Personal Preparedness

Are You Prepared? ……………. Preparedness Begins at Home

 The excuses of not being prepared are numerous; the reasons to be prepared are even more numerous.  We do not know when the next disaster will strike, what it will look like, what grief it will bring or how or what can I do to protect loved ones and myself.  It is this uncertainty that often overwhelms most people in being even basically prepared for a small extreme event let alone a catastrophic event.

Events will happen that you will have little or no control over. Personal preparedness affords you  some control over those events that could render you helpless and at the mercy of external mass assistance. Personal Preparedness will decrease injuries and fatalities, increases personal survivability, alleviate discomfort, give peace of mind and promote independence, flexibility and autonomy. It simply gives back some control in what may be happening to you.

By being personally prepared you help protect yourself and your family as well as reducing the burden of society in their response of providing for you.  In turn this will reduce the municipal, provincial and federal response burdens reducing overall costs and potential of loss of life of responders.

If you are responsible for employees or volunteers that must respond to a crisis situation, personal preparedness makes good sense! Having those individuals personally prepared and their loved ones prepared allows them to focus on the tasks at hand and not the issues at home.  This makes for a safer and much healthier responder and less for the employer to manage during the crisis.

How do I become Personally Prepared?

Essentially you apply the same fundamental principles of comprehensive emergency management. You develop a personal disaster plan by following the same process as if you were planning for an organization or community.  By following the 4 pillars of emergency management: Prevention/Mitigation; Preparedness; Response and Recovery,  you can be ready for most events.

In personal preparedness prevention consists of knowledge, education and minimizing the potential impacts.  Preparedness involves developing a plan and assembling the resources you will require to evacuate or ‘Shelter-in-Place’ through the disaster. In the Response phase, you will be tasked in performing what you have prepared for and will validate your planning. When the disaster is over, you must re-enter your previous world, you must return to normalcy, this is called the Recovery Phase. It is possible to be in one, more or all of these phases at any one time.

You start off with a Hazard, Risk, & Vulnerability Assessment, which will help you understand what natural and societal events, can impact your normal daily living and will narrow down the number and types of events that you need to be prepared for. This has an impact and will direct in the way you prepare yourself. The resources, equipment and training you decide upon will be driven from your HRV Assessment.

The next step is to look at Mitigation Strategies.  These are things that you can do in advance to eliminate, reduce, transfer or accept the effects or impact(s) of the hazard(s). These strategies can either be structural, non-structural or a combination of both. Some structural mitigation strategies that you may consider are blankets, water & food reserves, generators and survival packs and supplies to protect your environment (residence). Some non-structural mitigation strategies might be survival education/training, first aid courses, insurance policies or changes in behaviour to reduce the risk of occurrence or the impact.

Once you have identified and mitigated the hazards you need to prepare for any impact that still exists.


The reason for evacuation or ‘Shelter-in-Place’ is not important. Whether you voluntarily evacuate or are told to evacuate is not important. Once a decision has been made that you are not going to evacuate but rather “weather the storm,” is not important. What is important is that you are appropriately prepared and ready to do so at any time.

Evacuation occurs when you either decide or are told to leave your place of residence or employment. You must leave your familiar infrastructures and supports and depend on limited resources and supports hopefully provide to you by some level of government or aid provider ie: Red Cross, in a shelter environment.

‘Shelter-in-Place’ occurs when you must stay within an infrastructure without the benefit of external supports. You are dependant on whatever resources you have on hand. Events that may force you into a ‘Shelter-in-Place’ situation can occur in severe weather, (winter storms), extensive quarantine orders, (possibly in a Pandemic situation.) or in the event of a hazardous material or terrorist event.

When there is a direct threat such as a hazardous material event; go inside immediately, shut all window and doors, turn off ventilation systems, take a portable radio and go into the room with the least access to the outside (least amount of doors and windows) and stay there until told that it is all clear to come out by the authorities. Some protective things that you can do are: place damp towels along door sills, plastic sheeting over windows, tape around doors and windows and cover your nose and mouth with a proper respirator or cloth material. If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately with your evacuation kits.

In any of these situations it pays to be as self-sufficient as possible. Being self-sufficient allows for sustainability and resilience during disastrous events. Self-sustainability varies from situation to situation; therefore requires predetermination of what needs you may have so that appropriate mitigation and preparedness actions can be taken in advance.

Being self-sufficient is not a not a hobby or a neat thing to do, it is a lifestyle choice that requires determination and commitment.  Determination and perseverance over time makes a self-sufficiency program successful. Time and financial commitment make a self-sufficiency program a reality. The long-term management of a self-sufficiency program makes it a life-style choice. YOU must decide what YOU require, (quantities, functionalities, resources, training etc); YOU must identify, procure and organize all the essential resources that YOU require; YOU are responsible for training and maintenance of the resources.  Self-sufficiency must become one of the many important focal points in your life and daily routines. Be it training, starting new hobbies or managing the supplies that you have put together over time.

The fundamentals of being prepared for self sustainability, (at whatever level), is no different for individuals, families or business with the exception of MAGNITUDE

There are many positive attributes to being personally prepared, it allows for a level of confidence, safety and peace of mind that you will be able to cope reasonably well in an extreme event.  For the employer these same benefits can apply when you have your staff appropriately prepared. By being personally prepared and having staff prepared affords the emergency manager with working staff having reduced anxieties and lessened worries about being away from loved ones during a disaster. These employees then can focus on the tasks on hand with minimal distractions.  This is essential for organizations that must respond to the event or carry out their business functions during and post disasters

By being personally prepared you help protect your family as well as reducing the burden of society in their response of providing for you. If everyone were personally prepared the municipal response would be reduced allowing for a reduced provincial and federal response reducing overall resource commitments and expense.

