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26 Steps To Emergency Preparedness

A Guide for Actions to Take to Get Prepared

Emergency Preparedness is more than having an emergency kit. It also includes understanding what could happen where you live work and play, discussing with your family, friends and neighbours what you could, should and will do during an emergency.

Here we divide getting prepared into 26 manageable steps.


imageSuperstorm Sandy and recent earthquakes in the Haida Gwaii region of
British Columbia have many Burnaby residents wondering what they should be doing to be more prepared.

Step 1

Get a large portable container with a lid to use as an emergency kit. A plastic storage bin or garbage can works well, particularly one with wheels. Choose an accessible location for the container near an exit and label the container. Make sure all family members know what it will be used for and where it is.

You may want to pack items into individual wheeled carts, carry-alls or packs to make them easier to carry by individual family members. With solid waste collection now automated, what should you do with your old garbage can? Why not wash it out and use it as your home emergency supplies container?


imageDid you know…. In 2008, geologists with the USGS said that the Boulder Creek Fault, located near Abbotsford, has actually been active for the past several thousand years instead of dormant for 30 million years, as previously thought. The fault is thought capable of producing a magnitude 6.8 earthquake!

Step 2

Stock your kit with at least a three-day supply of water for every family member. And don’t forget to include water for pets. It is best to have at least four (4) litres of water per person per day—two for drinking and two for food preparation and hygiene.


imageDid you know … On August 6, 2010, a massive slide of rock, land and debris cascaded down from Capricorn Glacier damming Meager Creek and the Lillooet River, forcing the evacuation of area residents. Experts initially estimated that the volume of debris totalled 40,000,000 m3 (cubic meters), which would make it the second largest landslide on record in Canadian history behind only the 1965 Hope Slide, which removed 47,000,000 m3 of rock from Johnson Peak. The Meager Landslide was later estimated to be over 48,500,000 m3, making it perhaps the largest of all time in Canada.

Step 3

Stock your kit with at least a three-day supply of food for each family member Include several varieties of packaged foods, canned meats and stews, canned vegetables and canned fruit. These items should be low or no salt and canned in water. Why? Because you can drink the water these items are canned in. Include a manual can opener. Remember to consider items for those with special dietary requirements, like infants or seniors. Plan for at least a three-day supply of food for each family member, although stocking up to a one-week supply or more would be better.


Emergency Contact ListDid you know.…From July 27 to August 3, 2009 extremely high temperatures (up to 34.4 degrees centigrade) were measured at Vancouver International Airport. During the same eight day period, the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities registered 455 deaths (from all causes and ages), as compared to an average of 321 during the equivalent calendar period for the preceding years between 2004-2008.

Step 4

Arrange an out-of-area phone contact person. Teach family members these numbers. Keep this and other emergency phone numbers with or near each telephone. Be sure you have a written list of the telephone number, too, as cell phone batteries may not last.


PetsDid you know…A powerful windstorm, accompanied with rain hit the Greater Vancouver Area the night of November 23, 1998 toppling over trees and blowing shingles off rooftops. Winds up to 105 km/h were reported, and up to 22.4 millimetres of rain fell, making this the worst storm in a decade. A second windstorm hit the area the following day, with winds up to 90 km/h. 200,000 homes lost power and 5,000 homes went without telephone.

Step 5

Add additional food items and supplies for pets to your kit. Your pet items should include bedding, water dish, food dish, leash, medications, food, and water.


PetsDid you know… from January 6 to 8, 2009 a severe rainstorm affected communities from Vancouver to the Fraser Valley resulted in flooding, mudslides and landslides causing an estimated $16,500,000 in damage.

Step 6

Get a portable radio and extra batteries for your emergency kit. Hand crank radios are a great alternative to battery operated ones. Or be on the safe side and have both.


PetsDo you know… What an urban interface fire is? The wildland/urban interface is the point where the wilderness and urban development meet. In the interface, structures and vegetation are close enough that a building fire may ignite the adjacent forested area trees and vegetation or a wildfire may spread to nearby homes and buildings.

Step 7

Learn about the hazards in your community. Is the area where you live vulnerable to landslides, flooding, interface fires or other threats such as hazardous material spills, train derailments, or other transportation accidents? Do a home hazard hunt to make your home safer. Secure appliances and heavy furniture and move beds away from overhead objects like heavy mirrors and windows.


first aid kitDid you know… In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in 2005 an estimated 15,000 animals were rescued. Thousands of dogs and cats couldn’t be returned to their families because they did not have identification.

Step 8

Prepare a first-aid kit appropriate to your level of first aid training. Include prescription medications, eyeglasses, bandages, sterile gauze pads, tape, scissors, tweezers, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide and other items such as over-the-counter pain pills.


Emergency ChecklistDid you know… From October 30 to 31, 1981, an estimated 70 mm of rainfall caused road and rail washouts, flooding of buildings and erosion of land and dykes. The accompanying wind caused hydro blackouts throughout Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and along the Sunshine Coast. Blocked culverts and plugged storm drains caused extensive damage to surrounding areas. One 17 year old drowned while trying to cross a creek; 4 people went missing and 5 people were killed due to the washing out of a bridge.

