Introduction

To better equip the community to deal with emergencies, Focus Humanitarian Assistance has been running “Disaster Preparedness Weeks” in partnership with National Ismaili Councils around the world. During the week, practical tips and resources are shared with families to raise awareness of the regional risks and how to prepare for them.

Article Information

Compiled by:
Shaila Abdullah

Date posted:
21 July 2010

 

Disaster preparedness weeks raise awareness with practical tips and advice

Approximately 114,000 residential and commercial structures were damaged during the Northridge Earthquake, that struck California in 1994. Photo: FEMA / Wikimedia Commons
Approximately 114,000 residential and commercial structures were damaged during the Northridge Earthquake, that struck California in 1994. Photo: FEMA / Wikimedia Commons

On 23 June 2010 at 1:41pm, an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 hit the Ontario-Quebec border. Tremors were also reported in some US states, including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Jersey and New York. The earthquake occurred near the southern edge of the western Quebec seismic zone.

Much of the tremor’s effect appeared to be concentrated in Gracefield, Quebec. Significant damage was caused to buildings, cars were shaken and displaced from their parking spots and residents ran to the streets. Buildings in Toronto and Ottawa were evacuated minutes after the earthquake. Fortunately, no injuries were reported. It did, however, serve as a reminder of the risk and seriousness of such natural disasters.

Preparedness is key. In the case of a large scale emergency, there is a high possibility that help might be delayed. Families must take charge and equip themselves to deal with such a crisis and stay warm and fed, for at least the initial 72 hours.

Don Shropshire, National Director of Disaster Services with the Canadian Red Cross, urges families to plan ahead and take responsibility for their own emergency preparedness so that they are ready if disaster strikes. “Don’t wait until an emergency happens—knowing what to do before a disaster strikes will help families control the situation better and be in a position to recover more quickly,” says Shropshire.

A category F5 tornado (upgraded from initial estimate of F4) viewed from the southeast as it approached Elie, Manitoba on 22 June 2007. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Justin Hobson
A category F5 tornado (upgraded from initial estimate of F4) viewed from the southeast as it approached Elie, Manitoba on 22 June 2007. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Justin Hobson

To better equip the community to deal with emergencies, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) — an international disaster planning, risk management and crisis response agency — launched Disaster Preparedness Week in May across the United States and in June in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, in partnership with the Ismaili Councils in those regions, and their Regional Disaster Management Teams (RDMTs). Disaster Preparedness Week will be held in Canada later in the year.

Disaster Preparedness Week challenges everyone to ask the obvious question: “Are we prepared?” Individuals and families of all types and sizes — whether single, married, with or without children, young or elderly, healthy or with special needs — must know where to go, what to do, and how to survive and help others in the event of a disaster. FOCUS and the Councils are there to help, but families must stock the tools necessary for survival following a large scale disaster, such as extra blankets, canned food, basic amenities, prescription medications, and medical supplies.

“Regional Disaster Management Teams seek to strengthen the community to face adversities and cope in the aftermath, enabling a quick recovery,” said Rozmin Velani, an RDMT member for the Southwestern United States.

During the week, information resources are distributed to assist individuals and families to be better prepared for a disaster or emergency. Community members are encouraged to join phone-trees for easy contact during a disaster. Sample emergency kits are put on display, along with information on where to get them and how to use them. RDMT members are available to answer questions, explain how to develop a family emergency plan and how to assemble an emergency supply kit.

The following are some key disaster preparedness tips that can help you and your family:

Know the risks

An aerial photograph taken on 13 September 2008 shows flooding in Galveston, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Photo: US Air Force / Wikimedia Commons
An aerial photograph taken on 13 September 2008 shows flooding in Galveston, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Photo: US Air Force / Wikimedia Commons

Be informed about the hazards and risks in the city in which you live and those of the neighbouring areas. Earthquakes are common in areas bordering the Pacific. Flooding can occur anywhere due to rain, snow, or a storm. Blizzards can strike the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and most of Canada. Hurricanes are frequent in Florida, Texas and central and eastern Canada. Avalanches occur in mountainous areas. Wildfires are common in the summer, particularly in Australia, the western provinces of Canada and the western United States, and ice storms typically form in the winter.

It is important to make your home disaster-resistant. Many injuries during earthquakes are caused by poorly secured furnishings, such as bookcases and big screen TVs that get displaced. Secure heavy furniture and fixtures, store flammable liquids in the garage and shut gas lines off in an emergency.

Make a plan

A family emergency plan will help you and your family to be prepared in case of an emergency. All family members, from young children to the elderly, must understand the plan and be ready to follow through in the event of an emergency. Even if you live alone, you should still have a plan.

Get a kit

A Red Cross “ready to go” emergency preparedness kit and its contents. Photo: FEMA / Wikimedia Commons
A Red Cross “ready to go” emergency preparedness kit and its contents. Photo: FEMA / Wikimedia Commons

In case of a major disaster, you will need some basic supplies set aside. Your emergency supply kit should include items such as canned or dry non-perishable food, a can opener, bottled water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car. This kit should include:

Make sure you have a “to-go bag” ready in case you need to evacuate, which should include:

Additional resources

Putting together an emergency kit

Planning for an emergency

Understanding the risks of your region

Home hazard hunt poster

This FEMA poster provides visuals and descriptions so that homeowners can identify and fix at-risk areas of their homes to reduce future earthquake damage and disruption.

Educator and parent resources

The Canadian Red Cross offers three free educational programmes geared to children to educate them on risks, and how to prepare themselves and their families to respond to a changing global environment.

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