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Emergency management: Protecting your family in the most drastic situations

emergency management

Disasters happen all the time around the globe. We hear about them on the news and read about them on the internet. And sometimes, we may find ourselves in the middle of one. Emergencies of all kinds are difficult to handle because they are out of our control. For the most part, you don’t get to see them coming with more than a few days’ notice if any. Emergency management means having the ability to face a variety of unexpected situations quickly and without panic. It means taking the time, now, to research and execute an emergency plan so that you can withstand any potential shocks in the future.

While we are constantly reminded of the need to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our belongings, the idea of knowing what to do and when can be a little daunting. For example, if you are preparing an earthquake kit will those preparations also be sufficient should you and your family face a wildfire evacuation? (Short answer: Yes and no.) And then there are those less than common (some would say impossible) potentially catastrophic, definitely life-changing situations, like an alien invasion or a zombie attack. What do you need to do then?

Your guide to emergency preparedness

What emergency management should I do?

While we don’t want to take the impact of the natural or humanity-led emergency, it’s important to keep our spirits up and our attitude positive. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some very real — and some not-so-realistic but would be scary — emergency situations along with tips on how to prepare and plan to minimize the impact of these events on your life, your loved ones and your belongings.

Turns out, different emergencies require a different set of preparations and planning. Who knew emergency management could be so complicated?

The first step in preparing for emergencies is getting to know what typical disasters occur in your province or state. In North America, the most common emergencies involve natural disasters or severe weather, such as flooding, snowstorms, wildfires or earth movements (landslides, etc). If you live near water, for example, you may be more susceptible to earthquakes or tsunamis.

The Canadian disaster database tracks natural disasters of all kinds and provides information on the most common emergency situations in your province. In America, the National Weather Service tracks floods through an interactive map; for real-time wildfire tracking (and weather associated with wildfires) check out the volunteer-fun Fire Weather and Avalanche map by TrueNorth (volunteers help to keep the info current, but donations are gratefully accepted to keep the project up and running on the servers). If you want some scary images, check out the global wildfire map GlobalForestWatch. For earthquakes, check out the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) map; this government association also provides volcano updates.

Although it can be scary and overwhelming to think about the ‘what-ifs,’ it is crucial that you plan ahead to help your family and friends survive in a situation in which there is limited access to essential resources.

Our back-up plan guide will provide you with crucial information to survive the following emergencies:

Do you need an emergency plan?

Mom and child hospital emergency room Zolo

With every emergency situation, having a plan that includes a ‘to-do’ list is absolutely critical. This to-do should include plans for safe meeting spots as well as necessary contact information for local authorities or family members.

In emergencies, experts recommend that you prepare yourself to be self-sustaining for at least 72 hours. But as we know, each emergency can vary in comparison to another emergency. For instance how you plan and what you store as back-up rations will differ dramatically whether you are sheltering in place (say, during a flooding event or a riot) or evacuating (like in a wildfire or earthquake scenario).  It’s essential to consider the disasters most likely to impact your household and then plan accordingly.

Finally, consider discussing your emergency plans with your neighbours. Not only will that encourage them to start their own emergency management, but it helps alert community members to safe havens during a catastrophic event.

For more on the precise preparations for each type of disaster, please check each specific guide (listed above).

What should you include in a general emergency preparedness kit?

Every household should have a basic emergency kit that includes general essentials. This kit should be complete, self-contained and easy to grab, in case you need to leave in a rush. Don’t forget, if the natural disaster knocks out power or water lines, you may not have time or the ability to gather all the essential items to sustain your family for a day or week. At the very minimum, your emergency kit should include food, water and a flashlight.

Your emergency kit should be small enough to carry and easy to transport. Every family member should be aware of its location and be able to reach the package. Good options for packing your emergency kit include a compact suitcase with wheels, a backpack or an overnight bag. If you have a large family, consider creating individual backpack emergency kits so that each member can carry their own supplies (or, at least, share the load).

Emergency kits need to have items inside that will keep your entire family safe and healthy. With every family having unique needs, you must customize your kit to include any necessary supplies that apply to your daily life, such as medicals, childcare or feminine needs.

While each kit may vary in detail from family to family, a comprehensive emergency kit should include:

  • Your emergency plan;
  • Enough water for each member of your family for at least 72 hours;
  • Non-perishable food that is light to carry, such as protein bars, nuts or dried fruits;
  • An up to date first-aid kit;
  • A flashlight with extra batteries (if required);
  • Cash;
  • Change of clothes (for each family member);
  • Warm blanket;
  • Whistle;
  • Tools (such as saw, pliers, knife, screwdriver, hammer);
  • Duct tape;
  • Matches and a candle;
  • Gloves and protective gear (preferably for each family member).

The Canadian Red Cross sells prepackaged emergency kits online, as well as additional essential items, such as first-aid kits.

What is the best way to manage an emergency?

Emergency management preparedness checklist

If emergency management tends to overwhelm you, it’s quite straightforward to focus on the four critical areas of assembling the perfect plan.

Step 1: Prevent

To reduce your chances of impact in an emergency, be aware of the potential risks in your region. Get to know the ins and outs of your home and neighbourhood. Create a checklist of all possible disasters and the ways you should take appropriate action to protect your property.

Step 2: Prepare

Once you know what types of emergency management to prepare for, it’s time to create the necessary plans. Now is a great time to sit down as a family and go over the plan. Together, practice a run-through of how each situation would go to make sure everyone in your household understands the necessary steps. Lastly, put together your basic emergency kit.

Step 3: Respond

If you are actively dealing with an emergency situation, it’s time to put your preventative measures (such as weatherized windows and designated meeting points) and prepared emergency plans to work. Stay calm and listen carefully to the directions from trusted authorities.

Step 4: Recover

Any emergency requires time to recover. Whether it be rebuilding your home or taking time to check on yourself or your loved one’s mental health, recovery is an essential step in these difficult circumstances.

Putting it all together

Keep in mind, as well, you will probably want to keep important documents, such as wills and mortgage contracts, in a safe place either in a flood and fireproof box, stored off-site in a secure facility (such as a bank safety deposit box or with your estate lawyer) or online, in a secure cloud storage account.

Ask yourself questions to clarify whether you are ready to manage each type of natural disaster. Do you have an emergency plan? Do you have an emergency kit? If you can answer yes to each of these questions, you are in an excellent position to tackle any emergency that comes your way.

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Alyssa Davies

Alyssa is an award-winning personal finance blogger and founder of She writes about being a mom, overcoming personal debts, and how to get away with affording your ridiculously expensive latte habit. A new homeowner, Alyssa brings her real-life knowledge of the Canadian real estate market and smart money matters to this growing brand.