People were caught off guard by the pandemic and the 2013 ice storm. Here’s how to prepare for the next emergency


Since we don’t have a lot of hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes here (and hardly any volcanic eruptions), it’s easy to have a false sense of security living in Toronto. I mean, we haven’t even seen a zombie walking lately.

However, we’ve had a few power outages, and as the weather gets stranger and more unprecedented and unprecedented events on the rise, it would be wise for unprepared people to start doing a bit of planning, starting with an emergency kit.

Only 29% of Torontonians said they had one in 2019, according to a Toronto Hydro survey. This was before COVID, however. Could people take the idea of ​​an emergency more seriously now?

“I have no official statistics to share with you,” said Guy Lepage, Red Cross communications delegate and member of the organization’s Emergency Response Team (ERT). “Being an optimist and always half-full kind of person, I think people now realize how important this is and won’t forget it.”

Lepage has worked with the Red Cross for 16 years. He has participated in several deployments to crisis areas, most recently to Kashechewan First Nation in northern Ontario, which was completely closed in July due to COVID. Sometimes the emergency is closer to home, however.

“I live in Durham and during the 2013 ice storm I was without power for about 40 hours, so it wasn’t such an imposition,” Lepage recalls. “But on Christmas Eve I volunteered at the local Ajax community center and we had 50 people in one of the conference rooms who came to warm up and need food.”

That year, more than 50,000 Torontonians were still without power on Boxing Day, the fourth day after the ice storm cut power. At this point, even people with well-stocked emergency kits would likely have needed help. During the first three days, however, we are supposed to take care of ourselves.

“The reason we say three days is that in an emergency you can’t expect firefighters or emergency crews to come to your house if they are facing bigger issues like power outages or major fires or the like. Lepage explains.

He says medications, pet food, a hand-cranked or battery-operated radio, and a manual can opener are at the top of the list of important items people often forget. Toilet paper isn’t even in the top 10. A lot of people also underestimate how much water we should have. The city of Toronto recommends four liters per person per day, so you can cook, bathe and, of course, drink.

Did you know that plastic water bottles have an expiration date? I just found out. It turns out that my little stash (emphasis on the word “small”) expired in 2015. While this is controversial (and most of us would probably drink expired water in an emergency), the reason for an expiration date is related to concerns that plastic will start to degrade, especially if it is improperly stored.

City guidelines also recommend 10 cans per person in its “Prepare on a Budget” section. One helpful suggestion he offers is to buy an extra can a week until you have enough, which seems to be part of the city’s attempt to make it all as accessible as possible.

That’s a good thing, considering that you could easily feel hopeless if you watched shows like “Doomsday Preppers,” which often feature people with unlimited storage, a big budget, and of course, a car. Refueling is a little different when you’re on foot or on a bike, live in a tight space, and spend most of your money on accommodation.

Canned vegetables, fish, and soups are all relatively inexpensive and have the benefit of a long shelf life. Crackers, cereals, and most packaged snack foods (even nuts) usually become expired within a year. Unless you want to check your kit every few months and swap out older foods, you’re better off doubling down on peanut butter and canned foods, most of which last around five years. You should, however, exclude anything that contains tomatoes, including soup, which usually only lasts around 18 months, due to the acidity.

What you are going to buy depends a lot on whether or not you cook with gas, as an electric stove will not work if there is no power. This is one of the reasons survivors are buying MREs (ready-to-eat meals) and freeze-dried foods, both of which became a popular panic-buying item at the start of the pandemic. They have a long shelf life – somewhere between five and 25 years. Sounds good, but unfortunately they are extremely expensive and often not loaded with salt which means you have to store more water.

Preppers, however, come to the idea of ​​planning an emergency differently than the rest of us. Survival is a highly individualistic response to the threat of a complete zombie apocalypse and societal collapse. Being prepared, on the other hand, is doing your part so as not to be a burden in an emergency. It is a matter of public health. And it is also helping others, by not getting in the way, so that the emergency can be resolved and we can all return to normal life. It’s actually an act that stems from an optimistic mindset and a sense of community – which has its own rewards.

The same goes for the ERT leadership of the local Red Cross, which is why Lepage has been doing it for so long.

“When people ask me why I’m doing this, I say I get a lot more out of it than I put in,” says Lepage. “In the 16 years that I’ve done this, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wasn’t extremely grateful when the Red Cross showed up. “

“That’s why people volunteer for the Red Cross,” he continues. “That’s why people volunteer, period.”

And the least we can do is do our part. It could be as little as 10 cans and 12 liters of water. We’re all in the same boat, aren’t we?

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