Before an Emergency
Whether you work, play or live in Toronto you need to embrace the fact that personal preparedness is an individual responsibility. Emergency responders do a great job keeping people safe, but they can’t do it alone. Take action to prepare for the types of emergencies that could affect you where you live, work and visit.
Being prepared for an emergency starts with having a plan. Make sure everyone in your family knows what to do during and after an emergency.
Your plan should include:
- Where and how to exit your home safely (doors, windows and stairways)
- A location, outside your home, where you will meet
- The location of your emergency kit(s) or go bag(s)
- The name of a person away from the emergency who can act as your family’s contact if you get separated at any point. Make sure that everyone knows this person’s name, address and telephone number
- A list of key telephone numbers and addresses
- The emergency plan at your children’s school / childcare centre / or day program facility
- A plan for your family in case you are separated – who could your children call for help or for information?
Steps That High-Rise Residents Can Take to Plan for Emergencies
Residents should know:
- The building superintendent’s name and phone number
- Locations of fire extinguishers, automated external defibrillator units and oxygen tanks
- Location of emergency evacuation device(s)
- Location of emergency exits
- Who conducts your building’s evacuation drills and how often
- Where to meet family and roommates if the building is evacuated
Residents are encouraged to set up a buddy system to check in on neighbours, especially the elderly and other residents that might have special needs. We encourage communities/neighbourhoods to identify vulnerable people in their area and do checks on them.
Review and update your plan at least once each year.
Whether you’re just starting to prepare or are a preparedness pro, gathering your emergency supplies isn’t hard. A good rule of thumb is to have supplies for at least 3 days or 72 hours. You’ll probably be surprised at how much you already have.
Your Emergency Kit
- Three day supply of drinking water (4 litres per person per day) and non-perishable food that meets your family’s dietary needs including food for infants, children, seniors and pets
- Manual can opening if you pack cans
- Battery powered or crank radio, flashlight (including batteries) and personal alarm or whistle
- Aluminum foil, duct tape and plastic wrap to cover vent openings
- First aid kit, including hand sanitizer
- Prescription drugs, medical supplies and special equipment for the family
- In Case of Emergency information sheet about your particular needs, including contact information for your healthcare provider(s), caregiver(s), or personal attendant(s), and other emergency contact numbers including your veterinarian, and a detailed list of all prescriptions and medications
For Children and Infants
- Favourite Toys
- Food, water and bowls
- Leash/harness and muzzle
- ID tags and licenses
- Medications, and vaccination/medical records
- Blanket and favourite toy(s)
- Local animal shelter phone numbers
Emergency preparedness does not have to be expensive. There are some simple low cost things you can do that will help you get through emergencies like a widespread power failure. You should try to have some
sort of emergency preparedness kit and a plan to help get you through the first 72 hours when an emergency happens.
4 litres of water per person per day is the ideal amount to have on hand. Having bottled water or water stored in other containers (thoroughly cleaned and sterilized) is a very low cost item to keep on hand.
Have a three-day supply of non-perishable food that meets your dietary needs, including food for infants, children, seniors and animals. If you are able to, put aside one can of food per week until you have 10 cans per person. Buy bigger cans for families and don’t forget to have a manual can opener. Some examples of foods that last up to a year include:
- Canned food like soups, fruits and vegetables
- Canned fruit juices
- Canned nuts
- Peanut butter and jam
- Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals
- Manual can opener – approximately $2
- Canned food – approximately $1-$3 per can depending on choice
Information / Light
Have a battery powered flashlight and battery or crank radio for information.
Tip: Keep your cell phone charged and always keep a separate list of important contact numbers in case your cell phone loses power.
- Flashlight / LED Lights: as little as $1 from discount stores (you may also be able to use your cell phone as an emergency
- Battery operated radio – $20 and up
- Crank radio – approximately $40 and up
- Back up charger for cell phones – $5 and up
In addition to the 72 hour preparedness kit, every member of your household should pack a Go Bag – a collection of items you may need in the event of an evacuation.
A Go Bag should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. A Go Bag should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry. Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year.
Everyone’s Go Bag will be different and based on individual needs. Consider including the following in yours:
- Copies of your important documents such as passports, bank account numbers, credit cards, health card, social insurance cards, family records, insurance policies, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.
