During an emergency, you might not have the time to make alternative plans. You may also not be aware of who to listen to for instructions. That’s why it is important to know who to call and what to do under different circumstances.

It is important to stay informed during an emergency. There are numerous ways to receive emergency information including:

  • newspaper, mail and hand-delivered information
  • telephone, email, internet and social media such as Twitter and Facebook
  • local television, radio and on-line news broadcasts
  • your superintendent, property manager and members of your community
  • follow the City on X @thecityoftoronto.

Be sure to share emergency information that you receive with all members of your household and your neighbours.

When a large scale emergency strikes our City, Toronto will activate its Emergency Response Plan. The plan details the methods in which the City mobilizes its resources during a crisis. It also ensures all City organizations, emergency response services, and key agencies are fully aware of their respective roles and responsibilities.

It is equally important for all families, individuals, businesses and property owners to have their own emergency response plan to help them respond and recover from the emergency.

In situations where the size of the emergency is beyond the scope of the neighbourhood, building or community’s Emergency Plan, and residents are displaced from their homes, first responders will contact Toronto Emergency Management to coordinate emergency assistance to those affected.

Depending on the nature of the emergency, this response will include some if not all of the following services:

  • Dispatching TTC Vehicles to shelter people at site
  • Dispatching the Canadian Red Cross to attend to the affected residents’ needs including: temporary accommodation, transportation, arrangements for food, clothing and other personal supports
  • In large scale events open an Evacuation/Reception Centre
  • Information and assistance with rehousing (if necessary) and coordinated updates to affected evacuees
  • Assistance with caring for pets and service animals

During an emergency, you may be asked to stay inside (shelter in place) or evacuate. In the event of an emergency, officials will advise you on whether you should stay inside or leave.

Sheltering in Place

If you are asked to shelter in place, there are ways you can protect your family and your property. You should have:

  • Your emergency kit and non-perishable food ready and on hand
  • A personal alarm or whistle that emits a loud noise that will draw attention to your whereabouts if you need help
  • A white cloth to hang up in a window and/or a balcony to identify your location if you need to signal for help
  • Ink marker to write messages on doors, windows or a cloth – if you need to signal for help
  • Aluminum foil to cover vent openings


If you must evacuate your home:

  • Follow the directions of emergency personnel.
  • Let someone know that you’ve left and where you can be found.
  • Turn off your lights and appliances (except your refrigerator and freezer).
  • Turn off or reduce your heat or air conditioning.
  • Lock your doors.

What to Bring

Remember to bring the following with you if it is safe to do so:

  • Your Go-Bag
  • Cell phone, laptop, tablet, chargers and battery banks
  • Clothing and toiletries for each family member
  • Formula, bottles, diapers, favourite books, games and toys for infants and children

Do Not Leave Your Pets or Service Animals Behind

  • Pets may become lost and/or not survive on their own.
  • Bring food and water, medications, favourite toys, identification tags and licenses for your pets.
  • Bring your leash/harness and pet carrier.
  • Toronto Animal Services works with homeowners during emergencies to provide options for dealing with their pets.

Learn what to do after evacuating.

Power failures and utility disruptions can be caused by failures in the system or external events, such as severe weather. A power outage may last from a few minutes to a few days. Prolonged power outages in extreme hot or cold weather may put your health and safety at risk.

Conveniences we regularly enjoy, such as elevators and running water,may be affected during a power outage. Toronto Hydro will work to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. Your patience is needed and appreciated while these complex issues are resolved.

During an Outage

  • Unplug all appliances (space heaters, toaster ovens, griddles, etc.) that may have been left on at the time of the outage and could ignite when they come back on.
  • Unplug computers, televisions, stereos and other electronics to prevent damage caused by power surges. (Use surge protecting power bars where possible.)
  • Turn off stove cook top and oven.
  • Turn off the water to the clothes washer and dishwasher if they were in use when the power went out, if possible.
  • Leave a light or radio on so you will know when power is restored.
  • Never use barbecues, propane or kerosene heaters, or portable generators indoors.
  • Never leave candles unattended.

During an extended power outage, your building’s property management staff or community organizations, such as the Canadian Red Cross, might visit you at home to make sure you are safe.

In the event of fire:

  • Sound fire alarm and alert others.
  • Leave the building via the nearest exit, closing all doors behind you.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • Call 9-1-1. (Don’t assume this has been done.)
  • If you cannot leave the building, stay close to the floor and cover your mouth and nose to avoid inhaling smoke.
  • Move to the nearest window or balcony.
  • Wave a piece of cloth to attract attention from emergency services personnel.
  • Meet the firefighters when they arrive and tell them where the fire is.

Apartment Buildings

To stay or go?

Most of the time, the best thing to do in a fire is leave the building as soon as possible. But in some cases, like if the fire is on a lower floor and is blocking your exit, you may not be able to leave. In either case you must act quickly as every second counts. The longer you wait, the more risk there is that heavy smoke will have spread into stairways and corridors.No matter what your decision, you must protect yourself from the smoke.