Step 9

Give every family member specific safety tasks to do in an emergency. For example, designate one person to be in charge of turning off electricity, one to collect the emergency container, one to track down family members and make sure people with disabilities or special health needs are provided for. Make sure someone is also delegated to looking after any pets.


Safe PlacesDid you know… Following a period of rain where a cumulative 320 mm of rain fell, the saturated Berkley hillside above Chapman Way in North Vancouver let go at 3:30am on January 19, 2005, causing a landslide of mud, debris and snow. The slide completely destroyed two homes in North Vancouver. One person died in the slide and nearly 100 homes were evacuated.

Step 10

Identify safe places in your home, on your property and in your neighbourhood. Plan evacuation drills using different escape routes. Plan and practice the earthquake response action “drop, cover, hold”. Know that your community may set up a reception centre for evacuees during an emergency. Information on their location would come from officials via radio, television, website notices (burnaby.ca) or Facebook (facebook.com/cityofburnaby) and Twitter (@cityofburnaby).


Family ReunionDuring August of 1998 there were 687 forest fires burning in British Columbia. Approximately 10,600 people were evacuated, 42,115 hectares of forest burnt, 36 properties were damaged, and livestock losses were reported.

Step 11

Identify a family meeting place or neighbourhood safe assembly area. This gathering place should be away from home within walking distance from your home. It should be in an open area, away from buildings, power lines, trees, etc, like a sports field or park.


imageWith wind gusts measured as high as 115 km/h, approximately 100,000 people in the Metro Vancouver area were left without power when a powerful windstorm rocked Vancouver and the surrounding area on September 24, 1999. This storm broke the monthly record at the time for highest wind gusts. By September 27, at least 4,000 people were still without power in Surrey, White Rock, and Delta, BC.

Step 12

Add a flashlight, extra batteries, candles and waterproof matches to your kit. Consider including a hand crank flashlight too, just in case. Choose candles that are unscented and consider candles that are 3-wick pillar candles. You may also want to add a barbeque lighter.


platesFrom December 24 to 29, 1998 a snowstorm dropped over 30 cm of snow on the Greater Vancouver area. Complicated by winds gusts up to 80 km/h, accidents occurred along most major roads creating major delays. Ploughs from communities outside the region were called in to help with snow removal. A water main burst due to freezing and caused the evacuation of 10 homes for several hours.

Step 13

Add some dried soups, comfort food items and eating utensils. These might include nut butters, unsalted crackers, low sugar biscuits or cookies – whatever is appropriate for your family’s needs. Don’t forget the plastic or paper dishes and cups and some cutlery – spoons, forks, knives.


Home Insurance PolicyOn February 23, 1990 in Vancouver Harbour, two ships collided in fog causing a spill of 40 tonnes of marine diesel oil. The pollution affected 1.5 km of shore and 1 hectare of water, killing 65 birds with another 225 birds rescued through clean-up efforts.

Step 14

Check your insurance policies and make records of your possessions. Photocopy your insurance documents, put in a resealable or zipper lock plastic bag and keep with your emergency plan in your emergency kit.


Garbage BagsOn July 6, 2013 at 1:15am, an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion of multiple tank cars. More than 30 buildings, roughly half of the downtown area, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec were destroyed by the blast. 42 people died with 5 more missing and presumed dead. The
Lac-Mégantic derailment is the 4th deadliest rail accident in Canadian history and the deadliest rail disaster in Canada since 1864.

Step 15

Stock your kit with both large and medium-sized plastic garbage bags. Remember garbage bags are not just for garbage. Large heavy duty bags that are yellow or orange in colour can be used as ponchos, ground covers, tarps or blankets.


ClothesOn June 8, 1999 a sudden and intense storm delivered 200 mm of pea-sized hail, and an extra 70 mm of rain in less than 4 hours, creating flash floods and mudslides in White Rock. At its height, the water was over 1.5 m deep. Both streets and basements were flooded, and sewer and water mains backed up causing a health hazard. Emergency workers evacuated people from their homes and closed schools.

Step 16

Add a change of clothing for each family member to your kit. Be sure to include durable warm clothing, heavy work gloves and sturdy shoes.


Tuna fish in canA volcanic eruption occurred under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, in the south of Iceland at approximately 4:00 AM the morning of April 14, 2010. The eruption resulted in large volumes of volcanic ash being spewed into the air. As a result, flights in and out of Europe were largely affected with large numbers of cancellations. Foreign Affairs and International Trade reported being contacted for 1,200 requests from affected Canadians. Transport Canada reported over 200 departures and arrivals of transatlantic flights which were cancelled during the interval.

Step 17

Add additional canned or freeze-dried food to your kit supplies. Items such as stews, chilies, tuna fish, baked beans and vegetables should be included. Be sure they are items your family normally eats.


Did you know… a 7-year-old boy from Chilliwack is credited with saving his grandfather's life by remaining calm and calling 911. The boy and his grandfather were driving to a soccer game when the grandfather suddenly felt faint and pulled over before losing consciousness. The boy told the 911 operator where they were by spelling out street signs and identifying nearby landmarks. Those bandaged fingerdetails helped direct first responders to the scene where they provided the necessary medical assistance.