- A copy of your In Case of Emergency information sheet
- A list of all the medications you take and how often
- Extra set of car and house keys
- Credit and ATM cards and cash, especially in small denominations
- Bottled water and non-perishable food, such as energy or granola bars
- Contact list and meeting place information for your household
- Child and animal care supplies or other special care items
Other Go Bag Tips
- Keep cell phone batteries charged and have an alternate battery, car charger or portable battery bank.
- Keep flashlights where you can find them in the dark.
- Replenish food and water supplies twice a year.
- If you store extra medication in your Go Bag, be sure to refill it before it expires.
Here are some tips to be prepared for unexpected medical emergencies:
- Have your medical history and medications written down and easily accessible for paramedics.
- Fill out the In Case of Emergency information sheet. Put a copy on your fridge, in your purse, and give one to family members for safekeeping.
- Write your apartment/condo number, address and apartment access code on a sticker or sticky note and post it near your phone in case you are not the one calling 9‑1‑1.
- Keep your medications in one location so they are easy to find in the dark.
- Make sure your medications are always stocked — do not let them run out.
- Know where your health card is.
- Have back up power for electronic medical devices like oxygen machines and feeding pumps.
- Have a first aid kit and make sure it is fully stocked.
If you have special needs, require personal attendant care or use life-sustaining equipment:
- Arrange in advance for someone to check on you in the event of an emergency and develop a plan with your healthcare provider.
- Wear a MedicAlert bracelet or carry an identification card.
- Carry a personal alarm that emits a loud noise to draw attention to you.
- If you rely on any life-sustaining equipment/apparatus, develop an emergency back-up plan that will ensure the equipment/apparatus is operable in the event of a power outage.
- If you or a loved one depends on electrically-powered medical equipment, such as a ventilator or kidney dialysis machine, contact Toronto Hydro at 416-542-8000 to be placed on the Life Support Notification Registry.
- Label your equipment and attach instructions on how to use and transport it.
- Connect with your health care service provider if you have one.
- If you live in a high-rise building and require an emergency evacuation chair, request that one be installed on the floor you live on, preferably close to the stairwell (if applicable).
- Ensure that your neighbours, property managers and community associations are aware of your issues so that they can check on you in the event of an emergency.
Your emergency kit should also include:
- Prescription drugs, medical supplies and special equipment
- Information about your special needs or disability
- Foods that meet your dietary needs
- A detailed list of all prescriptions and medications
Assisting People with Disabilities or Special Needs
- Always ask if a person wants or needs your help. Do not touch the person, their service animal or their assistance devices without their permission.
- Ask if they are injured or have any loss of movement and/or sensation.
- Call 911 for emergency medical assistance when needed.
- Do not try to lift, support or assist in moving a person unless you know how to do it safely. Get help from a trained person.
- Follow instructions posted on special needs equipment and assistive devices.
Preparedness is everybody’s business. Are you and your family prepared for an emergency? What about your neighbourhood? Do you know your neighbours’ emergency plan or how you can help each other during an emergency?
There are steps you can take to help increase your community’s preparedness and resilience.
Before an Emergency Occurs
- Be prepared
- Create and test your emergency communications plans
- Assemble or update emergency supplies
- Take action
- Spread the word
When an Emergency Occurs
- Listen for information and follow the instructions given to you by emergency responders or other city officials.
- Check on family, friends and neighbours.
Is everyone in your group personally prepared? Do you want information on how your group can help build community resiliency?
Before an Emergency Occurs
- Hold a meeting with your group or organization to define what function or services you might be able to provide during an emergency.
- Host a preparedness workshop.
When an Emergency Occurs
- Consider conducting wellness checks on your members.
- Open your doors to the community as a respite centre.
Landlords have an obligation to maintain habitable conditions in residential buildings. This includes providing essential services like electricity, hot water and heat (during the coldest months of the year), and ensuring that physical conditions do not threaten the life, health or safety of tenants.
Preparing your building(s) and residents for a weather related or other emergency such as a prolonged power outage is critical.
Before an Emergency Occurs
- Develop an Emergency Plan; communicate it to all tenants and post it throughout the building.
- Include relocation contingencies, such as location of your nearest identified emergency meeting point, available units in other buildings within your portfolio, transportation for tenants, etc.