If you decide to go

  • Check the door to your unit; if smoke is entering from around the door, do not open it.
  • Feel the door and door knob; if the door or knob are hot, do not open it.
  • If there is no smoke or heat, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly.
  • If you see smoke or feel heat, close the door quickly and protect yourself.
  • If the corridor is clear, take your keys, close the door behind you and go to the nearest exit stairway.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • Open the nearest exit stairway door carefully.
  • If there is no smoke,use the stairway to leave the building in If there is smoke, do not enter
  • If there are other stairways, try them; n if there are not,return to your unit and protect yourself from smoke

When you are inside the stairway

If you encounter smoke on your way down the stairs, follow these safety tips:

  • Leave the stairway at the closest floor and proceed to an alternate stairway.
  • Open the door to the alternate stairway carefully and if there is no smoke, continue down and leave the building.
  • If there are no available stairways to exit the building, return to your unit if possible, or enter the closest floor and bang on unit doors until you are able to take shelter in another unit.
  • Never go to the roof as doors to the roof can be locked.
  • Stay low to the ground if you are in a smoke filled environment.
  • Once out, stay out; do not go back into the building until fire fighters tell you it is safe.

If you remain in your unit

  • Stay in your unit until you are rescued or until you are told to leave.
  • Keep smoke from entering your unit by sealing cracks around the door with duct tape and placing wet towels near the bottom; seal vents and air ducts with duct tape, wet towels or aluminum foil.

If smoke enters your unit

  • Call 911, tell them where you are and move to the balcony with the door closed behind you.
  • If you don’t have a balcony, go to the most smoke-free room, close the door and seal it with tape and towels; open the window for fresh air.
  • Show emergency personnel where you are by hanging a sheet from the window or balcony.
  • Listen for instructions or information from authorized personnel over the building’s internal speaker system.

During a power outage, food kept in the refrigerator or freezer may become unsafe to eat. The following tips can help ensure food is stored safely in the event of a power outage:

  • Keep your refrigerator door closed (if possible) to maintain the temperature inside. Without power, the refrigerator section will keep food cool for four to six hours – if the door is kept closed.
  • Keep a fridge thermometer in your refrigerator so that you know when the temperature goes above 4°C.
  • Throw out perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers that have been at temperatures above 4°C for more than two hours.
  •  Keep your freezer door closed to maintain the temperature inside. Without power, an upright or chest freezer that is completely full will keep food frozen for about 48 hours if the door is kept closed. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for about 24 hours.
  • Foods that have thawed in the freezer may be refrozen if they still contain ice crystals or are at 4°C or below – evaluate each item separately.
  • Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but food will remain safe to eat.
  • If possible, add bags of ice to the refrigerator and freezer to keep temperatures cooler for a longer period.
  • Discard any items in the freezer or refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
  • If you are in doubt about whether a food item has spoiled, throw it out.
  • Contact your doctor or pharmacist for information about proper storage of medication that requires refrigeration, such as insulin.

Also learn how to feed your baby during an emergency.

During an emergency, the City is unable to accept clothing or household items, as it doesn’t have the capacity to store or distribute the items.

Clothing and household items can be donated to local community agencies that accept these items on a regular basis (e.g., Salvation Army). Community agencies also accept financial donations, which can be used to purchase goods or services to assist evacuated residents.

Due to health and safety regulations food donations can’t be accepted.

The City appreciates your interest and willingness to assist. The City cannot accept donations of prepared and/or store bought food. Contact Daily Bread or the local food bank in your community to find out how you can donate. The City will be working with local agencies to ensure resources are used to respond to the emergency.

Canned goods and non-perishable items should be donated directly to community agencies. You need to check with the community agency before making a donation

Community agencies also accept financial donations, which can be used to purchase goods or services to assist evacuated residents.

The City of Toronto appreciates the support of residents willing to assist during an emergency.

In order to best serve community needs and ensure those volunteering are safe, trained and able to help in a meaningful way, the City recommends potential volunteers sign up ahead of time with an accredited volunteer agency that can provide proper training, screening and support.

Getting involved with a volunteer agency before an emergency occurs will improve your ability to help during a crisis or when help is needed.

As part of its Emergency Plan, the City of Toronto is committed to partnering with community organizations that may assist in times of an emergency.

Below is a list of some community and faith based organizations where you may want to register as a volunteer. If you want get involved, click on any of the links and follow the instructions on how to register. These organizations have been identified as ones that may assist the City and its communities, in the event of an emergency situation. The City of Toronto does not formally endorse individual organizations. You may choose to support one of these agencies or one of the many others that support our city.

Canadian Red Cross


Salvation Army – Emergency Disaster Services

St John Ambulance

Volunteer Toronto

We have mapped these organizations, along with numerous other community organizations who have the ability to accept volunteers on the City’s Wellbeing Index.

Thank you for your interest in volunteering to help the City of Toronto’s emergency response and recovery efforts.

If you are a registered, non-profit agency and would like to be added to this list, please contact oem@toronto.ca.