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Emergency preparedness does not focus on "if" an emergency will occur, but on exactly what to do when an emergency strikes. Because something will go wrong and the more unprepared you are, the greater the impact can be. That’s not being negative or pessimistic, that’s reality.

Tornadoes are no longer rare occurrences in Canada. On the same June day, Southern Ontario experienced widespread tornado warnings and destruction, and a 5.0 magnitude earthquake.

The news seems filled with land slides, downed trees, power outages, natural gas explosions, fires, flash floods...and this is during the good weather months. These items make the news, but they create less and less reaction from the public as individuals become more and more complacent about property damage and personal loss. That is, until it happens to them.

Are you locked in denial, not giving any thought to what you’ll do when an emergency arrives? Or, are you determined to keep what you have safe and to protect those you love by being prepared to come out on top whatever happens?

Too many property owners are bogged down in day-to-day details and don’t think beyond the next weekend. They just react to problems as disaster strikes. This strategy means they often pay a premium for solutions, suffer great inconvenience, end up with larger than necessary problems to solve, or face the cost of permanent damage or loss. For instance, who would you call in a plumbing or electrical emergency? If you wait for a crisis to check out plumbers, electricians or other professionals, you may have to settle for second best service, inflated prices and "get in line" delays.

The Public Service Canada "72 hour Preparedness" campaign is intent on making sure Canadians are protected and that community resources are used to the greatest advantage. Individual and family 72-hour emergency preparedness plans are designed to ensure that uninjured Canadians can take care of themselves immediately after disaster strikes and for at least 72 hours. This will enable emergency medical and other services and personnel to concentrate on assisting those in dire straights when an emergency hits.

By definition, emergencies happen when we don't expect them, and often when families are not together. Can you remain independent and keep your family safe when disaster occurs? Visit the "Get Prepared" site to watch the video, "Making a Family Emergency Plan," and to launch your family emergency plan. The video asks and answers the question: "If phones or internet don’t work, or some neighbourhoods aren’t accessible, what will you do?"

The Get Prepared site also explains which emergencies could occur in your corner of Canada and how to prepare for them. If you have a cottage or regularly travel to visit family in another province, you may need more than one emergency preparedness plan.

Take about 20 minutes to decide on your personalized plan by using the online plan prompts and PDFs. This process will make you and your family aware of many simple and important elements of foresight that will keep you all safe. For instance,

  • If you and your family and friends were separated, where would you meet?
  • Have you discussed and practiced escape routes from your house and cottage with your children?
  • Do all the adults and teenagers in the house know the location of, and understand the operation of, the fire extinguisher, the water shut-off value, and the electrical service box and its circuit breakers?

Here are other very useful sites and organizations intent on helping you with your emergency preparedness:

Municipal and Provincial governments offer suggestions and information on area and local programs and resources. For instance, the British Columbia Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General provides details on compensation and recovery programs for current emergencies, and sponsors the Provincial Emergency Program, which brings relevant preparedness information together on one site.

The Ontario-based Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness (CCEP) is a non-profit organization "dedicated to fostering the development of a disaster resilient Canada by preparing small business, non-profit organizations, and the Disaster Management professional."

The Public Health Agency of Canada provides medical and health information to the public, and sponsors preparedness programs through its Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response (CEPR). For instance, the National Office of Health Emergency Response Teams (NOHERT) ensures that fully-trained emergency teams are available across the country. This enables teams to be "deployed on a 24-hour basis to assist provincial territorial or other local authorities in providing emergency medical care during a major disaster."

Nonprofit organizations are involved, too. Girl Guides of Canada (Ontario Council) partnered with Emergency Preparedness Challenge. Scouts Canada has a similar program.

Preparedness is a family affair, so involve everyone, including friends, neighbours and co-workers.

Natural disaster or any type of crisis could leave you and your family on your own without phones, internet, electricity, water and many of the things we take for granted. Emergency personnel will be swamped by immediate need, so it may be quite a while before help comes. Emergency preparedness and crisis management work best when you plan to stay safe and independent, and help others stay that way, too.

Prepare with foresight or whine in hindsight—your choice.

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