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Emergency preparedness

Before an emergency

Check out the seven steps to emergency preparedness, learn how to build important emergency preparedness kits, and find out about emergency communications.

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During an emergency

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.

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Emergency preparedness for Ottawa business owners

Readiness can be as simple as having an emergency preparedness plan, setting up procedures to help your business recover and having emergency supplies on hand.

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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.

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Are You Ready?

Community Partners helping residents develop their own personal emergency preparedness plan.

Video transcript - Get your kit together

An emergency preparedness kit will help ensure your safety and the safety of your family. Preparing one is easy, inexpensive, and quick - in fact, you probably already have most of the items you need.

Your emergency preparedness kit should contain adequate supplies to keep you and your family self-sufficient in your home for at least 72 hours.

Your major needs are going to be water and food, so start by setting aside bottled water.

A general rule of thumb is two litres per person for each day.

Then, collect some non-perishable foods like grain products, meat and alternatives, canned fruits and vegetables, non-perishable milk products, other foods, and additional food supplies.

Set reminders to rotate your emergency foods and water into your regular meals to be sure they don't expire, and replace the items as you use them.

Next, add other important emergency supplies to your kit.

Store all your paper documents in a waterproof and portable container and remember to include a first aid kit.

Assemble all the supplies in an easy-to-carry container and store it in an easy to get to location.

To find out more about what you can do to be prepared, visit for more emergency kit ideas, including checklists for your first aid kit, car kit, tips on pet preparedness, and more.

Call 9-1-1 for emergencies only

Every day, more than 700 Ottawa residents call 9-1-1 for help. 

An increasing number of these calls are non-urgent or accidental, made by unlocked mobile phones in pockets or purses. Every accidental and non-urgent call can steal precious time from a real emergency.

What is an emergency?

A 9-1-1 emergency is an immediate threat to someone's health, safety or property. Call 9-1-1 when there is a:

  • Life-threatening emergency or medical situation
  • Crime in progress
  • Fire
  • Serious accident
  • Exposure to, inhalation or swallowing of a poisonous substance

Help us help you. Follow these tips to prevent the misuse of 9-1-1

  • 9-1-1 is for emergencies only. There are other non urgent numbers to assist:
  • Know your location. Be prepared to provide the 9-1-1 Operator with your exact address if at all possible. This can save valuable time which is critical in times of emergencies.
  • Don't pocket dial. Store your cell phone carefully and never pre-program 9-1-1. Unintentional emergency calls from mobile phones can occur if you accidentally press a speed dial key that has been pre-programmed to call 9-1-1. In some instances, you may not even be aware that the emergency key has been pressed. Check your phone's manual or contact your retail dealer to ensure any pre-programmed emergency numbers have been disabled.
  • You are encouraged to text during an emergency but DO NOT SEND TEXT MESSAGES TO 9-1-1. During a large-scale emergency, such as a natural disaster, voice networks can become congested or over-loaded with an influx of mobile voice calls. This can result in individuals not being able to speak with the people they want to contact. In rare instances, it can also hinder communications among emergency service personnel.
    Text messages, however, use less network capacity than normal mobile phone voice calls, and can be more reliable for brief communication with friends or loved ones during emergencies. So even if a network is congested with voice calls, a text message may have a higher likelihood of getting through sooner than a voice call. Equally as important, by texting during an emergency, you are freeing up the voice lines for emergency officials to use.
  • Don't hang up if you dial 9-1-1 accidentally. If you dial 9-1-1 accidentally, please stay on the line and advise the Operator. If you hang up an Operator will have to call back or send the police to be sure that you are okay.
  • Do not give old cell phones to children as toys. An out of service wireless phone can still call 9-1-1.

Why is prevention important?

Accidental and non-urgent calls have a significant impact on the day-to-day operation of a 9-1-1 centre. 9-1-1 operators are professionals trained to respond to emergencies. Non-emergency calls can often tie up valuable resources, including first responders such as police, fire and paramedics, who are essential in supporting emergency response.