Step 18

Enroll a family member in a first-aid course. Pack HELP/OK signs in your kit.


Did you know… The media often relay reports on the status of streams and rivers during times where there is a threat of flooding. A High Streamflow Advisory means that river levels are rising or expected to rise rapidly, but that no major flooding is expected. Minor Important Documentsflooding in low-lying areas is possible. A Flood Watch means that river levels are rising and will approach or may exceed bankfull. Flooding of areas adjacent to affected rivers may occur. A Flood Warning means that river levels have exceeded bankfull or will exceed bankfull imminently, and that flooding of areas adjacent to the rivers affected will result.

Step 19

Assemble important documents. Make photocopies of wills, citizenship papers, insurance papers, medical records, credit card numbers, inventory of possessions, identification such as passports, etc. Store them in a resealable or zipper lock plastic bag and keep with a copy of your emergency plan in your emergency kit. Originals should be stored in a fireproof/ waterproof container that will be accessible if your home is damaged.


Did you know… Tsunamis are not "tidal waves". They have nothing to do with tides, or weather, and they act quite differently from ordinary waves. They can move through the open ocean at hundreds of kilometres an hour. When they reach shallower water near shore, they become a very powerful surge of water or even huge breaking waves. The first wave of a tsunami is often not the largest. Other waves may follow every few minutes, for a period of hours.

Step 20

Add some personal hygiene items. Toilet paper, handi-wipes, soap, detergent, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, sanitary supplies, etc.


In the summer of 2009, 3,049 fires burned, 213 of which were wildland-urban interface fires. On July 18, fires broke out in communities of West Kelowna which, when combined with the Terrace Mountain fire west of Fintry, led to multiple evacuation orders and alerts. During this time an abundance of lightning storms contributed to to other fires of note throughout the province. The Lava Canyon fire, the largest, was nearly 55,000 hectares and growing. Approximately 20,000 people were evacuated and one helicopter pilot lost his life in the line of duty.

Step 21

Add evaporated, canned or powdered milk to your kit.


From April, 2009 to February, 2010 a new strain of pandemic influenza (H1N1 or commonly referred to as the Swine Flu) was first seen in Mexico and it spread quickly across the globe. In Canada, there were 8,582 hospitalizations, 1,448 cases admitted to ICU and 425 deaths.

Step 22

Get a large bucket with a tight-fitting lid to use as a toilet, and put it with your emergency kit. Use the bucket to store other emergency tools like an axe, folding shovel, crowbar, hammer, saw and some rope.


Listeria monocytogenes spread by contaminated Maple Leaf food products produced at its Weston, ON Bartor Road plant. The outbreak occurred in August 2008. A segment of the population that is most vulnerable became exposed. 57 people became seriously ill and 22 people died.

Step 23

Add sleeping bags or blankets (foil blankets take up less space) and consider adding plastic emergency ponchos to your kit.


In 2010, due to little precipitation and lightning strikes, from July 28 to July 31, the number of fires in British Columbia went from 600 to 1,100. On August 18, a significant wind blew through the interior causing substantial growth of the fires. Approximately 330,000 hectares burned due to 1,673 fires. Over 1,400 personnel from out-of-province assisted with fighting the fires. Two airtanker pilots died when their plane crashed. Both the city of Vancouver and the Government of Alberta issued air quality warnings due to smoke caused by the fires.

Step 24

Add more canned, freeze-dried, or dehydrated food products to your kit until you have at least a three-day supply for each family member, although stocking up to a one-week supply or more would be better.


A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Honshu, Japan on March 11, 2011 at 00:46 EST. The earthquake had a depth of 24 km and struck 129 kilometres of the town of Sendai, 177 kilometres of Fukushima and some 377 kilometres northeast of Tokyo. Tsunami -- The earthquake triggered a significant tsunami with a wave reaching as high as 30 metres in some areas, and hitting areas as far as 10 kilometres inland. Close to 28,000 people were reported dead or missing as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. Japanese authorities estimated the number of people injured as a result of this disaster at over 4,000. Over 220,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Step 25

Add a pocket knife, a whistle and spare set of house and car keys as well as items such as books, toys and cards as well as a family photo album to your kit.


Did you know… There are 3 stages to an evacuation. Evacuation Alert: Be ready to leave on short notice. If you leave before or during this alert, it's called a voluntary evacuation. Evacuation Order: You are at risk. Leave the area immediately. Local police or RCMP typically enforce evacuation orders. Evacuation Rescinded: All is currently safe. You can return home. Stay tuned for other possible evacuation orders or alerts.

Step 26

Meet with neighbours to discuss emergency preparations and the possibility of sharing items such as generators.


Now you and your family are personally prepared for most emergencies.

Once your emergency kit is assembled and your emergency plan is in place, don’t forget to rotate and replace items as they expire. And most importantly – practice your plan and update it as your family’s needs change.

Go to www.burnaby.ca/getprepared for more information.