Time to ensure emergency kits are ready
Winter storms can result in prolonged power outages
BY LAURA CHURCHILL DUKE SALTWIRE
There's little doubt Atlantic Canada will soon be facing snow and ice storms. With these come the risk of power outages, which could potentially last for a few days. In the case of these emergencies, we need to be prepared. Anyone who has lived in parts of Asia may be used to having an earthquake preparedness kit on hand, but do we really need to have an emergency kit here in Atlantic Canada? Dan Stovel says yes. Stovel is the regional emergency management co-ordinator for Kings County, N.S. His responsibility is to oversee disaster preparedness for the region, focusing on disaster response planning, building relationships with other organizations having a disaster response role and advising and informing elected officials, staff and the public about disaster preparedness. “Being prepared for an emergency also means having the necessary supplies on hand to help you and your family cope,” said Stovel. Three kits To be prepared, Stovel suggested having three different kits. First is the general emergency kit. Stovel noted the Canadian Red Cross recommends that you keep a disaster preparedness kit in your home with enough supplies to meet your family’s needs for at least 72 hours. Sample items to include are: • Bottled water • Non-perishable food • Radio (battery or wind-up) • First aid kit • Flashlight • Emergency phone list Secondly, Stovel says to have an emergency go-bag. An emergency go bag contains your personal emergency supplies pre-packed in an easy-to-carry solution, usually a sturdy backpack. It holds all the items you will need if you must leave your home or workplace immediately, he says. It’s a smaller version of your emergency kit in an easy-to-access place in your home. Evacuation This grab go bag should include such items as •Small first-aid kit and personal medications •Personal toiletries and items, such as an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses •Copy of your emergency plan, copies of important documents, such as insurance papers •Cash in small bills •Local map with your family meeting place identified The car Third is the car emergency kit. Always have winter safety and emergency equipment in your car. A basic car kit should contain the following: • Food that won’t spoil, such as energy bars • Water — plastic bottles that won’t break if the water freezes (replace them every six months) • Blanket • Extra clothing and shoes or boots • First aid kit with seatbelt cutter • Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush • Candle in a deep can and matches • Wind-up flashlight • Whistle — in case you need to attract attention • Roadmaps • Copy of your emergency plan As the seasons change, so do the items in your kits, said Stovel. In the wintertime, having additional warm clothing and blankets is recommended for each kit. Where to store your emergency kit is up to each family, but all family members need to be aware of their location. Power outages It is not uncommon to lose power during wind or snowstorms. Stovel recommended having a back-up generator, if possible. To make sure you are using it safely, he recommends using Nova Scotia Power’s website as a resource. If you do not invest in a generator, Stovel suggested residents learn where their nearest comfort centre is located. Comfort centres, he explained, are not overnight shelters, but may provide different services, depending on resources available. They provide a place to get warm, re-charge devices, use the washroom, get a warm drink, check on each other, share information and get updates on weather and power resumption. If you are not quite needing to go to a comfort station, Stovel said there are a few things to do to keep warm, without power. • Eliminate heat loss – avoid opening and closing exterior doors and block drafts • Wear plenty of layers • Use candles safely • Use the sun for heat — blinds open in the day and shut at night • Keep yourself and pets warm with blankets • Consume warm drinks Canada’s Get Prepared power outage website offers the following tips: • 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’s 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 in preparation for use and to eliminate creosote build-up which could ignite and cause a chimney fire. • Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment or home generators indoors. They give off carbon monoxide. • Use proper candle holders. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep out of reach of children. Always extinguish candles before going to bed. • 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.