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After an emergency

After an emergency

Right after an emergency, you may feel stressed, confused and disoriented. These are perfectly normal reactions. If you are informed and prepared, you will be in a position to recover more quickly and you can help others do the same.

Be aware of post-emergency hazards as you deal with the stressful event.

Help the injured

Help anyone who is injured. Get your emergency survival kit (the first aid kit should be with it).

Listen to the radio

Listen to your local radio station for instructions and information.

Don't use the telephone

Don't use the telephone unless it is absolutely necessary. Emergency crews will need all available lines.

Check your home

Check for damage to your home. Remember the following points:

  • Use a flashlight - don't light matches or turn on the electrical switches if you suspect damage or smell gas.  
  • Check for fires and fire hazards.  
  • Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas, turn off the main gas valve, open windows and get everyone outside quickly. For information on safe procedures for shutting off the main gas valve, contact your gas company.  
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities. For information on safe procedures for shutting off utilities, contact your utility provider.  
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately. Wear protective clothing. For major spills or leaks, call for professional help.  
  • Confine or secure your pets.  
  • Check on your neighbours, especially the elderly or people with disabilities.

Remember, if you turn off the gas, it should only be turned back on by a professional from the gas company.

Dealing with stressful events

The impact of a stressful event can be immediate or delayed, and those affected directly or indirectly can feel a range of emotions and reactions.

Here are some suggestions to help get yourself and your family back on track after a major emergency or disaster:

  • Talk about your feelings.
  • Talk about what's happened.
  • Encourage your children to express their feelings. They may want to do this by drawing or playing instead of talking. Understand that their feelings are real.
  • Recognize that when you suffer a loss, you may grieve. (Yes, you can grieve the loss of a wedding photo or your grandfather's favorite ring.) You may feel apathetic or angry. You may not sleep or eat well. These are normal grief reactions.

Give yourself and your family permission to grieve and time to heal.

Ottawa Public Health can provide information and mental health resources for Ottawa residents and families. Please visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca (link is external) for more information on responding to stressful events or call 613-580-6744 to speak to a public health nurse.

Post-emergency hazards

The following are some of the hazards you may encounter directly following a specific emergency situation. In general, staying in your home will help you to avoid these hazards.

This section provides information on the hazards you may encounter after the following emergencies:

  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Heat Emergency
  • Power Outage
  • Severe Winter Storm
  • Tornado
  • Water Contamination Emergency

After an earthquake

Damaged buildings – Stay out of damaged buildings, even if they seem safe.

Aftershocks – 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.

Water service interruption – Use emergency water from your emergency preparedness kit. As a last resort, water can also be acquired from your water heater or melted ice cubes.

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.

If you live in an apartment, don't use the elevator. You run the risk of being stuck in it.

Check food supplies in refrigerator, freezers and cupboards for signs of spoilage. When frozen food begins to defrost it should be cooked; otherwise dispose of it in accordance with the instructions from local health authorities.

Loose or dangling electrical wires - Stay away. Advise the authorities if you can.

Broken sewer and water mains - Stay away. Advise the authorities if you can.

After a flood

Contaminated drinking water - 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.

Wash and sterilize dishes and utensils. Use boiling water or use a sterilizing solution of one part chlorine bleach to four parts water; then rinse dishes and utensils thoroughly.

Flooded basement – Drain the water in stages, about a third of the volume of water per day. Draining the water too quickly can structurally damage your home.

Contaminated floodwater in the basement - Disinfect every three days if the flood is severe and the house is occupied for an extended period. For the average home, mix two litres of liquid bleach into the floodwater.

Mould – Mould is a health hazard. If mould is present wear a facemask and disposable gloves. Anything that stays wet long enough will grow mould. Dry everything quickly to avoid future health problems.

After a heat emergency

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.

If you live in an apartment, don't use the elevator. You run the risk of being stuck in it.

Check food supplies in refrigerator, freezers and cupboards for signs of spoilage. When frozen food begins to defrost it should be cooked; otherwise dispose of it in accordance with the instructions from local health authorities.

