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During an emergency

During an emergency

In the event of a disaster or major emergency, the City of Ottawa has a plan and a trained team working for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The City's Comprehensive Emergency Plan outlines the roles and responsibilities of all involved in ensuring that essential services are provided during an emergency. It sets out the roles and responsibilities of the Mayor and City Councillors, and of City departments. It also spells out coordination with community agencies - area hospitals, local school boards, utilities such as gas, hydro and telephone, and the Canadian Red Cross Society.

Do you have a plan? Learn how to cope during an emergency, how to prepare for the impacts of an emergency and what to do if disaster strikes.

Be prepared. Have these numbers handy in case of an emergency.

Life-threatening Emergency or Crime in Progress

Call 9-1-1

Other Emergencies

Call 613-230-6211
TTY 232-1123

City of Ottawa General Information Line

Call 3-1-1
TTY 613-580-2401

Toll-Free 1-866-261-9799
Contact Us: City of Ottawa Contact Page

What to do in case of an emergency

During an emergency, your best protection is preparation. Knowing what to do will help you stay safe and better control of the situation.

The following information will help you prepare for specific emergencies, including:

  • Power Outage
  • Severe Winter Storm
  • During an Earthquake
  • Severe Lightning Storm
  • Flood
  • Heat Emergency
  • Infectious Disease Outbreak
  • Water Contamination Emergency
  • Hazardous Chemical Release

Power Outage

Turn the thermostat(s) down to minimum and turn off all appliances, electronic equipment and tools to prevent injury, damage to equipment and fire. Power can be restored more easily when the system is not overloaded.

Use a flashlight. If you must use candles, be sure to use proper candleholders. Never leave lit candles unattended.

Generators are an option for backup electricity, however:

  • They should never be used indoors
  • They require frequent maintenance (including frequent oil changes)
  • They must be installed and connected to your main panel (not directly to your wiring system) by a qualified electrician. Get any such installation inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority (613-225-7600).

Severe Winter Storm

If a power or fuel outage is prolonged as it was during the Ice Storm of 1998, stay in your home as long as you are safe, warm and can feed yourself.

It is easier to keep a smaller space warm. During the Ice Storm, some families stayed in their well-insulated basements, or closed off most rooms but a few, and managed to keep quite warm.

During an Earthquake

If you are in a building, stay inside. Stay away from windows. Shelter under a heavy desk or table and anchor yourself by holding on tightly. If you can't get under something strong, flatten yourself against an interior wall, and protect your head and neck.

If you are outside, go to an open area. Move away from buildings or any structure that could collapse. Stay away from power lines and downed electrical wires.

If you are in a car, stop the car and stay in it. Avoid bridges, overpasses or underpasses, buildings or anything that could collapse on you and your car.

Severe Lightning Storm

If you are in a building, stay inside. Stay away from windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks or other electrical charge conductors. Unplug TVs, radios, toasters and other electrical appliances. Don't use the phone or other electrical equipment.

If you are outside, seek shelter in a building, cave or depressed area. If you're caught in the open, crouch down with your feet close together and your head down. Don't lie flat; by minimizing your contact with the ground you reduce the risk of being electrocuted by a ground charge. Keep away from telephone and power lines, fences, trees and hilltops. Get off bicycles, motorcycles, and tractors.

If you are in a car, stop the car and stay in it. Don't stop near trees or power lines that could fall.

Flood

Turn off basement furnaces and the outside gas valve. Shut off the electricity. If the area around the fuse box or circuit breaker is wet, stand on a dry board and shut off the power with a dry wooden stick.

Never try to cross a flood area on foot. The fast water could sweep you away.

If you are in a car, try not to drive through floodwaters. Fast water could sweep your car away. If you are caught in fast rising waters and if your car stalls, leave the car.

Heat Emergency

A heat warning is automatically declared when Environment Canada forecasts a humidex of 40°C or more for at least two consecutive days. Extreme heat can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death. The very young, the old and the chronically ill are at greatest risk. However, anyone can suffer from heat-related illnesses, especially in the early summer when people have not yet acclimatized.

Risk factors for heat-related illness include living on the third floor or higher, not having air conditioning, not drinking enough or drinking fluids that promote dehydration, such as coffee, caffeinated soft drinks, and alcohol. Medications like anti-Parkinson's drugs and antidepressants can also make one more vulnerable to heat.

During a heat emergency, you should drinking plenty of fluids, try to find access to air-conditioning at least 2 hours a day, wear light coloured clothing, including a hat, and, if possible, cool down in the shade or in a pool.

