Last week's brutal ice storm caught many off guard as residents struggled to stay warm and hydro crews scrambled to turn the lights back on. Incidents related to carbon monoxide poisoning also jumped due to the improper use of generators and makeshift warming devices such as barbecues.
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As power outages stretch into the sixth day for some Hamiltonians, it is a good opportunity for residents to revisit their emergency preparedness plans.
Here's a summary of the three-step emergency plan from the City of Hamilton
1. Know the risks
Severe weather and power outages were among the number of emergencies that the city says have occurred or may occur in Hamilton.
Top 10 risks, in order, for Hamilton:
1. Hazardous materials and explosions
2. Energy supply emergencies
6. Structure fire (major)
7. Tornadoes (windstorm and microburst)
8. Transportation accident - motor vehicle
9. Ice storms
Ice storm is ranked ninth in the top 10 emergencies the city plans for, behind other emergencies like hazardous materials and explosions, epidemics and terrorism. That ranking is based on a mathematical equation the city uses: Risk = (Probability + frequency) X (sum of consequences).
Michael Kirkopoulos, the city's manager of communications, said it is still too early to tell if the city will reassess the risk of ice storms. Debriefings are planned to find out what the city has learned and what can be applied to future storm responses.
The city will also conduct another risk assessment of the emergencies next year using a new process developed by the province's emergency services branch, which may have some impact on the rankings, according to Kirkopoulos.
Kirkopoulos said, because of the colder temperatures, last weekend's ice storm is different from the summer storm in July that also caused extensive power outages.
The city opened four warming centres, something that wasn't typically done during an emergency, according to Kirkopoulos.
“The warming centres are a good example of how this storm requires us to do different things and make quick decisions,” he told CBC Hamilton.
The timing of the ice storm also added to the inconvenience and complicated the emergency response effort, he said.
“The holidays made it more significant.”
2. Make a plan
Each household should have an emergency plan, which covers the following:
- Safe exits from the home and neighbourhood.
- A meeting place near your home for your family.
- A designated person to pick up children from school or daycare should you be unavailable.
- Out of town contact person(s).
- Special health needs.
- Location of fire extinguisher, water valve, electric box, gas valve and floor drain.
The federal government also has a step-by-step online tool that guides you through the process.
3. Get a kit
After an emergency, it may take crews some time to reach you. Families should be prepared to be self sufficient for at least 72 hours.
The following items will help you build a 72-hour basic emergency kit. Store them in a backpack or duffel bag in an easy-to-reach location. The kit should be checked once a year and re-stocked as needed.
- Nonperishable food.
- Manual can opener.
- At least 2 litres of water per person per day.
- Wind-up or battery-powered flashlight.
- Wind-up or battery powered radio.
- Extra batteries.
- A copy of your emergency plan and contact information.
Additional items are recommended:
- Basic tools.
- Duct tape.
- Toiletries, toilet paper, hand sanitizer.
- Garbage bags.
- Blankets and extra clothing.
- Bleach or water purification tablets.
- Candles and matches.
- Two more litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning.
- Small fuel-operated camp stove and fuel.
(Source: City of Hamilton emergency services)