disaster or terrorist attack our reactions can:
- Affect us physically: We may have headaches, back pain, stomach aches, diarrhea, problems with sleeping, tightness in neck and shoulders, low energy or general tiredness, loss of appetite or tendency to eat more "comfort foods" or use more alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
- Affect us emotionally: We may feel sad, angry, guilty, helpless, numb, confused, discouraged, worried and anxious about the future, and afraid that a similar event may reoccur. Feelings can come and go like the tides, building up then fading away, only to come back and fade away again. They can also come out of the blue when we least expect it.
- Affect our thinking: It may be hard to concentrate, to stop thinking about the events, hard to remember day-to-day things. Memories of other sad or difficult events from the past may surface. Thoughts, like feelings, can also come out of the blue, while reading, talking, having a meeting, driving, etc.
- Affect our sense of safety: We may find it hard to leave home or loved ones; we may tend to overprotect our children; or, we may be nervous about travelling by plane.
Most of us have had some of these reactions. Some of us may feel them more strongly or more often than others but it is reassuring to know that these are common reactions when people experience a very stressful event. In other words, you are not alone.
Stressful events, even major crises, are part of life. In most cases, our life experience has given us the strengths and skills we need to gradually work through our feelings and reactions. Friends and family can help.
Taking care of ourselves
- Take breaks from the media reports and from thinking and talking about the events.
- Take time to relax and exercise. This will help decrease stress and tension and help you be more alert, sleep and eat better, and get back on track.
- Talk with friends, relatives, co-workers, teachers or leaders of your faith community. Talk about your thoughts, feelings and reactions. Comfort one another. Talking with others can make you feel less alone and help you sort out reactions to the events. Remember to talk about the normal issues
and pleasures of your life as well - don't let disaster take over every conversation.
- Some may be quite affected by these events, others less. Patience and understanding with one another are two of the best ways to help.
- Be careful about making major decisions if you are very upset.
- Get back to your daily routine. Do things you enjoy to help restore a sense of safety and control.
- Watch what you eat. Eat healthy foods.
- Be physically active, doing something you enjoy.
- Don't use alcohol to numb your feelings. This can set up an unhealthy pattern and can lead to more serious problems down the road.
- Get a good night's sleep.
Taking care of our families
- Reassure family members who may be worried about their safety and about the future.
- Take time to talk about the events. Relax together. For example, go to a movie or for a meal. Remember, taking time out is not a cop-out.
- Everybody needs to be heard and understood.
- Visit with relatives and friends.
Taking care of older relatives
Today's seniors are an independent, resourceful group who have weathered many storms. Catastrophic events may trigger memories of previous painful experiences. Some seniors may be concerned about their safety and about the future. Others may feel sad, confused and disorganized for a while. Coping may be more difficult for seniors suffering from depression, thinking and memory problems, those living alone or those with few social supports.
You can help by:
- Visiting older people: parents, friends, relatives, neighbours.
- Talking with them about their thoughts, feelings and reactions.
- Including them in social and recreational activities.
- Reassuring them that you are available should they want to talk or need help.
Taking care of our communities
- Take part in information meetings about the events.
- Attend memorials, candlelight vigils.
- Attend inter-religious events.
- In the case of terrorism or war, don't let racism poison your community. When people are afraid or angry, they often want to blame and punish someone.
- Help any group you are part of to be fair, accepting and understanding.
Some of us react strongly at the time stressful events happen. Others react later, after a few days or even a few weeks. Delayed reactions can be confusing. Remember, not everyone reacts the same way. Following the tips on self-care given above will help you deal with delayed reactions.
When to seek help
If, at any time, you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope it is important to seek out additional assistance. Here are some circumstances which indicate that it is time to get help by speaking to a health professional such as a psychologist, family doctor, psychiatrist, social worker or nurse:
- Can't return to a normal routine
- Feeling extremely helpless
- Having thoughts of hurting self or others
- Using alcohol and drugs excessively
Resources in your community which may be available for help
- Distress or crisis centres
- Local hospital
- Family service agency
- Bereavement group
- Leader of your faith community
- Family and friends you can call to talk things over
Insurance for most perils is readily and reasonably available for homes and their contents; businesses, stock and equipment; farm buildings, livestock and equipment; and vehicles of all types. Check regularly with your insurance agent or broker to ensure you have appropriate and adequate insurance coverage, including any extensions in coverage that may be available, which were not previously.