Infectious Disease Outbreak

In case of a respiratory (airborne) infectious disease outbreak, the most important thing to do is to listen to the radio and follow recommendations to prevent and contain the spread of the disease.

Respiratory infections are generally spread by small droplets in the air that can settle on surfaces. To prevent the spread:

  • Cover your mouth when you cough/sneeze (with a tissue or into your elbow).
  • Wash your hands frequently, or use a alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Limit your contact with others.
  • When contact is necessary, keep at least a metre away from others.
  • Clean surfaces and contact points (contact points include door knobs, counters, and other high traffic areas).

A widespread infection may call for major public health measures, including:

  • Limiting public gatherings
  • Vaccination clinics
  • Antibiotic clinic

Water Contamination Emergency

In case of water contamination, the most important thing to do is to listen to the radio and follow recommendations to prevent and contain the spread of the disease.

If you experience diarrhea and vomiting for more than one day, or if there is any blood in the diarrhea, call your family physician.

If you suspect City water is contaminated, it must be brought to a rapid, rolling boil for at least one minute before being consumed.

This includes water for drinking, baby formula, juice, cooking, ice cubes, washing food and brushing teeth. Bottled water can be used as an alternative.

Remember: a home water softener or water filtration device will NOT remove bacteria from the water. Boiled or bottled water are the only safe alternatives.

If your well water is contaminated by bacteria or parasites, bring the water to a rapid rolling boil and boil for at least one minute before using it for drinking, making infant formula and juices, cooking, making ice, washing fruits and vegetables, and brushing teeth. Bottled water can be used as an alternative.

Contaminated well water should not to be consumed until it is determined to be potable through laboratory analysis.

Water samples should be taken from the well on a regular basis - at least three times a year and after heavy rains, or after any work is done on the well or plumbing system - to ensure the water is potable.

Hazardous Chemical Release

In the case of a hazardous chemical release, do not approach the scene of the release. Back off as quickly as possible. Listen to the advice of local officials on the radio or television to determine what steps you will need to take to protect yourself.

People who may have come into contact with a biological or chemical agent may need to go through a decontamination procedure before receiving medical attention.

If you have been exposed, or think you might have been, wait at a safe distance for direction from the authorities. If you have left the scene, and have exposure or symptoms, contact the Poison Information Centre for advice. In Ottawa, the number for the Poison Information Centre is 1 (800) 268-9017. Take steps to avoid contaminating others.

How to cope during an emergency

It is normal to feel stress during an emergency situation, and even well after the emergency is over. If you are informed and prepared, you can greatly decrease the stress you feel, and help others do the same.

Normal reactions

Normal reactions to a disaster include fear, increased worry, feeling generally tense, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms should pass once the situation is back to normal.

Staying informed

Keep informed. Unnecessary fears can often lead to panic. Avoid this by finding out as much as you can about what is happening. Take things day by day and rely on your social network.

Medication

If you suffer from a mental health problem and are taking medication, continue to take your medication. Make sure you keep your medication with you.

Maintaining mental health

If you have had a history of mental health problems or are currently feeling emotionally fragile (for example, feeling overly nervous, irritable and depressed), a disaster could bring about a return of your symptoms or a worsening of your present symptoms. If you feel you cannot cope, get help from a mental health professional. If you are feeling suicidal, go to an emergency room immediately.

Helping children cope

Children can also feel stress. This may include unexplained physical complaints, becoming cranky, and acting out.

There are ways to help children deal with stress. Give them things to do such as activities that let them move around. Talk to them and let them talk about how they feel. Offer them healthy food on a regular basis. Provide them with quiet time. Be aware that children may be overexposed in television reporting to graphic pictures of families like theirs who are in danger.

Helping others

If you notice that a family member, friend or neighbour is very distressed and is not getting better, encourage that person to seek help. In extreme cases, contact an Emergency Room and discuss the situation with a mental health professional for advice.

Impact of an emergency

A large-scale emergency could impact you, your family and your community in a number of ways. The information below will help you prepare for the effect of an emergency on:

  • Heat and Power
  • Telephone Service
  • Water and Sewer Systems
  • Health Services
  • Pets and Animals
  • Gas and Diesel
  • Emergency Reception Centres
  • 9-1-1 Service
  • Emergency Communications

Heat and Power

  • In the case of a power outage, make sure you have several flashlights with fresh batteries and spare flashlight bulbs in your home.
  • If a power or fuel outage is prolonged as it was during the Ice Storm of 1998, stay in your home as long as you are safe, warm and can feed yourself.
  • It is easier to keep a smaller space warm. During the Ice Storm, some families stayed in their well-insulated basements, or closed off most rooms but a few, and managed to keep quite warm.
  • Generators are an option for backup electricity, however:
    • They should never be used indoors
    • They require frequent maintenance (including frequent oil changes)
    • They must be installed and connected to your main panel (not directly to your wiring system) by a qualified electrician. Get any such installation inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority (613-225-7600).

