Residents urged to fill out emergency plan

If a disaster were to strike in Fort Frances, the fire department, OPP, and other local agencies have undertaken emergency planning to protect the town and its citizens.
But what can local residents do on their own to help themselves?
With Emergency Preparedness Week (May 4-10) underway across Ontario, Fort Frances Fire Chief Gerry Armstrong, who also is the Community Emergency Management co-ordinator, is urging the public to fill out a new guide produced by Public Safety Canada.
The Emergency Preparedness Guide, which will be delivered to each residence in Fort Frances on Monday (May 12) with the Daily Bulletin, informs residents how to identify possible emergency situations that may occur, make a plan in response to such an emergency, and prepare a kit that would let an individual or family survive for a 72-hour period, Chief Armstrong explained.
For example, families can use the guide to record an escape route from their home and neighbourhood, and identify meeting places near the home or immediately outside the neighbourhood.
The guide also is a place where they can mark down the locations of fire extinguishers, water valves, gas valves, electrical boxes, and floor drains, which may have to be accessed in emergency situations.
They can use the guide as a place to write down how to get hold of their children, relatives, and other important contacts in case of an emergency (i.e., family doctors, insurance agents, neighbours, etc.), as well as mark down pertinent health information for family members with special health needs.
The guide also encourages residents to keep in mind that some public shelters or hotels don’t allow pets, and that pet owners should make alternate arrangements for their pets to be fed and cared for if they do have to evacuate their home.
And it gives some tips as to what to include in a survival kit, such as:
•at least two litres of water per person per day;
•flashlight and batteries;
•food that won’t spoil and a manual can-opener;
•first aid kit;
•candles and matches/lighter;
•extra keys for vehicle and house;
•some cash;
•special items such as prescription medications, infant formula, and equipment for people with disabilities; and
•a copy of the emergency plan and contact information.
Chief Armstrong said having an emergency plan in important, and the public shouldn’t wait for an emergency to happen as there are simple things people can do now to prepare themselves and their loved ones.
That said, it takes some commitment on the part of individuals to first devise a plan and then make preparations according to it.
“The best example I could use is if we’re doing a fire safety scenario,” said Chief Armstrong.
“We attempt to get the message to the residents that you’ve got to have a home escape plan, and you’ve got to be able to practise it with your family, if you truly want it to work and you want to understand it.
“In any sort of emergency, if you’re going to be affected by it, you’re going to need to be prepared,” he stressed.
“If it’s a natural disaster of sorts, you’re going to need that ability to survive, whether it’s a stockpile of water, batteries, and flashlights, a heat source, food.”
It also is a good idea for those who fill out the guide to write themselves a reminder to update their emergency plan each year, at which time they can review contact information, practise evacuation plans, change batteries in their smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and restock the content of their survival kits.
Although this is not the first Emergency Preparedness Week, there is an increased emphasis—both federally and provincially—for awareness this year because of the new guides, said Chief Armstrong, adding that locally, the guides will be the extent of emergency preparedness promotion.
But Chief Armstrong said if any local residents have questions about emergency planning, they should feel free to call the fire department at 274-9841.