 Why be Prepared?

•Decreases injuries & fatalities

•Increases personal survive-ability

•Alleviates discomfort in times of distress

•Lessens the personal impacts

•Gives Peace of Mind

•Promotes Independence, Flexibility and Autonomy

And it



‘Be Prepared!’

•Develop a Disaster Plan

•Research and know about possible disasters

•Develop an Emergency/Disaster kit

•Develop an Evacuation Kit

•Pet Plan

•Training (First Aid….)

•All members should have emergency responsibilities

 Preparedness – communities develop resources that are appropriate to their size. A comprehensive preparedness program increases the community’s capacity to cope with the larger hazard impacts. This principal applies to individuals, groups and families.

Things You Can Do:

•Prepare yourself

•Prepare your home/business

•Prepare for sustainability

•Develop evacuation kits

•Contact information lists

•Education & Training



There are many things that are desirable to stockpile, we are creatures of comfort and enjoy many conveniences of life.  Having said this there are 3 of CRITICAL mportance: WATER, FOOD and SHELTER. Without these in that order, all the preparedness in the world will help you little.

Rule of thumb -  3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food.


Water is an essential for life; it is critical to have an adequate stockpile or access to potable (drinking) water at all times and especially during a disaster. At least 4 litres of potable (drinking) water per person per day is recommended.  Humans can survive for 3 – 5 days without water, after this dehydration takes its toll on the bodies systems and usually results in loss of functionality and eventually death.

Drinking water is best stored in a cool dark place to allow for maximum shelf life. Water can be stored in any food quality storage container however the established commercial 18ltr water jugs and 500ml or 1ltr bottles work well. Remember to rotate your stock regularly to maintain freshness. For long-term usage, consider a water purification system, filtration, chemical or both instead of managing large quantities of bottled water.

For sanitation or non-drinking water any clean container will suffice.  In advance of loosing your water supply or a power failure and when possible fill sinks, tubs, buckets and jugs with tap water for use as sanitation water.

There are 3 primary ways to purify clear, clean water to kill harmful bacteria and parasites: i) Water that has been contaminated by surface water can be boiled for 3-5 minutes; ii) If boiling is not an option, 3-5 drops of bleach can be added; iii) chemical treatments such as Hazalone tablets, Iodine or Chlorine Dioxide( ClO2) treatments can be added.  Any cloudy water or water containing sediments should be filtered first before any purification attempts are made.


Unlike water you can survive much longer without food. A general rule of thumb has been 21 days or 3 weeks. Some conservatively stretch this number and estimate up to 30 – 40 days based on some human achievements; however, the world has witnessed persons protesting by hunger strike for as long as 74 days and religious fasting for an unconfirmed 241 days. Going without food, hunger strikes and fasting take on different psychological aspects to the outcome. History and the record books are full of human achievements and are a testament to the will power of the human mind. These feats of surviving without food for extreme lengths of time are not relevant in a disaster or very stressful environment; furthermore ones activity level declines over time and after 3weeks most people have expired their body fat stores and are now depleting muscle mass which will impact mobility and physical abilities greatly.

To be adequately prepared you should consider the following question: How much food should I store for an emergency? The answer is contingent on the following variables:

•How many people

•How long

•How generous of a diet

•How much can I afford to invest

•What is the reasonable amount that I can manage (storage & rotation)


Shelter is the 3rd important item to consider after water and food. The type of shelter depends on weather, season and geographical area. Exposure to the elements affects your health and survival status. Exposure can alter the body’s regulating functions, frostbite can set in within minutes to hours and heat exhaustion and sunstroke can happen very quickly. It is important to monitor weather conditions and seek appropriate shelter when available. If you are in a populated area that offers evacuation shelters you should avail yourself of their hospitality, if you are in a wilderness area you should seek appropriate shelters such as; cabins, tents or build a survival lean too.  If you are taking responsibility for your own emergency shelter, it is your responsibility to research and procure the shelter as well as train everyone who will need to use it on its set up and operation.


Before you evacuate your residence or place of business you need to secure the infrastructures. Shut off gas supplies if installed, turn off electricity with the exception of security systems, turn off water and reduce the heat to a minimum to prevent freezing of water pipes.  If time permits winterizing the drainage system with anti-freeze will prevent damage in low temperatures.

Your emergency plan should have a common meeting place so that if family members are separated either before or during a disaster, there will be a pre-determined meeting spot. A pre-determined contact, friend or family member, who resides in a different geographical area should be noted by all family members so that if a member is stranded and cannot get to the pre-determined meeting spot a confirmation of their status and location can be recorded.

If you have children, become familiar with their institution’s disaster preparedness policies and procedures. All family members should know where the closest emergency responder agencies, (Police, Fire and Ambulance), are and how to contact them. If members of your family have physical or intellectual challenges or cannot speak English, prepare emergency cards in English with their names address and important contact information, medical and allergic info and what language they understand.

Post Evacuation

After a disaster take extreme caution upon re-entering your place of residence or business.  Be cautionary of downed electrical wires outside and inside; look for flooding and wet areas before turning on electricity; inspect the gas lines before re-engaging the gas supply; scrutinize all food supplies for spoilage prior to consuming, ‘if in doubt- throw it out!’  Notify your distant contact person throughout the disaster, especially when you are safely back into your residence and the threat is over, ‘stand them down.’ Re-stock your emergency supplies and kits as soon as possible; you never know when you will depend on them again!


 For a comprehensive presentation on Personal Preparedness or to initiate a Personal Preparedness program in your work environment, contact Keith to arrange.

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