After a 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.

If you live in an apartment, don't use the elevator. You run the risk of being stuck in it.

Check food supplies in refrigerator, freezers and cupboards for signs of spoilage. When frozen food begins to defrost it should be cooked; otherwise dispose of it in accordance with the instructions from local health authorities.

Loose or dangling electrical wires – Stay away. Advise the authorities if you can.

After a severe winter storm

Water service interruption – Use emergency water from your emergency preparedness kit. As a last resort, water can also be acquired from your water heater or melted ice cubes.

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.

If you live in an apartment, don't use the elevator. You run the risk of being stuck in it.

Check food supplies in refrigerator, freezers and cupboards for signs of spoilage. When frozen food begins to defrost it should be cooked; otherwise dispose of it in accordance with the instructions from local health authorities.

Broken sewer and water mains – Stay away. Advise the authorities if you can.

Damaged buildings – Stay out of damaged buildings, even if they seem safe.

Loose or dangling electrical wires – Stay away. Advise the authorities if you can.

After a tornado

If you suspect that your home was structurally damaged by the tornado, contact a qualified professional, such as an engineer, to assess the situation and provide direction on the required repairs.

An existing foundation may be used when rebuilding a house provided the foundation is in good condition and capable of supporting the imposed loads. A professional engineer may be required to confirm if reusing the existing foundation is appropriate.

Buildings damaged by the tornado are not necessarily subject to a timeline for reconstruction, however access to severely damaged structures, including pool enclosures, must be reasonably restricted to ensure safety. If you have severely damaged structures on your property, please contact Building Code Services at 613-580-2424 extension 29312 or buildingpermits@ottawa.ca (link sends e-mail).

A property owner must get a building permit prior to construction or renovation. This ensures that the minimum standards for health and safety, fire protection, structural adequacy, energy performance and accessibility are met.

Failure to obtain a building permit for construction may result in enforcement. In the case of a building failure or loss, insurance coverages may be void.

If your home has experienced any of the following, a building permit is required:

  • Deformation or deflection of structure, including associated porches, roofs, sunrooms, additions and decks
  • Removal or replacement of structural framing, including trusses, rafters, support posts, piers, beams and joists
  • Construction or reconstruction of any detached structures occupying a space larger than 10 square metres (approximately 108 square feet) in area on your property

If you still have storm-related debris on your property, please do not move it to the curb. Please contact your insurance company to arrange for proper disposal.

Some properties built before 1990 may contain asbestos. Please contact your insurance provider for direction as you proceed with repair or demolition work. Information on asbestos is available at ottawapublichealth.ca/tornado (link is external).If you have damaged appliances, furniture and electronics, do not dispose of them. Do not touch or move hazardous waste, such as propane tanks, paint, gas and oil. Please contact your insurance company for direction.

After a water contamination emergency

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.

Property insurance

Most home and business insurance policies cover damage caused by some emergency situations such as, a windstorm or tornado. If you are a renter, contact the property owner and your renters’ insurance company. Your insurance company will give you direction on your next steps and assist with clean up and debris removal. 

Protect yourself and coordinate everything through your insurance company. Document and take photos of any damage. Keep all receipts related to the storm, such as for hotels, food, pet boarding and supplies.

Helpful contacts

Canadian Red Cross: 1-800-863-6582 / redcross.ca/gethelp

Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians: 1-844-780-8925 / disasterassistance@ontario.ca

Electrical Safety Authority: 1-877-ESA-SAFE (1-877-372-7233) / esasafe.com

Enbridge Gas: 1-877-362-7434 / enbridgegas.com

Hydro One: 1-888-664-9376 / customercommunications@hydroone.com / hydroone.com

Hydro Ottawa: 613-738-6400 / custservice@hydroottawa.com / hydroottawa.com

Insurance Bureau of Canada: 1-844-2ask-IBC (1-844-227-5422) / ibc.ca

Ottawa Public Health: 613-580-6744 / healthsante@ottawa.ca / ottawapublichealth.ca/tornado