Scared or Prepared: Fires, Windstorms & Other Natural Disasters

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Scared or prepared?  As news reports of severe weather seem to be on the rise, most Canadians recognize the importance of being prepared for an emergency.  Many even feel that an emergency is fairly imminent – within the next 10 years.  However, alarmingly many still report being unprepared.  Are there some simple precautions that you can take to help mitigate losses and facilitate an easier recovery from a natural disaster?  Absolutely.

First, it is essential to learn about the risks and precautions specific to your area.  For example, in beautiful British Columbia we are privileged to live in close proximity to the rugged beauty of immense untamed forests.  While this affords amazing recreational opportunities, it is not without its risks.  The Wildfire Management Branch of the Ministry of Forests reports that between April 1, 2009 and October 15, 2009 alone there were over 3000 wildfires in British Columbia.  Our climate and geographic location also makes us prime candidates for water damage due to heavy rainfall, rapidly melting snow, and other severe weather such as windstorms. Making specific preparations for these types of situations can minimize your losses and most importantly help keep you and your family safe.

An essential element in any emergency preparedness plan is the assembly of a basic emergency kit that will allow your family to be self sufficient for at least 72 hours.  Many ready-made kits are available for purchase at local retailers or you may wish to assemble your own.  Be sure to include the following:

  • Water (72 hour supply for the entire family for drinking and sanitation, that is at least 2 litres per person per day)
  • Non-perishable food (such as energy bars and canned goods)
  • First aid kit
  • Extra clothing
  • Survival blankets
  • Candles, matches, flashlight and extra batteries
  • Toilet paper and personal supplies
  • Kitchen items (basics for preparing and serving food such as a manual can opener)
  • Portable/wind-up radio
  • Small tool kit
  • Cash
  • Important papers (copies of essential documents)

It is important to make sure that the kit is portable and in an easily accessible place.  Also, remember to include items that may be specific to your family’s needs such as baby care essentials, prescriptions or pet care items.  It is also wise to keep an additional smaller kit in the trunk of your car.  Next, make a written emergency plan and discuss it with your family.  Take the following steps:

  • Plan exit routes from each room of the house (including main and alternate routes).  Also, plan multiple exit routes from your neighbourhood.
  • Designate a local meeting location to reunite in the event of a disaster
  • Arrange for an out-of-town contact and make sure all family members know the contact information for that individual (in case a family member cannot make it to the designated meeting location the out-of-town contact can relay messages between family members)
  • Learn about the emergency preparedness policies at your workplace and your children’s school or daycare.  Make sure all locations and all family members have full updated contact information.

You may also take some additional steps to potentially lessen the impact of a specific disaster on your home.  Let’s take a brief look at three potential risks that are typical to BC.

Fires: Help mitigate fire risks by installing and regularly checking smoke detectors on every floor of your home and keeping the area around your home free of fire hazards such as dry brush or dead leaves.  If appropriate, consider replacing your roof with more fire resistant materials such as metal, clay or tile. Have fire drills with your family to ensure everyone is able to act quickly in the event of an actual fire.  If you see a fire, always call 911; do not assume someone else has already called.

Rain & Windstorms: Keep windows and doors in good condition and move valuable items out of the basement to help avoid potential water damage.  Have a professional ensure all major electrical wiring is to code and above ground level.  Your yard should be sloped to direct water away from the home and sewer connections and weeping tiles should be inspected and repaired by a professional if you suspect a problem.  Keep your car well fueled in case an evacuation is required due to severe weather.  Your roof is your first line of defence, check its condition regularly and repair or replace it promptly.  Remove any unhealthy trees from your property and keep all trees pruned.

Preparing for potential emergencies also means having adequate insurance. Contact us to discuss your unique needs and the coverage that is available.

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