Wintertime Emergencies: Is Your Family Prepared?

Mother explaining to her family the emergency assembly point

With the cold winter months here, it’s a good time to start focusing on emergency preparedness.

Any number of events could strike that you and your family should protect yourselves against. Heavy snow, blizzards or extreme cold could strand you in the house for days at a time. Pipes could freeze or burst and cause widespread flooding. Many people still remember the 1998 Quebec ice storm, which lasted six days and left millions of people in the dark, many of them for weeks. More than 600,000 people were forced into hotels or shelters, and the disaster cost billions in insurance claims. It was one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history. Fire is also a big worry during the winter months and as we stay home to help stop the spread of the virus, it’s more important now than ever before to ensure that you and your loved ones are adequately protected.

Self-sufficiency is paramount

“Emergency management professionals, especially throughout North America, promote the idea that individuals and households need to prepare to be self-sufficient for three full days following a significant incident,” says Perron Goodyear, director of emergency disaster services for The Salvation Army Canada & Bermuda territory.

Even having seven to 14 days of supplies is not a bad idea, especially in wintertime. Often there are power outages, or roads become impassable, which can hold up emergency responders.

“In the event of a disaster, you may not have time to grab everything you need,” says Kirsten Long, communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Red Cross, which has helpful tips and resources on its website.

You can customize your kit to include everything you think you’ll need in an emergency, but a basic kit should include all the essentials, such as food, water and any medication you need, says Cynthia Ross Tustin, president of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC).

In case you need to leave your home, you should also have an emergency evacuation plan.

Survival kit checklist ideas:

  • Non-perishable food with a manual can opener
  • Bottled water (enough to cover for drinking, food preparation and basic hygiene)
  • Medication
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Battery-operated flashlight
  • Extra keys
  • Cash
  • Important documents, such as prescriptions and contact lists
  • Zip-lock bags (to keep items dry)
  • Candles and matches
  • Pet food and supplies, if necessary
  • Baby food and supplies, such as diapers, if necessary

Other emergency tips:

  • The items in your emergency kit should be checked and replaced as necessary. You want to have working batteries, for instance.
  • Make sure fuelled appliances are working properly and have a minimum of two weeks of fuel stock on hand.
  • Put winter tires on the car, and store extra blankets and a shovel in the trunk.

“Emergencies are unpredictable and can occur at any time,” Tustin says. “Proper planning and preparation along with a home emergency kit and home emergency plan greatly increases the chances of surviving any type of emergency.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has added a whole other layer to winter emergency preparedness. Goodyear says people now should be adding masks, gloves and sanitizer for all members of the household to their kits.

For more helpful tips on winter safety, visit OAFC’s website.

This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as legal or insurance advice.