Take these important steps to plan for your health and safety during an emergency
You also have an important role to play in ensuring your safety. While it may be uncomfortable to consider yourself in an emergency, good outcomes can’t be left to chance. The risk of widespread catastrophic events in Ontario is low. However, it’s important to understand the local risks in your community. Experts say you should have a plan to cope for at least 72 hours when an emergency strikes and possibly even longer if you have special needs.
Have a plan
Accessing health care
Follow your doctor’s advice about accessing health care during an emergency. However, if they are unavailable during an emergency, call 911 or visit your local emergency department. If you receive home care, speak with your care coordinator or homecare provider to identify a backup plan.
Create a support network
Identify people you trust near your home, school, workplace and any other location where you spend time. You should also identify someone in your network who lives outside of your community in case the emergency is widespread. You may wish to inform these people about your needs and share emergency contact information. This group can assist you and may provide social support as an emergency can be emotionally taxing.
Maintain a communication channel
Maintaining a communication channel with your support network and emergency officials is essential. Consider any particular communication needs (e.g. sensory issues – hearing difficulties, visual impairment, etc.). Keep a corded telephone (one that does not need to be plugged into an electrical outlet) and a radio. Try not to rely on a cell phone because networks may be down.
Keep your health information accessible
Do not assume that there will be access to your health records during an emergency. Keep your health card in a safe place and have the following information written down in an accessible location:
- Name and telephone number of your physician, pharmacist and other health-care providers
- List of health conditions
- Names and dosage of medications you are currently taking
- Any other relevant information
Speak with the supplier of any medical equipment that requires electricity. There may be opportunities to maintain backup batteries or consider an alternate power supply. Don’t forget about medications stored in the fridge. Although you may want to run a generator or your car to produce power, never do so in an enclosed area because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Emergency preparedness is not a one-time activity. Circumstances and your health can change and it is important to revisit your plan. Emergency Preparedness Week happens each year in May and is a great time to have a discussion about your emergency plan.
Maintain an emergency kit
The golden rule of emergency planning is maintaining a kit that provides the necessities of life for 72 hours and accommodates your health needs. Emergencies can happen without warning, so do not assume there will be access to a pharmacy or health care provider.
Some items to consider including are:
- Medications and appropriate supplies to sustain you for one week
- Potable water (two litres per person per day)
- Accessible mobility equipment to keep near an exit
- First aid kit, and consider taking a first aid/CPR course from a reputable educator