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 May 2009 - Nr. 5

Emergencies can happen anywhere and anytime. They can be caused by severe weather, disease outbreaks, food or water contamination, accidents or by intentional acts. Right now you might be thinking more about planning your summer vacation, but it's important for families to talk about emergency planning and to know what to do, and where to go, in the event of an emergency.

Emergencies can threaten your family's health and safety, the environment and essential services such as transportation or telecommunications. They can also affect your ability to access health care services and the health care system's ability to respond to the situation. In an emergency, local firefighters, police, and health professionals will be on hand to manage the situation, but there are steps that every family should take to make sure they are better prepared to weather a crisis. These steps include making a plan, putting together a portable and accessible emergency kit and learning about basic ways to prevent infection.

Preparing and discussing a household emergency plan is very important, especially considering the possibility that communications networks can break down. Decide on a meeting place for your family in case telephone, cell phone or email systems are not available. Identify an out-of-town emergency contact in case you're asked to evacuate. Post emergency numbers by the phone and teach your children about how and when to call for help.
If you live in a house, know how to turn off the water supply, gas and electricity. If you live in an apartment, know the locations of the emergency exits.

Some emergencies may impact clean water supplies or your ability to leave your home to buy food. Public Safety Canada recommends that all families have enough supplies in their homes for at least 72 hours. Supplies should be stored in sturdy and portable containers such as backpacks or duffle bags. Include basics such as water (four litres of drinking water per person per day) and non-perishable foods that don't require refrigeration, cooking or added water. If you have a baby, remember to pack infant formula, bottles, baby food, diapers and wipes. First aid materials, as well as supplies like flashlights, candles, matches, extra batteries, a battery-operated or wind-up radio, blankets, clothing and some basic tools (screwdriver, pliers etc.) should be included. And keep in mind that your cordless phones probably won't work in a power outage, so be sure to have at least one wired phone in the house.

A potential emergency that the Public Health Agency is preparing for is an influenza pandemic. A pandemic happens when a strain of the flu virus changes into something we've never been exposed to before, and so, aren't immune to. In the event of an influenza pandemic or any other infectious disease outbreak, the simplest measures can go a long way in preventing further spread of disease. These include: good handwashing techniques; sneezing or coughing into your sleeve or a tissue; keeping common surfaces (door knobs, telephones) clean; staying at home and avoiding crowds when sick; and getting your annual flu shot. For more information on infection control, visit or

From the top levels of government to the family dinner table, emergency preparedness and response is a shared responsibility. May 3-9 is National Emergency Preparedness Week and an opportunity for all of us to learn more about how to protect the health and safety of our families in the event of an emergency. For more information, visit the Public Safety Canada website at


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