In a world full of uncertainties, readiness is key. Emergencies can strike without warning. Fires, floods, earthquakes, and property damage can change your world in an instant.
To secure your home and wallet, it’s important to have a solid emergency preparedness plan in place. From safety kits to home insurance policies, this guide will walk you through the basics of being prepared in an emergency.
What is emergency preparedness?
Emergency preparedness involves planning and organizing in advance to be ready for expected emergencies. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made crisis, a good emergency preparedness plan should identify risks, define roles and responsibilities, and ensure the availability of resources.
For example, your emergency plan may include setting a location for sheltering in place or evacuating. Or, having an emergency supply kit with essential items such as food, water, and first-aid supplies. It’s also important to know what local emergency services are available in your area, and how to get help if needed.
How to prepare for an emergency.
Here are the key elements you should consider and develop to help ensure your family’s safety.
1. Research local risks.
The first step in preparing for emergencies is understanding the types of disasters that could affect your home or business. Start by investigating the potential risks specific to your location and property. For example, are you in an area prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, or floods?Check out the Government of Canada’s natural hazards resource to learn about risks in your area.
2. Make a grab-and-go bag.
In the event of an emergency, it’s important that you and your family can evacuate quickly. Pack essential items in a grab-and-go bag, such as medicines, clothing, documents (e.g., identification cards and insurance policies), personal records (e.g., banking information), cash/debit cards/credit cards, a flashlight with extra batteries, device chargers, and a first-aid kit. Keep the bag in an easily accessible place to grab it quickly if needed.
As well, be sure to bring plenty of drinkable water, and non-perishable foods. You may want to have a small stockpile somewhere in your home, ready to take with you if you need to evacuate. Find the Government of BC’s grab-and-go guidelines here.
3. Evaluate your property.
Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, your home is your most precious asset.
Before disaster strikes, evaluate your home’s vulnerability. Are there any structural weaknesses that need addressing? Have you inspected and maintained your roof for water damage? These steps can help minimize the risk of unexpected damage due to weather.
When landscaping, choose fire-resistant vegetation such as evergreens and trees with thick bark. Plant them away from your home so that, if wildfire spreads, they can’t be used as fuel.
Keep the area around your home free of leaves and debris. Move fuel sources such as firewood, furniture, pine needles, and branches away from your house and out of areas with a high risk of damage. Mowing your lawn regularly and pruning trees and shrubs can also help minimize the risk of accidental fire.
4. Choose building materials wisely.
Planning any renovations or improvements to your property? If so, choose materials and building products that are fire-resistant, water-resistant, and non-combustible.
Concrete and metal are ideal for protecting your home from fire-related hazards. Fire-resistant fencing materials, like fibre, metal, chain, and stone, can help protect your home against wildfires.
- Add non-combustible screens to any external vents (excluding dryer vents) that are vulnerable to sparks.
- Add non-combustible ground surfaces like mineral, soil, rock, and concrete.
- Replace worn or missing weather stripping on doors and windows.
- Retrofit deck components with fire-rated material, such as metal or fire-resistant composite.
- Install multi-pane or tempered glass windows.
- Install fire-rated doors.
Learn more ways you can fight climate change with your home.
5. Understand your insurance policy.
Understanding what kind of coverage you have and what it covers is essential for emergency planning. Are there any limits on flood or earthquake damage? Consult with your broker for limit and coverage advice. Knowing this information before an emergency can save you time and money.
It’s also important to review and update your coverage regularly, as your insurance needs may change. Doing so can help ensure that you are protected in an emergency.
6. Build an emergency fund.
Emergencies can be expensive. Lodging, food, and medical expenses add up quickly, so it’s important to have access to an emergency fund to fall back on.
Consider building an emergency fund with 3 to 6 months of living expenses in case your property sustains damage, or you cannot work due to an injury. Everyone’s financial circumstances are different, so don’t feel pressured into saving an amount outside your budget. Start small and build it up when you can. One of the best ways to start building an emergency fund is by considering a high-interest savings account (HISA). It offers quick and flexible access to your cash when you need it, especially in an emergency situation.
Stay prepared, stay protected.
When it comes to protecting your home and wallet in an emergency, it’s important to remember the basics: be risk-averse, plan ahead, and make sure you’re adequately insured. With the right measures in place, you can weather any emergency with confidence and keep your home, property, and family safe.
Learn more about Vancity’s disaster relief efforts today.