- Coverage is available for most major disasters, e.g. fire, lightning strikes, an explosion, windstorm, hail, tornado and many others. Flood coverage can be added to business policies, but is not generally available for homeowners.
- Most policies include or can include coverage for damage caused by sewer back-up. Make sure your policy includes sewer back-up insurance.
- Keep a detailed inventory of your residence and/or business. You can create this as a written list or take photos of the contents of each room. Keep the list or photos in your emergency kit. It will be invaluable in the event of loss.
- Make sure your insurance policies and related records are in a safe location and easily available after an emergency or disaster event.
- The Insurance Bureau of Canada has information on all aspects of insurance. Their phone number in Alberta is 780-423-2212.
- Know what your insurance company requires, should you need to make a claim.
- Note that government disaster recovery programs will not compensate for damage and loss for which insurance was readily and reasonably available before the disaster occurred.
What are your risks?
The following questions can get you thinking about the risks you face every day on your farm. Consider each question in relation to your operation.
- How much loss can your farm absorb or handle?
- Can you withstand a crop failure or loss of some or all of your livestock?
- Would your insurance adequately cover your loss of capital assets and/or income in the event of a disaster?
- What adverse weather could affect your farm?
- What precautions have you taken to protect your family and the farm?
- Are you familiar with the Disaster Services Act, the Water Act and the Soil Conservation Act?
- Keeping in mind potential disasters, have you considered all your production options?
Safety Net Funding
- Safety net funding is available to help producers adopt economically viable management practices.
- Production Insurance provides Alberta farmers with a production guarantee on crop losses caused by natural perils.
- Pasture Insurance, which offers two new products - Satellite Imagery Insurance and Moisture Deficiency Insurance - to provide producers with more options to allow them to design their insurance policy to meet their own farm management strategies.
- The Alberta Farm Development Loan Program (AFDLP), which has been enhanced to offer loan guarantees of up to $1 million for operating capital, farmland purchases, improvements to homes and buildings, major equipment repairs and purchases, or consolidating other qualifying financing.
- The Canadian Agriculture Income Stabilization (CAIS) Program provides income support to producers when, for reasons such as adverse weather and market events, there is a reduction in their farm margin.
- More information on Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) programs can be obtained by calling 1-800-396-0215 or by accessing the AFSC website at www.AFSC.ca
- Farmers need to carry property insurance that will protect them in the event of major disasters such as fires and damaging wind storms. Governments will not provide financial assistance where insurance is reasonably and readily available. Farmers need to take the time to review their policies to ensure they have adequate coverage. Choosing not to insure major items such as livestock, buildings, and machinery may cause unnecessary financial hardship. Governments will not compensate farmers for losses which they choose not to insure.
- It is important to get insurance to prepare for an eventual disaster and there are other farming practices as well to consider. For example, the type of crop farmers choose to seed in periods of either drought or wet conditions may have an impact on the profitability of their operation. Post disaster farming practices can also have a bearing on how well the land recovers. For example, soil erosion prevention measures against wind and water will be of great benefit in preserving top soil and fertility.
By Kylie-Jane Degeling, Training Officer, Alberta Emergency Management Agency
There are plenty of bad movies around, and if you remember back – you’ll likely come across at least one of these silly storylines: an impaired parent stumbles into the kitchen to cook dinner and it burns on the stove because she dozed off; a man is almost tackled to the ground by firefighters as he attempts to re-enter his blazing home for his prized sports jersey; teens quadding on a hot day casually flick a cigarette butt, causing a raging wildfire; a person driving along the highway in a hurry misses the turn-off, and causes a pileup when they backtrack.
Hollywood is full of slapstick humour, which can be great for a chuckle, but for Alberta’s many emergency response workers and volunteers, these storylines are too often a reality, and therefore not funny at all.
As a firefighter, Trent West feels he has seen almost everything, and as the recently named Alberta Fire Commissioner he knows there will always be a new, “They did what?!” He still remembers clearly the father and two children who were riding a motorcycle with a sidecar while mom followed behind them on her bike. “A guy missed his turn-off, and decided to drive against the flow of traffic on an on-ramp to make his turn, causing a crash with the dad and kids. Mom watched helplessly as her family was killed right in front of her.”
