A natural disaster can happen anytime. Prepare for one today.

June 6, 2014

May 4-10 – Many Canadians observed Emergency Preparedness Week. This year, it’s particularly worthwhile to take time to reflect on your own level of readiness. Over the past twelve months, Canadians were rocked by several high profile natural disasters, some causing severe destruction. In June, flooding in Southern Alberta led to massive amounts of property damage and dislocations. In December, the Ontario ice storms created widespread disruption and discomfort as people were left in bitterly cold weather without heat or electricity.

“Like most natural disasters, these came with little or no warning”, says Peter O’Neill, Bridgewater Bank’s chief operating officer. “While government agencies and emergency providers stepped up to the challenge and prevented substantial loss of lives, they couldn’t completely alleviate the stress and suffering of those affected.”

Natural disasters are difficult to predict and prevent. In spite of this, a recent survey showed that out of two thousand Canadians polled, only nine per cent say they’ve taken precautionary measures to protect themselves. The good news is there are simple things you can do to prepare yourself and those around you.

Here are some to consider:

  1. Sign up for first aid training. Courses are held year-round throughout Canada, are affordable and only take a day or two to complete. With this training, you’ll be able to provide emergency medical assistance to those around you – particularly crucial in times of disaster where first responders may not be able to get to your location quickly due to poor ground conditions or heavy demand.
  2. Create an emergency kit, ready to be used on the spot or taken with you if you have to leave quickly. Include a three day supply of non-perishable food and bottled water, extra clothing for all family members, blankets or sleeping bags, a first aid kit, medications, a battery operated radio and a flashlight. Don’t forget several extra sets of batteries and a can opener.
  3. Maintain a photo or video home inventory. Each year, create a photo or video record of all the items in your house as you travel through it room by room. Save a copy of it in a secure location away from your home. If you suffer property damage, this visual record will help you to make a more accurate insurance claim and speed up the rebuilding process.
  4. Create and carry a record of your emergency contacts, including
    • everyone in your household, including their work, cellphone and school numbers
    • a mix of nearby and out-of-town friends, family and co-workers
    • banking and insurance providers
    • utility companies

“While you’ll rarely have to take advantage of these emergency preparations,” says O’Neill, “being ready will give you the peace of mind knowing that you’re able to protect those around you in times of crisis.”

In addition to emergency preparations, remember it’s also important to financially prepare yourself for the unexpected. Create an emergency savings fund you can access in times of need. A good rule of thumb is to save the equivalent of three months of your salary to cover expenses that may result from a disaster, or other situations like illness or job loss. Automatically transfer five to ten per cent of your paycheque to a high interest savings account every payday. You’ll have a financial cushion that will help you and your family to recover during times of need.

For more tips on preparing for natural disasters and recovering from them, visit the Government of Canada’s Emergency Preparedness website at www.getprepared.gc.ca.