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
- Heat Emergency
- Infectious Disease Outbreak
- Water Contamination Emergency
- Hazardous Chemical Release
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.
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.
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.