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Having an Emergency Plan
Is a Good Idea

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 12 in the October 2, 2013 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

One of those cottage trivia items in my possession is a 50-page guide, published in 1969 by Emergency Canada, entitled "11 Steps to Survival" which outlines what to do in case of nuclear attack. The chapter on nuclear fall-out and shelter construction was a source of cottage humor until I realized that the rest of the guide has worthwhile meaning even today. Would you be prepared if our power, phone, cable, water, gas supplies were suspended due to a storm?

Would most people have a 10-day supply of non-perishable goods, water and fuel to see them through a disaster? Is first aid knowledge with a properly equipped kit a priority in your house? How would you communicate with your family, and how would you track the whereabouts of your family members? Are you familiar with setting up a latrine and disposing of waste and garbage? Does anyone even use cash any more in our magnetic strip crazy existence?

Having an emergency pack always ready with essentials like flashlights, portable radios, batteries, first-aid kits, maps, marking pens, water containers, vital documents, rope, whistle, blankets, etc. seems like an extremist gesture these days. We are very fortunate in having an infrastructure that is able to withstand minor disasters with provisions for victims. Ontario does get a good number of tornadoes, blackouts, floods, but in our minds, it is always on a small comparative scale.

When I get a few days off, I like to head north to enjoy the solitude and peace that a handed-down family hunt camp has to offer. Freak storms play havoc in our neck of the woods, but locals are ready and rarely flinch. Injuries are rare, just loss of conveniences like no phones and no power.

So, I do what any red-neck would do. I fill the spare tank with gas, the cooler with ice, and head straight for the hunt camp determined to enjoy nature. The hike into the camp is exhilarating and the solitude eerie. No lights, no fridges, no phones and no pagers. It is nature at its pristine best, almost too good to spoil by donning the lumber jack gear, chainsaw and ATV to rescue the stranded car.

A short "black-out" experience is worth its weight in gold to practice emergency preparedness, especially if it occurs during the warmer months, and you are not one of those poor souls dependent on some form of technology for survival. It provides a dry run and reminds us of the value of being ready to survive should a disaster of greater magnitude strike. I am a tail end Yuppie who can still vaguely recall the strange cold war "fire drills" that rushed us all into the dungeon located beneath Swansea Public School.

Rumor has it that this nuclear fall-out shelter is still around and is gathering cobwebs. I also remember when at the height of the Vietnam War, the air-raid sirens sounded for hours around Toronto. The strange part was that no one understood what the wailing sound was about or what to do. This fortunate short circuit served as a reminder that we actually do have an emergency response network.

Having an emergency plan and reviewing it at a family sit-down is a good idea. Anyone who has been associated with a natural disaster realizes that organized progression ceases with practice drills. Unforeseen elements always produce an air of seeming chaos. I would encourage you to visit the federal emergency preparedness website at www.ocipep.gc.ca. It could save the lives of the ones you care about the most, someday.

Related resources:

leaf 11 Steps to Survival. A handbook for emergencies from Canada Emergency Measures Organization, Department of National Defence, Blueprint for Survival No. 4, in PDF, 34 pages.

leaf Get Prepared. Is Your Family Prepared? from Government of Canada. The "Get Prepared" campaign encourages Canadians to be prepared to cope on their own for at least the first 72 hours of an emergency, enabling first responders to focus on those in urgent need.

leaf Your Emergency Preparedness Guide - Download eBook from Government of Canada.

leaf Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada - Prepare Yourself and Your Family: Before an emergency, During an emergency, After an emergency. Includes Information about Biological agents, Bomb threats, Chemical releases, Health hazards, Radiological emergencies, and Suspicious packages, plus Responding to stress (from Health Canada).

Emergency Preparedness from Wikipedia.

Are You Ready? A In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness from United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "The guide has been designed to help the citizens of this nation learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards. It can be used as a reference source or as a step-by-step manual. The focus of the content is on how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during, and after a disaster to protect people and their property. Also included is information on how to assemble a disaster supplies kit that contains the food, water, and other supplies in suffi cient quantity for individuals and their families to survive following a disaster in the event they must rely on their own resources."

leaf Get or Make a Disaster Preparedness Kit suggestions from Canadian Red Cross. The Red Cross recommends that you keep a disaster preparedness kit in your home with enough supplies to meet your family's needs for at least 72 hours. By taking the time now to store food, water and other supplies, Canadians can provide for their entire families in the event of an emergency. List includes: Water, food, manual can opener, flashlight, keys for house and car, first aid kit, cash, medications, important documents, etc.

READY Business from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - Every business should have an emergency plan. How quickly your company can get back to business after a terrorist attack or tornado, a fire or flood often depends on emergency planning done today.

READY America from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed: Biological Threat, Chemical Threat, Explosions, Nuclear Blast, Radiation Threat, Natural Disasters.

How Schools Can Become More Disaster Resistant. Resources for Parents & Teachers from FEMA For Kids.

Emergency Preparedness & Response Site - Agents, Diseases, & Other Threats from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bioterrorism Agents, Chemical Emergencies, Radiation Emergencies, Mass Casualties, Natural Disasters & Severe Weather, Recent Outbreaks & Incidents.

Emergency Essentials.

How to Save on Emergency Supplies - Disaster Prep on a Budget by Monique Dugaw, regional director of communications for the American Red Cross, a guide to disaster preparation, from CouponChief.com. "About two-thirds of U.S. residents live in areas where the natural disaster risk level is rated moderate to very high." Topics include: Most of us are not prepared for an emergency - Why? Prepare a plan for dealing with all likely emergency situations. Practice your plan. Collect your emergency supplies and equipment. The minimum emergency preparedness kit. Tips on what to look for and how to save money on your basic emergency preparedness supplies. Go-bags and other emergency kits. Items to stow in your vehicle. Quick-grab items. Preparing a longer-term kit for hunkering down at home. Be Prepared: A good motto for us all.

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