Emergency preparedness in the Royal City

This is a guest post by Lena Jerabek, a Royal City resident who wants to see New Westminster be the best-prepared little city in Canada. She also has only-so-much trail mix to share with her neighbours in an emergency. Her home-based business, Beesafe Solutions, helps households, schools, daycares and small business to prepare for the unexpected.

An emergency kit should contain enough food, water and medical supplies to last 72 hours.
An emergency kit should contain enough food, water and medical supplies to last 72 hours.

May 6-12 is Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada, which makes it a great time to put some thought into the not-so-fun-to-think-about topic of getting your family ready for the unexpected.

The Canadian Government and all emergency planning agencies specify that citizens should be prepared to take care of themselves in an emergency for a minimum of 72 hours – the time it takes for emergency personnel and services to mobilize in the event of a disaster. Most people on the West Coast think about emergencies in terms of earthquakes, which are a very real possibility, but there are all kinds of disasters that everyone should be prepared for, even here in the Royal City. Just a few short years ago, the spring freshet brought the Fraser River to peak levels, creating threats of flooding in the waterfront parts of our city and in Queensborough. Thankfully, New Westminster’s Emergency Planning Team and volunteers have plans in place for these scenarios, but they suggest all citizens prepare to be self-sufficient.

Cory McLaren, Emergency Planning Assistant at City Hall, suggests that all residents visit the City’s Emergency Planning website and sign up for public safety bulletins. The City also has a Facebook page. Both pages provide information on how to prepare, as well as provide updates and information during a disaster. New Westminster also has a dedicated Emergency Public Radio Station at 88.7FM which can be tested from the City’s website and goes live in the event of an emergency, and the Emergency Planning department is able to provide preparedness seminars to groups upon request.

So what does it take to be prepared?

  1. Know the Risks – fire, flood, earthquake, power outages, etc.
  2. Make a Plan – for your family, your work, getting kids from school or daycare, etc.
  3. Get a Kit – build your own or buy one, but make sure you have supplies for everyone for a minimum of 72 hours.

My business, Beesafe Solutions, specializes in 72 Hour Kits for households, schools, daycares and small businesses. I suggest that everyone have a “stay in place” kit as well as a “grab and go” kit. Your Stay in Place kit should have things like canned food, jugs of water, candles, flashlights, extra clothes, and toileting items that could sustain your family for several weeks. In your Grab and Go Kit it’s best to have essentials for 72 hours in case you had to evacuate your home on foot – if you do end up at an emergency shelter, you will be better equipped to take care of your family as the shelter’s resources are likely to be maximized.

Your kit should have items for food and water, shelter, rescue, communication, heat, light and first aid, as well as copies of insurance papers and photos of family members, in an easy-to-carry bag. Keep this kit by an exit door or outside in your shed or a garbage bin. Don’t forget about pets and kids, either! A leash, food bowl, waste bags, tether stake and food are important for pets. Most emergency shelters don’t accept pets, so be sure to make an alternate plan for them. Babies and children require special attention as well when planning – be sure to include diapers, wipes, formula, hand sanitizer and a few items for fun & comfort in your kit. Anyone with special needs or medication should keep a two-week supply in their kit. Practice your plan with your family and review your plan and kit once a year.

I spoke to Carolyn Sinclair with New Westminster Police’s Emergency Services, who stressed the importance of having a plan and being self-sufficient at home for at least a week. She also suggested having cash on hand (smaller bills and change) and in your kit as bank machines may not be available during an emergency. Be sure to also have a designated “out-of-area” contact person that everyone in your family can report to and check in with, in case you are separated.

It’s a lot to think about, but it’s important – like practical insurance for your family.