It’s Friday the 13th – are you ready? #emergencypreparedness

It’s Friday the 13th.

I’m not a Knight Templar, so I’m sure I’m safe as houses. Or am I?

Stepping into my professional persona for a moment, the insurance industry is first and foremost composed of your friends, neighbours and family members. We want you safe, healthy and to live long, happy lives.

Emergency preparedness is a big part of the safe, healthy and long-lived part of life.

Personally, I always expect the worst but pray for the best. I see no reason not to be ready and my life experiences with emergencies have backed up that view.

I live in Canada, the best country in the world, in Toronto, one of the safest cities in the world. Yet I have an emergency plan and kit ready in case the worst happens.

I’m not going to repeat everything you need in a kit; the Government of Canada has an excellent guide available here  and the Canadian Red Cross has a great planning site.

However, my personal experiences have led me to add a few things to my kit over the years.

Here are my 10 must-adds for emergencies:

1) Don’t panic.

Knowledge is both comfort and power; have a paper map and know where your neighbourhood hubs are. Read through the online planning resources for your city to understand what they’ve done to be ready for a crisis.That knowledge will help you stay calm and make good decisions.

Soapbox Sidebar: If the authorities say it’s time to leave, leave. They don’t make that decision lightly or on a whim. The authorities *do* know better than you because they have a lot of information about the crisis that you don’t.

If you don’t leave when you’re told to go, you are endangering first responders when they have to come save you from your own stupidity and that is a selfish, unconscionable act of cruelty.

2) Plan: Communications and Delegation.


  • Facebook has a fantastic ‘emergency check-in’ system during crises to help you stay connected with the people that matter most.
  • Twitter Alerts: select public agencies and emergency organizations’ tweets are highlighted during a crisis and provide up-to-date information relevant to an unfolding event, such as public safety warnings and evacuation instructions. Click here to find out more!

Delegation: Because you never know…

  • Who has your power of attorney? Who has your medical power of attorney? Who is your doctor? Make sure you have their contact information on you.

3) There are two kinds of emergencies, so have two kits at the ready.

Sometimes you can shelter in place but as we saw with the terribly tragic choices some people had to make recently, sometimes you have to go and you do NOT have time to try to pack.

My stay-put kit is in a large plastic bin in the back closet. My bug-out kit is in a camping backpack in the front closet so that if I need to go, I just have to grab the bag and the cat.

4) Pets need kits too.

My cat needs to eat, drink and use the facilities too, so I have kits for her as well. I also have a harness with a leash for her so that I don’t have to keep her locked up in her carry case if I have to leave home.

5) Money matters.

Have emergency cash on hand. Debit and credit will likely not work in an emergency, so make sure you have actual money. Think of it as shopping it old-school.

6)  Documentation.

Have a copy of your insurance policies in your bug-out bag. You should also have copies of anything else you might need, including prescriptions, financial documentation and medical records of importance for you and any other human and non-human members of your family circle. I also have e-copies of my documentation on a USB stick.

When it comes to photos (something we all want to save), Dropbox and other cloud-based applications will save a lot of tears in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Scanning them today is worth the time and effort.

7) 3 Things to add to your first-aid kits:

  • Celox Gauze – a hemostatic gauze that you can pack into deep, open, bleeding wounds; the gauze helps accelerate clotting. I learned the hard way during a blackout and I have the scar to prove it.
  • Illness medication (cold and sinus, gravol and imodium). Seriously. Because not everyone washes their hands. #Ewwwww
  • SPF30 Sunblock.I learned the hard way to have this handy during a terribly humid summer blackout.

8) 4 Things to add to your emergency kits:

  • A hand-crank radio that doubles as a battery bank so you can recharge your smartphone. Solar is good too but I like this model better.
  • A foldable pocket stove with fuel tabs and waterproof matches. A camp stove is heavy, as is a propane cylinder; this stove is not.
  • A folding knife. You might need it to open a box, or cut fruit.
  • A battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. Living in a building with other people means thinking about what they might do in a crisis. You never know if some idiot doesn’t realize you can’t bring a barbeque indoors. Carbon monoxide is odourless and invisible to you, but not to a carbon monoxide detector. I wouldn’t trust one that is wired into your house in a power failure, would you?

9) A sleeping bag good down to -20C.

Hypothermia and frost-bite are a real danger during winter emergencies, even if you are sheltering in place and have access to a heat source.

A solid sleeping bag like the MEC Phoenix Hybrid will keep you warm down to -20C. I’ve used this model winter camping in higher altitudes and I was as toasty as a pop-tart!

10) Test your equipment regularly.

Whenever we spring forward and fall back, I check the expiration dates on my food stores and water, medication and I take the opportunity to test my equipment.

I try my flashlights/lanterns, I check my extra power chargers. Imagine finding out your flashlight’s dead in a blackout and you can’t charge your smartphone.

It just makes sense to check your gear in advance.

To sum up:

  1. Don’t panic. Know your environment and do as you are told.
  2. Plan: Communications and Delegation.
  3. 2 kinds of emergencies = 2 kinds of kits.
  4. Pets need kits too.
  5. Money matters.
  6. Documentation.
  7. Add Celox, illness medication and sunblock to your first aid kit.
  8. Add a battery-bank style radio, folding pocket stove and knife and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector to your kit.
  9. Have a cold-weather sleeping bag.
  10. Test your equipment regularly.

Plan now, succeed later! Have a great weekend!



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