Be prepared by having emergency kits on hand


The October earthquake off the north coast of B.C. shook Haida Gwaii, prompted tsunami evacuations, and reminded everyone that our province is situated in an active geological zone.

But earthquakes aren't the only cause of emergencies. Winters in B.C. are unpredictable. And the weather you experience depends on where you live. Ladner residents might have to deal with wind, while those in Fort St. John could be more concerned with snow. (Remember that you can report power outages online or by calling 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766), *HYDRO (*49376) on your mobile phone.)

Emergencies often lead to the loss of services that we've become accustomed to, including electricity. Power outages can occur (use our checklist [PDF, 78 KB]) to make sure that your family and your home are prepared). You may not be able to use your phone and you may need to leave your home.

The best way to be safe during any emergency, whether it's an earthquake, storm, flood, or other disaster, is to be prepared.

And emergency kits are key.

What goes into an emergency kit

A standard emergency kit provides supplies for the first 72 hours. You should check kits twice a year to replace expired supplies, including food, batteries, and medicines. Use the daylight savings time change as an easy reminder that it's also time to update your emergency kits.

The Canadian Red Cross sells emergency kits. Kits can also be purchased from many major retailers. If you purchase a kit, make sure to add extra supplies as needed and include other personal items listed below.

But it's easy to create your own emergency kit. Here's what you should include.

The essentials:

  • Water: at least two litres of water per person, per day
  • Food: cans, energy bars, and dried foods that won't spoil
  • Can opener: a manual one, or the canned food won't do you much good
  • First aid kit
  • Medications including prescription and painkillers (check with your pharmacist to make sure that medications are safe to store)
  • Flashlight: if you don't have a hand-crank model, include plenty of batteries
  • Candles and waterproof matches: stored in a sealed container so they don't get wet
  • Radio: a hand-crank model is best, otherwise remember to pack extra batteries
  • A multi-function tool that includes a knife blade
  • Keys for your house and vehicles
  • Cash: include smaller bills
  • A printed copy of your emergency plan: laminate it if you can; this includes information about evacuation routes, emergency shelter locations, and contact information
  • Photocopies of personal documents such as passports and drivers licenses and insurance information

Good extras to have:

  • Extra clothes and footwear for each household member
  • Sleeping bags or warm blankets for each household member
  • A whistle will help you attract attention
  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper and other personal care supplies
  • Safety gloves
  • Basic tools: hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, duct tape, work gloves
  • Camp stove: remember to include a couple of canisters of fuel
  • Water: two additional litres of water per person, per day for cooking and cleaning

Emergency kits should be packed in a sturdy backpack or duffle bag and stored in an easy-to-reach location in your home like the closet by your front door.

If you've got many people in your household, you can create individual kits in backpacks so that each member can personalize and carry their own supplies in the event of an emergency.

And you can have more than one emergency kit.

Car kit

If you're in your vehicle often, you may want to have an additional standard emergency kit in the trunk or rear of your car or truck. Supplement it with these extra tools and supplies:

  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Small shovel
  • Axe or hatchet
  • Road maps
  • Jumper cables
  • Towing rope
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Road flares
  • Windshield washer fluid rated for cold weather
  • Sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter for those in areas that receive lots of snow
  • Methyl hydrate: to de-ice fuel lines and locks

Office kit

You should have sufficient supplies in your emergency kit to last the average number of people on the premises for 72 hours. Include in the emergency plan a copy of the names and contact information for all people who are regularly on the premises.

EPICC (the Emergency Preparedness for Industry and Commerce Council) has a list of 15 steps that can help your business get ready.

Use our checklist [PDF, 86 KB] to help you create a customized preparedness plan for your business.

Special considerations: Young children and pets

If you've got babies or toddlers in your family, stock your emergency kit with bottled milk and formula, if you're using it. Remember diapers and wipes. And it's a good idea to include a couple of small toys to keep children occupied. Crayons and paper are versatile and can be stored in sealable plastic bags. Don't forget photocopies of your children's identification and vaccination records.

Pets will also require water and food. Put a leash in your kit, too. Add veterinarian and vaccination records for your pets to the envelope with your personal documents.

Other resources for emergency preparedness

The governments of British Columbia and Canada have websites with information about preparedness.

And Vancouverites can register to take a free emergency planning workshop offered through the City of Vancouver's Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program.