Explore some major disasters and tips on how you can survive them
Disasters often strike at times that we least expect – sometimes quickly and sometimes without any warning. Regardless if they are natural or manmade, preparation is key and could mark the difference between life and death. It’s critical for families to follow measures in place for dangerous conditions as a result of a major disaster. This section outlines tips you can take to stay safe and secure with your family when disaster strikes.
Floods have become more prevalent in Canada as weather patterns change and infrastructure ages. Not only can these be but they can also have expensive recovery costs. Take the necessary precautions to avoid being swept away by moving water. When driving, avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. When a flood is expected, forecasters will use these terms:
- Flood or Flash Flood Watch: This means that a flood may occur in your area.
- Flood or Flash Flood Warning: This means that a flood is already taking place or will happen soon in your area.
Take the following precautions to avoid injury:
- Avoid driving in rising flood waters and drive cautiously at night. If flood waters rise high, get out of your car immediately and move to higher ground. Cars can be swept away in less than two feet of running water!
- Keep kids away from flood waters, as it is often contaminated and can cause illness.
- To protect your belongings, record and photograph damage to your home. This will be helpful when filing insurance claims.
Slippery, icy roads, hypothermia from being outside too long, carbon monoxide exposure from improper ventilation systems like generators, heart attacks from working too hard shoveling snow, pushing a car or walking in the snow are causes of death in winter storms. Environment Canada reports that more than 100 deaths occur each year in winter storms.
Here is some important safety advice to keep safe:
- Dress in layers and wear mitts, a scarf, a hat or earmuffs
- Wear warm shoes, preferably waterproof boots made for the snow
- Fill up your gas tank to full, preventing the gas line from freezing
- If you don’t have storm windows, cover windows in plastic to keep cold air out
- Inspect the chimney and fireplace on an annual basis
- Let your faucets drip water to prevent pipes from freezing
- Be sure that fuel-burning equipment emits exhaust to the outside
Take precaution to avoid getting frostbites or hypothermia, as these conditions are life-threatening and can occur in the midst of a snow storm. Following is an explanation of what they are and what you can do to prevent or treat them:
- Frostbites – Frostbites damage the body tissue and are often caused in cold conditions. A wind chill of -29 Celsius, along with high winds will cause frostbite in 30 minutes if you are not covered up properly. If your fingers become pale or white, if you are unable to feel your fingers, toes, earlobes, or nose, seek medical help immediately. As you wait for a medic, find a warm place if possible.
- Hypothermia – This condition can cause death if your body’s temperature drops to less than 35 Celsius. Seek medical help right away. Hypothermia can also cause damage to your kidneys, liver and pancreas. Be aware of these signs – sudden shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and lack of energy or exhaustion.
If you are waiting for medical care, use your own body heat to warm the patient. Start with the arms and legs as these areas drive cold blood towards the heart which can lead to heart failure. If possible, move to a warmer place like a coffee shop, gas station or a nearby store.
Many places in Canada have a high number of extreme heat events, often called “heat waves.” Extreme heat can put your health at risk and cause serious illness, like heat stroke or even death. It is extremely important to take steps to protect yourself and your family.
So what do you need to prepare for what is often inevitable with hot seasons in the next decade?
It’s important to recognize the common terms forecasters use when a heatwave is detected in your community:
- Excessive Heat Watch – This is a warning that there may be extreme heat in the next 12 to 48 hours. This is issued to give residents time to prepare.
- Excessive Heat Warning – This notice warns that excessive heat may occur in the next 36 hours. If caution is not taken, it may lead to a threat to life or property.
- Heat Advisory – An advisory for less serious conditions that still cause discomfort or inconvenience, and if caution is not taken, may lead to illness, death or loss of property.
The elderly, children, as well as the ill are more likely to become victims of excessive heat. Know where they are in case they need help evacuating:
- If there is no air conditioning available, go to a public place like a mall or library to keep cool during the warmest part of the day
- Keep eating small meals and drinking lots of water to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeine or alcohol.
- Wear lose, light coloured, lightweight clothing. Light colours reflect the sun’s rays while dark colours absorb them.
- Avoid outdoor activities like sports or gardening.
- Take care of any pets, making sure they are well fed and hydrated.
Following are three stages to heat illness. Recognize the symptoms:
- Heat Cramps – If muscular paints and spasms occur in the leg or abdomen, they are often the result of exposure to high heat, humidity, and loss of salt, fluid and electrolytes. Drink lots of water.
- Heat Exhaustion – Loss of body fluids through sweating can lead to fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness, low blood pressure, and elevated heart pulse and temperature elevation up to 40 Celsius. Call 911.
- Heat Strokes – Life threating symptoms can occur when a person’s “internal thermostat” stops working. The body is unable to cool itself, and therefore severe hydration occurs. The skin becomes hot and red, the pulse being rapid and weak, vomiting may take place, and there is a change in the person’s consciousness accompanied by body temperatures of 40.6 Celsius to 43 Celsius. Know that the oral temperature at this stage is often inaccurate. The person is at risk of damaging the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs. Call 911 right away.
If a person is suffering from heat, move them to a cooler place as soon as possible. Remove or loosen their clothing, and apply cool, wet clothes or towels to the skin. You may place an ice pack on them wrapped in cloth on their wrists, ankles, neck and armpits. If conscious, provide the person with small amounts of cool water to drink slowly. If they don’t drink water, continue vomiting or lose consciousness, call 911.
Tornadoes are powerful natural disasters, and can often cause great damage in a short amount of time. Be sure you know your community’s warning system so you can be properly prepared. Know the following forecasts terms and what they mean:
- Tornado Watch – This means that a tornado is likely to strike in and near the watch area. Immediately review and act upon your emergency plans with your family. Ensure supplies are sufficient and that you have a safe room in order, and you are ready to act if given late warning, or if you suspect a tornado is approaching.
- Tornado Warning – If a tornado has been detected by weather radar, this means that it is about to strike. Find shelter immediately, underground preferably.
Choose a safe room, like a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest floor, without windows. If you are caught outdoors, the best thing to do is get into your vehicle, buckle up and drive towards the closest sturdiest building. If debris flies at your car, take off your seatbelt and put your head beneath the windows.
Fires can happen anywhere at anytime, and often go unnoticed until too late. Install smoke alarms in your home and make sure they are functional. To do so, replace the batteries once a year. It’s also important to come up with alternative routes to exit your home such as different ways out of your home and neighbourhood. Make sure everyone in your house knows where to meet outside in a case of emergency. Teach your family how to stop, drop and roll in case their clothes catch on fire.
- Carbon monoxide alarms are not suitable for smoke alarms.
- Never open doors that are warm or hot.
- If you must go into an area with fire, crawl low under the smoke to escape.
- Use a fire extinguisher is there is one in your area and if everyone has cleared out of the room. Your local department can provide you further instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Once you get out, stay out! Call 911 immediately.
- Do not use a generator, gas, or charcoal grills, or propane in an enclosed area. These can cause fires and potentially create deadly carbon monoxide gas.
Personal and financial preparedness will benefit you in surviving a disaster
Disasters, both manmade and naturally have significant impacts on our finances and lives. If you need help preparing for a disaster, Consolidated Credit can help you create a budget and a plan to help you make it through. Call , or you may request a Free Debt Analysis online.