Be prepared for emergencies, not scared
It's been called "the storm of the century," but the ice storm of 1998 started out as just another day of freezing rain and drizzle. Over five days, residents of eastern Ontario and southern Quebec, the areas hardest hit by the storm, were crippled by almost four inches of solid glassy ice -- double that of previous major storms.
The heavy ice crumpled 120,000 kilometers of hydro
lines and telephone cables, 130 transmission towers and 30,000 wooden
utility poles. More than 4.5 million people were plunged into darkness
in freezing subzero temperatures. A state of emergency was declared
and almost 16,000 troops were deployed to assist with recovery efforts.
In the end, the Insurance Bureau of Canada reported more than $1.2 billion in insurance claims.
Allison Savard, who lived in St. Eugene, Ont., at the time, was just 10 years old when her family heard that a bad storm was coming. They filled the bathtub and many buckets with water, gathered all their candles and flashlights and her father brought home batteries, milk and bread on his way home from work.
Then the ice came. The Savards lost power for weeks and their house was badly damaged. Their phone line came down so they lost contact with everyone. Then her little brother caught pneumonia.
"It was almost impossible to keep warm,"
says Savard. "We had blankets and we would huddle but with
temperatures of minus 10 degrees for days straight, there was no
way to keep warmth in the house. We had very few nonperishables,
so we mostly ate peanut butter sandwiches. We had lots of stuff
that was frozen, but it all went to waste."
"We were very unprepared," says Savard.
"I don't think (my parents') pre-planning helped at all. They
didn't really stock up on stuff -- we didn't really have time --
and even so, I don't think they really thought it would happen."
While Canada just makes the top 10 list for countries
most hit by natural disasters in the 2006 Disasters in Numbers report
issued by the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, anyone
who's lived through a forest fire in Kelowna, B.C., a hurricane
in Halifax or flooding in Edmonton understands the trauma of surviving
a disaster and the importance of being prepared.
"By taking a few simple steps today, families
and individuals can become better prepared to face a range of emergencies
anytime, anywhere," says Philip McLinton, spokesman for Public
If an emergency occurs, first responders such as firefighters and paramedics need to focus on people who are in urgent need and whose lives are in immediate danger. That means it's important for everyone else to be able to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours.
So, read on to find out what steps you can take to ensure you're not left out in the cold.
Know the risks
For those of you who still think, "it won't happen to me," you're not alone. According to a recent study, while the majority of Canadians believe that an emergency plan and kit is important for ensuring their family's safety, only one-third actually have a plan and fewer than one-third have a kit.
But according to Environment
Canada, Canadian natural disasters are on the rise both in size
and frequency, and more than half are weather-related. What's worse,
experts believe that bigger and more devastating ones are inevitable.
And here's the kicker -- we're partly to blame. Climate change may
create conditions for more severe weather such as tornadoes or hurricanes,
while activities such as clearing trees and draining wetlands for
development makes us more vulnerable to landslides and floods.