As Trent tells his stories of past call-outs – many which required him and his fellow firefighters to work in extremely cold temperatures or hazardous situations – it’s evident he’s passionate about stopping the pointless and often devastating emergencies caused by lack of preparedness and lack of awareness. “A lot of focus is given to what to do when something bad happens. We need to focus more on preventing it from happening in the first place. People need to be more aware of what they’re doing, and how it affects those around them.”
Albertans will be familiar with one example Trent provides – preparing for the weather. “When you walk outside in freezing temperatures, you put a jacket on because you know cold is a hazard that can kill you. Yet people will leave their heated garages to drive their heated cars in the winter, without proper winter gear like gloves and a toque. What happens if the car breaks down, or slips into a ditch? Now you’ve created a potentially life-threatening emergency situation, and could die or become badly injured because of it. If people became more aware, they’d prepare better.”
Trent’s list of past emergencies caused by lack of awareness is extensive. He describes house fires due to chimneys not being swept, wildfires ignited by inadequately extinguished campfires, parents leaving their lighters or matches lying around where their kids can find them and start fires, unattended candles igniting curtains, and motor vehicle crashes caused by people not paying attention to the road.
He also discusses how quickly a bad situation can become worse due to lack of awareness. “We’ve had to forcibly restrain people from re-entering their burning home and endangering themselves and others. It’s an ineffective use of firefighters if we have to spend our time holding you back instead of putting out the fire. But if you tell us what the problem is – we’ll try to retrieve it for you if we can safely do so. It all comes down to how what you do affects everyone else.”
Given the vast majority of emergencies are entirely preventable, Trent is hoping that during Emergency Preparedness Week, people will take inventory of their actions and become more aware and prepared. “Start with your home. So many emergencies are caused by inadequate maintenance and housekeeping. Ensure your chimneys are swept, your furnace is maintained, you don’t have materials that give off flammable vapors near sources of heat or flame, and that the areas under your staircases are free of easily ignitable materials. Be aware of all the hazards in your home, and prepare yourself and your family. The simple act of ensuring your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working will prevent fatalities.” Ideally, Trent would also like people to consider installing home sprinkler systems and monitored alarm systems. “Whether you’re out of the home, or fast asleep – these systems will kick into action, ultimately protecting you and the most valuable “thing” you posses; your home.”
The following documents were used as sources for this kit:
After Flooding. Alberta Emergency Management Agency. Available at: http://www.aema.alberta.ca/documents/ema/After_FloodingJuly_2005.pdf
Are you ready for a disaster? Home Safety Council. Available at: http://www.homesafetycouncil.org/resource_center/rc_brochure08_p001.pdf
Before Flooding. Alberta Emergency Management Agency. Available at: http://www.aema.alberta.ca/documents/ema/BeforeFloodingJuly2005.pdf
Emergency Preparedness: Tornadoes. Alberta Emergency Management Agency. Available at: http://www.aema.alberta.ca/documents/ema/2005_tornadoes.pdf
Flood Disaster. Alberta Emergency Management Agency. Available at: http://www.aema.alberta.ca/documents/ema/Flood_Guide_July_2005.pdf
Pandemic Influenza. Alberta Health and Wellness. Available at: http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/pandemic-influenza.html
Responding to Stressful Events. Public Health Agency of Canada. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/oes-bsu-02/comm-eng.php
Shelter-In-Place Guide. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Available at: http://www.shelterssl.com
The Alberta Emergency Public Warning System. Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
West Nile Virus: Fight the Bite. Alberta Health and Wellness. Available at: http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/west-nile-virus.html
Wildfire Evacuation: Are You Prepared. CN & Government of Alberta. Available at: http://www.aema.alberta.ca/documents/ema/PIP-wildfirebrochure.pdf
Winter Driving. Alberta Motor Association. Available at: http://www.ama.ab.ca/cps/rde/xchg/ama/web/everything_auto_winterprep-9356.htm?link=FB
Your Emergency Preparedness Guide. Public Safety Canada. Available at: http://www.aema.alberta.ca/documents/72hrEMPreparedness.pdf