What you need to have to survive the next emergency

Paperwork, keys, prescriptions, batteries and knowing your non-virtual community: a user's guide to surviving a neighbourhood emergency.

Red Cross advises to be ready to survive 72 hours in an unplugged world

Everyone should have a plan for surviving 72 hours and have an emergency kit that includes cash, important personal paperwork and extra keys for your home and vehicles. (CBC)

It's one thing to live in an interconnected, networked world, but what happens when the plug gets pulled? Like, for example, in a natural disaster or other emergency that knocks out the power, rendering bank machines, gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants inoperable.

That's the situation Jennifer McManus, Red Cross vice-president for Alberta and the Northwest Territories, addressed in an interview Thursday on the Calgary Eyeopener.

McManus gave a few tips about emergency planning, including the what, where and how of surviving a 72-hour period when there might not be access to cash, gas, food, water or your personal documents.

"Households and people need to know, first and foremost, what's their insurance coverage? What do their policies say? Are they up to date? And then have a plan — for your children, seniors in your home, pets — and have a plan to be able to look after yourself for up to 72 hours," McManus said.

What's your plan?

McManus says most people think they could probably survive for 72 hours, but when a community is at a standstill and all creature comforts are gone, things can change quickly.

"I think that there's a perception in Alberta that we can do it. We're can-do attituders. But at the same time, when the networks go down, channels of supplies or channels of support are disrupted, that's when we really need to be self-sustaining," she said.

Creating a kit

McManus outlined what she says everyone should have in their emergency kit.

  • Cash in smaller denominations
  • Very important paperwork, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, health insurance paperwork, insurance policies, land ownership titles, prescriptions. Know where your documents are and make copies. 
  • Extra keys to the house and any other buildings on your property. Extra car keys.
  • Supplies for people in your family. Supplies for children and seniors. If there's medical equipment, have a power source for your medical equipment. Extra batteries. Food, water — and don't forget to check the expiry dates on non-perishable food items in the cellar. And don't forget a can opener.

Where to keep it

Make everyone in your home knows where the kit is is stored and keep it in an easily accessible place. When choosing a storage spot, consider the risks in your community — if your home is near a water source, you might not want your emergency kit and preparation in your basement if you're in a place prone to flash flooding, for example. 

"Or in a garage," McManus added. "I've seen people store fuel in their homes. You have to think safety first as well. So if you've got gas and petrol, maybe not placing that in your basement would be a good idea."

Connect to your non-virtual community

  • has a whole list of preparedness considerations for your family and for your community.
  • Talk to your neighbours and know them, McManus said.
  • Listen to emergency management leads in your community. Make sure you have an emergency management alert app — and an information source that's not dependent on electricity.

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener