Emergency Preparedness

Emergencies and disasters like earthquakes, floods, severe storms, fires and accidents such as chemical spills can happen without warning and occur anywhere and anytime.

The City of Burnaby works with a number of agencies and organizations to collaborate planning for and when needed, to provide a coordinated response during emergencies. But we all have a role, including you, in preparing for crises. You should understand the risks, make a plan, build an emergency kit and learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

What's your role

Emergencies are never easy to deal with, but being prepared can help you tackle one better. After a disasters strikes, it may take emergency workers some time to restore services or provide aid. This is why you should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family. Begin small and gradually build your preparedness from 72 hours to 7 days to 2 weeks.

Here are 3 simple steps to better prepare you and your family in the event of an emergency:

Learning and preparing for our community-specific risks can help us be better equipped.

Here's a list of natural risks and other hazards regularly monitored by the BC Provincial Emergency Program.

Make your home and workplace safer

During a disaster, ordinary items in the home may cause damage and serious injury. Identify areas in your home that may contain potentially hazardous items, including:

  • Tall, heavy furniture that can topple–like bookcases, china cabinets, or modular wall units.
  • Water heaters can separate from pipes or gas lines and rupture.
  • Appliances that can fall or shift and damage electrical lines or rupture gas lines.
  • Hanging plants in heavy pots that can swing free of hooks.
  • Kitchen cabinets and other storage units where latches may not hold the door closed.
  • Masonry chimneys can crumble and fall through an unsupported roof.
  • Flammable liquids, like painting or cleaning products, may catch fire or leak and cause other damage.
  • Heavy picture frames or mirrors over beds.
  • Poorly or incorrectly installed ceiling fans over beds or sitting areas.
  • Breakables or heavy objects.

Every Burnaby household, workplace and business needs an emergency plan. Having a plan and practising it will help you figure out what to do during a disaster. Your emergency plan will also reduce feelings of anxiety or fear in an emergency.

a. For your household

A household emergency plan will help you and your family cope better with the stress of an emergency. Explore these guides to get everyone prepared.

b. For your neighbourhood

Raising awareness on how to be better prepared for disasters and emergencies in your neighbourhood is an important step in creating a resilient community. By connecting with your neighbours today, you'll be able to respond better and recover faster together in the event of an emergency.

c. For your business

As a business owner, you need an emergency plan to keep your employees safe, your assets secure and your business running. Follow these guides to prepare your business.

Your emergency kit should have enough items for the entire household. The supplies—food, water, medications etc.—should be in a bag that's easy to carry and should last for a minimum of 3 days. Everyone in your house should know where the kit is located.

Explore our checklists to see what you need in your:

Basic home emergency kit

First aid kit

Browse the following checklist to see what supplies you need.

Pet emergency checklist

Your pets are important members of your family. Be sure to assemble emergency and first aid supplies for your pets. See the checklist below:

Emergency vehicle kit

Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, RV, boat etc. See the checklist.

Learn from us

Our emergency planning division offers free presentations on personal emergency preparedness to interested groups, businesses, residents and neighbourhoods.

Request a presentation

How to protect yourself


During certain emergencies—e.g. release of a hazardous substance, fire or earthquake—we may ask you to stay indoors until the danger has passed. The goal of shelter-in-place is to reduce air movement into and out of a building until either the danger has passed or other appropriate actions can be taken.

If a shelter-in-place advisory is in place or you feel it is the best personal protective response action to take, you can follow the 6 steps below to keep yourself and your family safe. You can also print these steps and keep a copy with your emergency supplies. 

  • Gather everyone indoors at the closest safe building and stay inside.
  • Don't pick up family members from other locations until it's safe to do so.
  • If not a risk to you, take your pets inside as well.

Once inside, lock all windows and outside doors to keep the contaminated air or other harmful substances outside.

Turn off any appliances that circulate air, including bathroom and kitchen fans, microwave and convection ovens, built-in vacuums, clothes dryers, gas fireplaces and stoves, fireplace dampers and vents, cooling fans and air conditioning systems.

  • Consider precutting plastic sheeting for your windows and include it in your emergency kit to block outside air.
  • Make each plastic sheet several inches larger than the space it needs to cover and label it with the intended location.
  • You can also use duct tape to seal any gaps around doors and windows.
  • Place wet rolled towels under all the doors.

Get your emergency kit and stay in a comfortable, safe room with as few windows or exterior doors as possible.

  • Monitor mainstream and social media for information updates or further instructions.
  • Don't leave your place until you receive a formal notification to do so.

More shelter-in-place tips from:

Emergency Management BC

Public Safety Canada

Drop, cover and hold on

Earthquakes can strike without warning and threaten lives.

While we haven't experienced any significant or damaging earthquakes recently in the Lower Mainland, our region and Vancouver Island get about 1-3 tiny quakes each day.

During larger earthquakes, sudden and intense motion may cause the floor or the ground to move out from under you. Unsecured objects around you could move violently, fall or become airborne and cause serious injury. This is why you must learn to protect yourself immediately after the first jolt and not wait till the earthquake gets stronger.

Federal, provincial and local emergency management experts and other official preparedness organizations, researchers, and safety advocates agree that "Drop, cover and hold on" is the appropriate protective action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes.

You may have heard about other methods like standing in a doorway or running outside as protective measures. We and other experts consider these actions to be dangerous and don't recommend them.

  • Secure your space: Identify possible injury hazards and secure moveable items like pictures, mirrors, appliances, TVs, bookcases, water heaters, ceiling fans etc.
  • Plan to be safe: Create a disaster plan and decide who you will communicate with and how you will communicate with them in an emergency.
  • Organize disaster supplies: Store emergency supplies together in a kit and keep them in convenient locations. Avoid hard to reach places like basements or crawlspaces as these may not be accessible if the building is damaged.
  • Minimize financial hardship: Organize your important documents and get insurance.

Practice drop, cover and hold on. It could save your life.

Drop, cover and hold on offers the best overall level of protection in most situations. In most situations, you'll reduce your chance of injury if you:

  • Drop onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from being knocked down and allows you to stay low and crawl to shelter.
  • Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand
  • If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter.
  • If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows)
  • Stay on your knees; bend over to protect vital organs.
  • Hold on until shaking stops and for 60 seconds after.
  • Under shelter: hold on to it with one hand; be ready to move with your shelter if it shifts.
  • No shelter: hold on to your head and neck with both arms and hands.

If you’re driving during an earthquake:

  • Stop, Brake and Stay
  • Slow down and pull over somewhere safe, avoiding overpasses, powerlines, bridges and old (especially brick or stone) buildings. 
  • Make sure not to block any emergency response routes. 
  • Turn off your engine and secure the handbrake. 
  • Stay in your car until the shaking stops and count to 60. 
  • If a powerline falls onto or in proximity to your vehicle, remain inside until a trained person can remove it. 
  • If you are trapped in your vehicle for any reason, turn on your emergency flashers. 

After the shaking stops, listen to the radio and follow directions from officials. Be aware of potential hazards, such as downed powerlines, damaged roadways and other obstructions. 

Keep a grab ’n’ go emergency kit in your vehicle; learn how to be prepared with the Vehicle Emergency Supplies Checklist above under “Build and emergency kit”. 

If you’re outside during an earthquake, stay outside and:

  • move to an area clear of hazards
  • crouch down and cover your head and neck with your arms until shaking stops
  • stay away from buildings, especially old, brick and stone structures, large objects, utility wires and other hazards. The area near the exterior walls of a building can be dangerous;  windows, facades and architectural details often topple

Other recommended earthquake safety actions (including situations when you cannot get beneath a table).

  • Don't get in a doorway. Scientific research and many studies prove that doorways are not safe in modern houses and buildings and don't protect you from flying or falling objects. Get under a table instead.
  • Don't run outside. Trying to run in an earthquake is dangerous because the ground is moving. Running outside is especially dangerous, as glass, bricks, or other building components may be falling. You are much safer inside and under a table.

After an earthquake, there may be aftershocks, which can occur minutes, hours or even days after the earthquake. Immediately after an earthquake and once the shaking has stopped, you should:

  • Move to high ground and away from water as an earthquake felt in the coastal areas of the Lower Mainland could be accompanied by a tsunami.
  • Look around to make sure it is safe to move and then exit the building
  • Check yourself and others for injuries and help injured or trapped persons if safe. Give first aid where appropriate.
  • Be careful around broken glass and debris. Wear boots or sturdy shoes to keep from cutting your feet.
  • Check for the smell of gas. If you smell gas, open all the windows and doors, leave immediately and report it to the authorities.
  • Look for fallen power lines
  • Look out for fire. It is the most common hazard after an earthquake. Extinguish small fires. Be aware that the power could be out and sprinklers and alarms in buildings may go off even if there is no fire.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when deemed safe by authorities.
  • Follow your emergency plan or the instructions of the person in charge at school or work.
  • Only dial 9-1-1 only if a life is at stake.
  • Try to stay off your phones to help prevent telephone network overload
  • Tune in to local radio or television stations for important information updates
  • Stay informed and follow Burnaby's Facebook and Twitter channels. You can also sign-up for Twitter alerts.

After the immediate threat of the earthquake has passed, your level of preparedness will determine your quality of life in the weeks and months that follow.

Restore your daily life by reconnecting with others, repairing damage, and rebuilding the community.


Some emergencies may make staying in your home dangerous and it may be safer for you to evacuate the area.

There are situations where the dangers may be present but not immediate, and it is recommended that persons within an identified parameter leave the area until the situation is contained. 

Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, the disabled and those that may need more time to prepare themselves and physically evacuate may elect to voluntary evacuate.

There are situations where the dangers may be imminent but not immediate, and persons within an identified parameter are directed to gather personal belongings and prepare themselves and their pets/animals for the order to leave the area.

Mandatory or forced evacuations take place when it is determined that there is an absolute need to evacuate an area to protect lives. An evacuation order is issued and enforced by local police or the RCMP. Do not ignore an evacuation order.

When the area is deemed safe and you can return home, evacuation alerts and orders may be rescinded. However it is important to stay tuned for other possible evacuation alerts and orders. 

This type of evacuation occurs without warning. It is carried out by building occupants or park users directly in the area or path of the threat. Examples of tactical evacuations include:

  • the sounding of smoke alarms or carbon dioxide alarms in your home
  • the sounding of smoke or fire detection systems in your building
  • at the direction of Burnaby Fire
  • at the direction of Burnaby RCMP

Get insurance

Life is a risky business. Insurance can help you recover, get back up on your feet and provide peace of mind. Explore the Insurance Bureau of Canada for more information.

If you rent an apartment or a house, tenant's insurance can help you replace your belongings after incidents like theft, fire, water damage etc.

It's important to have the appropriate coverage when renting your property. Learn more.

Home insurance can help you pay for expenses you may not be able to afford after a disaster, such as replacing your home and your possessions.

What's the City's role?

The City's Emergency Management Division collaborates with other City departments, the provincial government and local agencies to develop and plan programs to make our community disaster-resilient and safe for us to live, work, learn and play. We work to protect life, property and the environment in the event of emergencies or disasters.

As part of Burnaby's Emergency Program, we prepare detailed response plans that follow the 4 pillars of emergency management: mitigation and prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

Includes plans or preparations to save lives and assist with response and rescue operations before a disaster occurs. Creating evacuation plans and stocking food and water are some examples of preparedness.

Includes activities designed to eliminate or reduce the impacts of hazards before and after an emergency or disaster occurs. Land-use management, building and maintaining protective structures (such as flood dykes) and public education campaigns are examples of these activities.

Includes actions taken to save lives and prevent further damage during and after an emergency. The focus is on minimizing suffering and loss. This stage involves putting our preparedness plans into action. Taking shelter during a storm is a response activity, for example.

Recovery activities occur after an emergency and include actions to help return things to a near-normal or safer state. An example may be applying for financial assistance to help pay for repairs.

Have questions?

Call us at 604-294-7097 or email [email protected].

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