  • 97% of all 9-1-1 calls in Ottawa are answered within six seconds.
  • Callers may not be aware of any impact on emergency response or customer service
  • The high volume of non-emergency calls interspersed between true emergency calls can have a significant operational impact on the 9-1-1 centre, its professional operators and emergency service responders.

Emergency Preparedness Week

May 6 to 12, 2018 is Emergency Preparedness Week, and the City of Ottawa, along with municipalities, organizations and corporations across the country are asking you to help us build a more resilient community by taking the time to get you, your family and your neighbourhood ready for emergencies and disasters.

Plan. Prepare. Be Aware.

How can YOU get involved?

  • Talk to your family and prepare a Family Emergency Plan
  • Build an Emergency Kit for your home, office and car
  • Start your meetings by reminding participants about emergency procedures
  • Stage an emergency exercise and practice your plan

City of Ottawa Emergency Management Plan

Mission and scope

Conscious of its potential vulnerability in emergency situations, the City of Ottawa has proactively initiated a comprehensive Emergency Management Plan [ PDF - 0.8MB ]. This plan is based on an all-hazard and multi-departmental approach. Each of the City of Ottawa's sections possesses its own formal or informal emergency system and corresponding response capability. The City of Ottawa's Emergency Management Plan is designed to be comprehensive and aims at heightening the combined level of response throughout the City of Ottawa's emergency response community. The plan is designed to:

“Provide an enhanced and co-ordinated level of planning and readiness to better respond to the needs of the community during a major emergency, while still ensuring the delivery of city services to the other areas of the City.”

The main sections of this document outline the overall municipal emergency management system, the general emergency functions common to all types of emergencies and disasters as well as specific emergency functions.

This document is available in accessible formats upon request.

Corporate and legal authority

The overall emergency management program is a Community and Protective Services (CPS) Standing Committee and Council initiative and was developed under the authority of the CPS Committee.

The development of this plan complies with provincial and federal legislation as well as generally accepted standards and good practices in risk and emergency management.

Help emergency providers help you

Enter and save the acronym “ I C E ” (In Case of Emergency), in your mobile phone book along with your emergency contact person’s telephone number. This will help emergency personnel notify your contact person quickly and easily. Most individuals carry a cell phone and in a crisis situation emergency responders can get in touch with them with ease.

It's so simple that everyone can do it – pass it on to all your friends and family. Enter more than one contact name and label them with the following: ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.

For more information call City Services 3-1-1.

TTY/ATS 613-580-2401

Office of Emergency Management

The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) ensures the safety of all residents and visitors by:

  • planning, preventing and preparing prior to an emergency
  • responding and ensuring the continuation of essential services during an emergency
  • activating the Emergency Operations Centre Control Group (a multi-departmental Steering Committee) when needed and
  • helping the city recover after an event.

How to Contact us

General Inquiries: 613-580-2424 ext. 29436

Are You Ready Emergency Preparedness Program:


Mandated by the province under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, the Office of Emergency Management is responsible for managing the:

  • Emergency Management Program (EMP)
    • Initiated in 2002, EMP addresses legislative requirements under the act with the goal of enhancing collaboration between all emergency partners prior to, during and after an emergency.
  • City of Ottawa Emergency Plan
    • Reviewed on an annual basis, the Emergency Plan governs the provision of necessary services during an emergency and the processes and procedures in which city employees and partners will respond to the emergency.
  • Emergency Management Training and Exercise Program
    • Developed a multi agency training and exercise program for City of Ottawa staff and partners that manage, support and respond to emergencies for a period of several days or more. Regularly test the effectiveness of the City of Ottawa emergency plan at the multi-departmental level, to allow for continuous improvement of the City’s emergency response capacity.
  • Are You Ready Program: Emergency Preparedness Public Education and Awareness Program
    • Launched in 2005, Are You Ready aims to educate community and businesses on the importance of emergency planning. The better-prepared people are for an emergency, the better the City is able to respond to the emergency.

Have a look at the following sites; they contain useful information on emergency management.

Flood information

Current situation

City staff continue to monitor conditions in communities that have experienced flooding in the past.

If you see significant flooding in your area please call 3-1-1.

