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Emergency Preparedness Week serves as an important reminder


Emergency Preparedness Week has been taking place for decades, but Erica Fleck, emergency management director for the Halifax Regional Municipality, says after a particularly challenging year in Eastern Canada, people are really paying attention.

“We are very unique with the risks and challenges that we do have here. We’re almost completely covered by coastline, so that poses some challenges with regards to flooding, storm surge when you live along the coast but then, of course, we have our wooded areas, so the fire risk and then everything else in between,” she said.

The countrywide initiative takes place at the beginning of May as a reminder and nudge for people to get ready for the upcoming season.

For many, emergency kits spring to mind when it comes to getting prepared for those unexpected moments. They typically include a stock of water, regardless of if you’re on city water or a well, food, flashlights, batteries, a radio and important documents.

“Really it just needs to be individualized for your circumstances, for you personally, for your family, if you have elderly parents living at home,” said Fleck.

Fleck also points out that people should keep their pets in mind, games and other things to pass the time, and even a piece of paper that has phone numbers on it.

Shawn Murphy is visiting New Brunswick from New Zealand and says he’s only had to use his emergency kit once in 25 years. However, he adds it’s still always something he keeps stocked and ready.

“We prepare for more so tsunamis and earthquakes over in New Zealand because that’s what we get more of, so you’ve always got a box of necessities – a flashlight, enough water to last you for a good few days at least and a good food supply of canned food,” he said.

Murphy adds that it’s extremely important to be ready at a moment's notice.

“You’ve only got in terms of seconds to get going. Tsunami, you’re going to get traffic jams, block ups, it’ll just be a total mess of everyone trying to get to a higher point of land,” he said.

While preparing for yourself and family is at the top of the list, Riverview Fire and Rescue Chief Robin True points out that homes and properties also need some planning and preparation.

This year the department has put a big focus on wildland urban interface fires.

“In terms of the combustible items around your home, keeping those away from your home as much as you can. Think about things like mulch beds, keeping them away from the foundation of your home, checking your gutters keeping them free of debris and pine needles, those types of things in your gutters, which could catch ambers if there’s a fire nearby, and just keeping your shrubs and stuff pruned up,” said True.

He says across the Maritimes there are many weather-related incidents and it’s important to plan ahead and protect your home from wind, ice and any big storms when possible.

“People don’t think about the risks until something happens to them or happens nearby that it makes them think about it, but unfortunately, then sometimes it’s too late so we have to be proactive in thinking about risks within the community or risks close to home,” he added.

When it comes to emergency kits, he says it’s important that people check them or re-stock them on an annual basis since they provide you with essential items when you’re at home, but also if you need to leave with little notice.

For the first time, the federal government tested its national public emergency alert system on Wednesday. It’s something that officials hope will make a difference if it’s ever needed in a real situation.

“It only takes a couple steps to take a look at it, read the message. If it is a real event, it’s going to tell you the next steps that you should take. Those few seconds, yes it’s intrusive, but those few seconds could be important and could be lifesaving as well,” said Emergency Management Director for the Government of Prince Edward Island, Nick Policelli.

“I think it’s an ability to reach as many people as possible and as quickly as possible. It’s something that’s heavily vetted, so it’s not something that we take lightly.”

Policelli says the best response to an emergency is to be prepared and this week gives everyone the opportunity to do just that.

Officials point out that every province and every city faces unique challenges and has different resources available to them.

In Moncton, N.B., residents can sign up for Moncton Alerts which is a tool that sends notifications for everything from emergency and weather warnings, closures and restrictions and even parking bans.

In P.E.I., Policelli says there are many ways for people to get informed.

“The EMO here on Prince Edward Island, we offer classes not only to other government departments but also the general public, things that are called ICS or incident command systems, understanding what that can do for you,” he said.

Late last year, Fleck says a Voluntary Vulnerable Persons Registry was launched.

“The system is there to assist residents who require help or may require help during emergencies, so those who are mobility challenged, visually impaired, hearing impaired, things like that,” she said.

Officials say that people should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours.

Emergency Preparedness Week is from May 5 to May 11 this year. Top Stories

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