- In your plan be sure to include considerations for security with contact information (site security if the building is evacuated).
- Implement a resiliency plan to improve the facility’s ability to weather and emergency (enhanced windows, drainage systems etc.).
- Encourage all residents/tenants to have adequate insurance.
- Host a preparedness workshop.
- Have up-to-date contact information for tenants and their emergency contacts.
- Have a plan for maintaining necessary on-site services and determine special needs.
- Have a plan for checking in on your tenants before and after the event to see if assistance is required.
Other Tips for Preparing in Advance
- Have a Community Bulletin Board where you post regular safety updates and where update will be routinely posted in the event of an emergency.
- Conduct annual evacuation drills. Designate a meeting point at least 50 metres from your building.
- Consider implementing ‘Floor Captains’ in your building where a volunteer resident maintains a focus on group safety.
- Encourage all residents to have a personal preparedness kit that will lessen the impacts of an emergency event.
- Have a supply of Emergency Lighting devices such as LED flashlights to supplement the building’s emergency lighting
- Have at least one battery / crank radio available that can be used in a common area for tenants to receive necessary information.
- Evacuation Chairs for vulnerable residents that may not be mobile enough to easily evacuate the building during an extended power disruption.
- Install a backup generator – ideally big enough to power all the building’s needs but minimally to power one elevator to allow all residents to evacuate if necessary.
When an Emergency Occurs
- Have your property manager or superintendent conduct an immediate assessment of your property post-event.
- City agencies may contact you to conduct physical inspections of the property to see if there is damage to the property. If the City contacts you by phone or email, respond quickly and appropriately.
- Activate your security plan.
If your building has sustained damage and you are working on making repairs:
- Let your tenants know, especially if you are experiencing delays.
- Keep tenants informed of repair progress and let them know of any intermediary solutions you can provide.
- If heat is affected, please take any steps recommended by professionals to keep pipes from freezing, as this may cause additional damage to your property and further delay restoration of services.
- Let tenants know where to pick up mail as you arrange with Canada Post.
Toronto Fire Services provides specific information for building supervisory staff regarding and their responsibilities as it relates to fire safety and the Ontario Fire Code. This includes but is not limited to the following information:
- Prevention – tips to prevent fires that begin as a result of unattended cooking, candles, smoking, etc
- Detection – Regular maintenance of fire alarm systems, sprinklers, smoke and CO alarms in units
- Escape – ensuring exits are clear, procedures are in place, door closers are functional, and regular fire drills are being held
Fire Prevention Tips:
- Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years
- Fire Drills should be conducted every 3 months for supervisory staff in high buildings (regulated by 3.2.6. of the Building Code)
- In the case of hoarding, contact the Specialized Interdivisional Enhanced Response (SPIDER)
Fire Detection Tips:
- Smoke alarms should be in all suites, outside all sleeping areas, and batteries should be replaced once every year
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms should have their batteries replaced yearly and should only be replaced in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions
- 4 main sources of CO are the stove, fuel fireplaces, service rooms, and the garage
- Supervisory staff must never shut down the fire alarm system or silence the fire alarm system before Toronto Fire gives permission
Fire Escape Tips:
- Know your emergency response duties (Fire Safety Plan)
- Be familiar with your building and occupants (persons requiring assistance)
- Be thoroughly familiar with the operation of all fire emergency systems in the building
It is important to remember that an emergency can take place anyplace and at any time. The Get Emergency Ready – At Work preparedness guide addresses the most common emergency situations, including procedures for fire alarms, lockdowns, active attackers, medical emergency and upon receipt of suspicious packages or threatening communications.
Insurance can help you replace what’s lost, and help cover your expenses if you are forced to leave your home during an emergency. Discuss your needs with an insurance representative.
As a home owner or tenant, you are legally responsible for any damage you cause to any part of your building and for unintentional harm caused to others who live in or visit the property. For example:
- If your known faulty toaster oven starts a fire that damages not only your apartment, but the entire complex, you may have to pay for the damage to your unit and the rest of the complex.
- If someone slips and falls in your rental condo, you may be held financially responsible for the cost of the injured person’s damages.
- If your clothing, furniture or electronics are destroyed by fire or water damage, replacement costs add up.
For more information, visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s website.