For information on water levels, see the following websites: Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, the South Nation Conservation Authority, the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. 100-year flood plain map

Also visit the Residential Flooding page on


The City is prepared to provide sand and sandbags if necessary. Sand and sandbags have been deployed to various locations throughout the City, additional locations were added today as a precaution. If residents require sand and sandbags, they can collect material at any of the following locations:

  • Willola Beach Road and Moorhead Drive
  • Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre
  • 4127 John Shaw Road
  • 2941 March Road
  • Rowatt Street, at the river
  • Jamieson Street, at the river

How to make a sandbag wall

Descriptive video

Tips to prevent basement flooding

Residents can help prevent basement flooding with a few simple changes around the home:

  • Seal window wells and cracks in floors, walls and the foundation.
  • Slope ground away from the foundation to allow rainwater to flow away from the home.
  • Direct downspouts from eaves troughs away from the foundation (minimum of 1.2 metres) or to a rain barrel(s).
  • Disconnect downspouts from the sewer system or foundation drains.
  • Ensure foundation drains direct water to the storm sewer or sump pump. Foundation drains should not be connected to the sanitary sewer.
  • Ensure the sump pump is connected to the storm sewer or discharges to the ground at least 1.2 metres from the foundation.
  • Install protective plumbing devices, such as backwater valves which protect against surcharging in City sewers. The City’s Residential Protective Plumbing Program offer rebates to qualified homeowners.
  • Maintain existing protective plumbing devices according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A protective plumbing device should be maintained periodically or before a forecasted heavy rainfall to ensure it is free of debris, functioning properly and that cleanout caps and access covers are firmly secured. For more tips on backwater valve maintenance, refer to a video on Backwater Valve Maintenance(link is external) from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.

For more tips on preventing basement flooding, refer to the Handbook for Reducing Basement Flooding from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.

Causes of sewer backups and flooding

Backups and flooding can occur as a result of:

Blockage of the lateral

If the lateral from your home becomes blocked, sewage from inside your home may back up into the basement. The blockage may be due to:

  • Accumulation of grease, paper, kitchen waste or other foreign objects
  • Presence of tree roots (private or City-owned trees)
  • Collapse, misalignment or other structural defects of the lateral

Surcharging of the City’s sewer main

If the sewer main, generally located under the street, is blocked or damaged, sewage may enter your home due to increased water level or surcharging in the City’s sewer system.

Spring runoff

Melting snow and ice can leak through cracks or joints in your basement walls or floor.

River flooding

River flooding sometimes occurs in some areas of the city.

To find out if you live in Ottawa's 1-in-100 year flood plain, consult the City's interactive map.

Responsibility for sewer laterals

  • The City is responsible for the portion of the sanitary and storm sewer laterals from the property line to the street.
  • The homeowner is responsible for the portion of the sanitary and storm sewer laterals from the property line to the home.
  • There may also be shared responsibility if a lateral requiring repair or replacement crosses the property line.

Residential Protective Plumbing Program

The Residential Protective Plumbing Program provides financial assistance to qualified City of Ottawa property owners for the installation of protective plumbing devices, such as sump pumps and storm and sanitary backwater valves to prevent water and sewage from flooding homes as a result of increased water level (surcharging) in the City’s sewer system.

For more information, visit the Sewer backups and flooding page.

Flood information

For flooding to occur, a major rain event would have to happen.

Learn More

Descriptive video

One way to keep flood water from affecting part of your property is to build a sandbag wall.

First, let's take a look at the bag. Empty sandbags can be purchased at most building supply stores in Ottawa. Only fill each bag two-thirds of the way as Overfilled bags are not as effective and become too heavy to remove later once saturated with water.

A propped ladder and a pylon makes for a stable workspace. Carefully cut the pylon to create a syphon for the sand.

To build our wall we created a base layer four bags wide, overlapping the sides slightly. When you lay your sandbags, make sure to overlap the seams. Position the bottom seam of the bag towards the water, and the tied end toward the shore. Then, stack sandbags in a pyramid style on all sides. With this pyramid design, if you want a higher wall, you will need to make it wider at the base to begin with. A ten-metre wall, two feet in height, would require approximately 100 bags. This is one way to build a sandbag wall.

For more information visit