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A new survey says that while most Canadians recognize the importance of being prepared for an emergency, 42 per cent say they are not ready for a flood, earthquake, ice storm, extended power blackout, terrorist attack or other disaster.

If you're like me, you probably felt silly stockpiling food and water in the basement in preparation for the turn of the millennium, only to find that the Y2K scare was mostly that – just a scare. But if you think disasters are rare in Canada and not likely to happen here, a look at the Canadian Disaster Database may prompt you to start preparing your emergency kit.

The site lists different types of disasters (biological, geological, meteorological and hydrological, conflict and technological) and outlines the history of specific disasters within each group, ranging from infestations and epidemics to earthquakes, tsunamis, industrial accidents, and civil unrest.

If you don't recall the last hurricane to hit Canada, it was Juan in 2003, which killed eight people in Nova Scotia and PEI, according to the site. Don't remember hearing about an infestation emergency? A toxic mould forced 170 people from their homes in 1999 at the Little Saskatchewan Indian Reserve in Manitoba.

Earthquakes are surprisingly common in Canada – more than 50 a year that are strong enough to be felt and several earthquakes have registered a magnitude of more than 6.0. For lots more information about earthquakes, check out the Natural Resources Canada Earthquakes site.

Floods are the most common natural hazard in Canada, and were recently experienced in several provinces, particularly Manitoba. Floods can occur at any time of the year, and all Canadian rivers flood at one time or another.

The Allstate Insurance Company of Canada survey says that more than half of respondents believe an emergency of some kind will happen within the next 10 years. The company recently teamed up with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) to help teach Canadians how to prepare for emergencies. There's a quiz on its online resource centre that may prove you are not as prepared for an emergency as you think you are.

"Emergencies often happen without warning," says Paul Kovacs, executive director of the ICLR. "This means you may find yourself evacuated from your home, or without power, transportation and other essential supplies. Now is truly the best time to prepare yourself and your family for possible emergencies by putting together a complete emergency kit and plan."

Public Safety Canada says an emergency kit should include the following: - water – two litres of water per person per day, and enough for three days - food – non-perishable items such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods - a manual can opener - a first aid kit - a flashlight and batteries - prescription medications, infant formula or equipment for people with disabilities - extra keys for your car and house - cash – smaller bills and/or travelers cheques - photocopies of personal documents such as passport and birth certificate

You may also consider packing items such as toilet paper, a whistle in case you need to attract attention, blankets, a change of clothes or footwear, and other personal care supplies.

Another option is purchasing a Disaster Preparedness Kit from the Canadian Red Cross. The kits are available online for $59.95.

Allstate also recommends that you prepare a family preparedness plan. Determine the best escape routes from every room in your house, and make sure all family members know how to get out. Decide on a neighbourhood meeting place, so everyone will know where to meet in case a disaster strikes while family members are not home. Allstate recommends appointing an out-of-town contact – a friend or family member who is far enough away that he won't be affected by a local disaster, who can help pass messages between your family members. Everyone should also have a full list of contact details to reach other family members at work or school.

Finally, all adults and older children in the home should know how to operate the home's fire extinguisher. They should know the location of the fuse box, the main water shut-off, the gas valve, and floor drains in the basement.

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