As wildfires burn in British Columbia, the Red Cross is reminding people to consider advice often given to boy scouts: always be prepared.
Preparation can be the difference between life and death during extreme weather and natural disasters, said Jenn McManus, vice-president of the Canadian Red Cross.
Three significant disasters in Alberta come to mind: the 2011 Slave Lake fire, the 2013 southern Alberta floods, and the 2016 Fort McMurray fire.
McManus said people need to be diligent and acutely aware of what’s going on around them, which includes knowing what the local hazards are and what their household requirements are if they need to evacuate on short notice.
“Have a grab-and-go kit Have a plan,” she said. “Make sure you know what you need to take with you: personal documents, extra sets of keys. If you have children, seniors, pets, what are their specific needs?”
When it comes to personal items, have copies of insurance policies, birth and marriage certificates, prescriptions, passports, wills and keys — things that people take for granted and remember when it’s too late, McManus said.
Listen to local authorities and be sure to have a communication plan with family and friends, so people can find you, she advised.
Wildfires can move fast, so you should too, if given an evacuation order.
“Urban, rural, remote — we need to have a plan because those situations are very unique,” she added.
“Urban dwellers, we tend to get a little complacent. We have municipal services and public works, and we have lots of first responders around us but we need be able to be self-sufficient for 72 hours at a minimum to allow first responders to do the work that they need to do in an emergency.”
To build a disaster preparedness kit, the Red Cross recommended including:
- non-perishable food
- a manual can opener
- a flashlight, with extra batteries
- a radio
- extra keys (house and car)
- a first aid kit
- cash in small bills
- special needs items (medications, infant formula, pet food, etc.)
- personal hygiene items
- important family documents
- a copy of emergency plan