Monday, May 6, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Week 2013 - By Mountainman

Emergency Preparedness Week 2013
5 -11 May 2013

It is Emergency Preparedness Week again. Each year in Canada we use the first full week of May to acknowledge and prepare for the unexpected. Whether, we are talking a house fire, forest fire, flood or tornado, we need to be ready 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To help us from getting complacent, our government has established Emegency Preparedness Week.

Preparedness requires:

  •   Awareness
  •   Education
  •   Skills Training
  •   Gear
  •   Practice and Drills
  •   Review

 The government and supporting agencies and partners use Emergency Preparedness Week to raise awareness, through their advertisement campaign, website, and public displays. Such displays include the “Disaster Alley” presentation in Calgary, Alberta on Sunday 05 May 2013 at the McMahon Stadium Parking Lot. This presentation will be hosted by the City of Calgary and will be in cooperation with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), the Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Police Service and Alberta Health Services.

The purpose of awareness is to get everyday folks interested in their own personal safety during a natural disaster or man-made crisis. Once the interest is generated, the next objective is to direct those interested persons to a source of further education. The “get prepared dot gc” website has information on types of disasters and how to make a 72 hour survival kit, as well as, links to the provincial emergency management websites for more information on services and education available in your specific province.

Education can also be found at non-government websites, your local library, or community groups. In fact, volunteering is an excellent way to learn new skills, network with like-minded individuals and give back to your community. Many communities have a search and rescue unit or volunteer fire department, both are supported by first class training and are staffed primarily by volunteers, like yourself. Scouts Canada is another excellent place to volunteer. Scouts needs volunteer leaders and you will beneft from the courses that are required to become a leader.

A good place to start your training is with first aid. St. John's Ambulance or the Canadian Red Cross offer Standard First Aid with CPR & AED. If you live in a more remote location you may want to fortify your first aid training with either a 50 or 100 hour Wilderness First Aid course.

After first aid, another very useful course to take is your CERT – Civil Emergency Response Training. This is the course that converts you from a bystander at an emergency into a another set of helping hands, trained helping hands.

There are, of course, many skills to learn to be able to help your own family during an emergency and the good news is you do not have to learn all at once. You start with a core of essential course and gradually build from there. As mentioned earlier first aid and CERT area good place to start. Continue by adding a wilderness survival course or take up back country camping or canoe camping. The more you training to live without the modern conveniences offered in everyday life, the easier it will be to adapt when those modern conveniences are lost for a few days. Or check-out your local community college. Many have weekend courses on home repair and maintenance, basic automotive repairs, not to mention food preparation courses.

Gear. What do I need? What would I like? I suggest focus on needs first and wants later. In discussing gear we have to assign some sort of value system to determine a need from a want. So, let's start with the Rule of Three's.

The Rule of Three's states  - You can Survive:

3 Minutes without Oxygen
3 Hours without Shelter
3 Days without Water
3 Weeks without Food
3 Months without Companionship

What the heck does that have to do with buying gear??? Well, what it means is, if you are not breathing – it does not matter how much food, water or survival gear you have; because in 4 minutes all that stuff will belong to someone else.

Thus, first aid is more important than gathering berries – the short-term. You need shelter – which includes the proper clothes and footwear for the climate, location and time-of-year, in addition to a tarp or tent or cabin. You need water, a means to collect it, carry it and boil it. You will need food, a method to carry it, cook it and eat it. You will need a method to make fire. You will want a method to hear from others – a portable multi-band radio that has a crank or solar power.

So, the bare minimum gear list may look like this:

  •  A First Aid Kit – sized for your group
  •  Clothes and Footwear – weatherproof outerlayer, 2x sets of everything else
  •  Tarp – for shelter
  •  Water Bottle or Canteen & Metal Container to boil in
  •  High Energy Food (that does not need more than boiling water to prepare)
  •  Fire Lighting Kit – at least 3 methods of starting a fire
  •  Eton Scorpion Radio
  •  In a waterproof pouch: Copy of all personal documents & a copy on a USB
  •  A Backpack or duffle bag to carry all the gear 
           One bag for each person in your home, pre-packed and ready to go 24/7

You can add to your gear as finances and time permits. In the beginning it is most important to have a bag ready for each member of your household.

With you gear now in order, you need to practice. Practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more.

Start with a household fire drill. Learn how-to get out of the house in a hurry. Fire is the most likely reason you will have to evacuate your own home. KNOW where every fire exit is, from every room. If you can get out for a fire, you can get out for every other reason, too.

Now practice to take your evacuation pack/duffle with you. You will soon discover where is the best location to store your packs, so they are not forgotten. Yes, insurance will replace most material goods, but from the time of evacuating until the insurance funds arrive you will feel better if you still have some of your own possessions. Not to mention that in your pack you have copies of your home owners insurance, thus speeding up the claims process.

You will need to practice meeting up immediately after you evacuate your home. If it is 0300 and each member escaped from a different part of your home, you will want to meet-up to ensure everyone is out and safe. A location must be known to all members of the family a safe disatnce from the home. Having an alternate would be wise. Practice exiting your home and meeting at the place you have decided on. Walk through the process, during daylight hours and practice at night as well.

If the event that is causing you to evacuate, is larger in magnitude than just your home burning, such a forest fire approaching town, you may have more time to gather belongings, pack your vehicle and drive away. You will want to ensure that you have an address book with you so you can let friends and family know you are safe upon arriving at the emergency shelter outside the danger area. It is best to check in with emegency services at the shelter, but you are not required to be housed there. If you have been evacuated, the governing body that issues the evaucation order is responsible for your welfare – shelter, food, clothes, etc. If you do not check in, two things may occur: 

First, first responders may be asked to search for you inside the danger area, thus needlessly endangering their lives.
Second, you may be entitled to monetary compensation after the disaster.

Last but certainly not least, the review. If you are ever invovled in an actual event, after it is over review how you plan worked. What didn't work. And what could have been done better to make your plan work more effectively next time. Ensure all members of your household particpate in this process. This will help everyone feel included and it will reduce stress if anything ever happens again.

For those who did not experience an emergency event in the past 12 months, you should review your plan every year during Emergency Preperedness Week. Check your packs, rotate food and water. Ensure clothing items still fit and are in good condition. Repack and store you packs in their proper place. Maybe run a practice drill or two. Ensure your first aid training is up-to-date. Discuss with your family what events may cause you to leave your home and how you would accomplish it.

Keep safe out there.


1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of volunteerism. It is a great way to train you to respond during emergency situation. And I guess there is a sense of fulfilment in such act.