Telephone Service

  • In an emergency, don't use the telephone unless it is absolutely necessary. Emergency crews will need all available lines. This includes cell phones.
  • Call 9-1-1 to report life-threatening medical emergencies, a crime in progress, or a fire. If you need an ambulance, police or the fire department, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • If there is a power outage and you can't use your telephone, you should have a back-up plan. For example, you, a member of your family or a neighbour might have a cell phone. In an emergency, the City may enlist the assistance of City and utility vehicles and taxis to watch out for people in need of help.

Water and Sewer Systems

  • If you depend on electricity to pump water from a well, it makes sense to have enough water stored to get you through three (3) days without power. Keep large bottles of water in storage in case you need them. You need at least two litres of drinking water per adult per day. Extra water is needed for cooking and washing.
  • If you don't have heat, you may have to turn off your water and drain your pipes to prevent them from freezing. In fact, the air temperature inside your home should never be lower than 8°C to prevent freezing.
  • To drain your pipes:
  1. Shut off the water supply to your house.
  2. Starting at the top of the house, open all taps and flush toilets several times.
  3. Go to the basement and open the drain valve.
  4. Drain your hot water tank by attaching a hose to the tank drain valve and running it to the basement floor drain.
  5. If you drain a gas-fired water tank, the pilot light should be turned out - the local gas supplier should be called to re-light it.

Health Services

  • If you have a friend or relative in a nursing home, check with the administrator to find out what their contingency plans are. Ask if they have a backup generator, and have a designated relocation site in case they have to evacuate.
  • If you or a member of your family depends on medical devices that require uninterrupted power, you should have contingency plans yourself in the form of batteries or a generator, and a backup plan to relocate to another facility if the power fails.
  • Make sure your contingency plans include taking care of elderly or disabled relatives and neighbours.
  • If you have medication you take on a regular basis, always have a two weeks' supply on hand in case of an emergency. Follow all directions and replace medication as necessary to ensure that it does not expire.
  • Have a list of your prescriptions for medications, eyeglasses and hearing aids, in case you need to have them refilled or replaced. It is a good idea to have your pharmacist print a list for you every six months or when your prescriptions change.

Pets and Animals

  • When you are considering where you and your family will go if you have to leave your home, don't forget to consider the needs of your pets and other animals in your care, particularly if you can't take them with you.
  • Prepare a portable pet supply kit to take along if you can take your pets with you.

Gas and Diesel

  • Try to keep your car's gas tank at least half full. In winter, it's best to keep it topped up.
  • Do not attempt to store bulk supplies of fuel.
  • If you do need to store fuel, store it:
    • In approved containers
    • In limited quantities
    • In a well-ventilated area
    • Away from sources of ignition

Emergency Reception Centres

  • Emergency Reception Centres will be opened by the City should an emergency be declared. You can go there to get information, to stay warm (during a winter power outage) or keep cool (during a heat emergency), and for comfort and food.
  • Locations will be broadcast on local emergency radio and TV stations should an emergency situation occur.
  • Know where you will go if you must leave your home and discuss this in advance with family, friends and your emergency contact. As a last measure, plan to go to an emergency reception centre, which will be set up if, and where, the emergency dictates.
  • In general, you should stay in your home as long as you are safe, warm and can feed yourself.

9-1-1 Service

  • 9-1-1 is the universal, easy to remember number that is available 24 hours a day to connect you to Police, Fire, or Paramedic services in an emergency. This multilingual service can be accessed for free at any telephone.
  • 9-1-1 should only be used for life-threatening medical emergencies, if there is a crime in progress, or to report a fire.
  • All non-life-threatening emergency calls should be directed to the seven-digit number listed in the phone directory for Police, Fire and Paramedic services. See the Red Pages in your phone book for these numbers.

Emergency Communications

  • In an emergency situation, don't use the telephone unless it is absolutely necessary. Emergency crews will need all available lines. Tune into your local radio or television station for updates.
  • Make sure you have a battery-operated or windup radio to stay in touch if there is no power. Check the best before date on batteries, store them out of the radio, and replace as necessary.