News Local

National Emergency Preparedness Week in Simcoe County

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Simcoe County manager of 911 and emergency planning Cathy Clark encourages all county residents to be prepared for an emergency, including having an easily accessible kit for any worst-case scenario.

Simcoe County manager of 911 and emergency planning Cathy Clark encourages all county residents to be prepared for an emergency, including having an easily accessible kit for any worst-case scenario.

With wild weather upon us, and more possibly on the way, residents are being reminded to be prepared.

National Emergency Preparedness Week runs until Saturday and sees officials from Simcoe County and local municipalities encouraging everyone to be prepared for anything that might happen in the event of an emergency.

This year's national theme, as set by Public Safety Canada, is Plan. Prepare. Be Aware.

With this campaign, families and individuals across Canada are encouraged to take action to protect themselves and their families during emergencies, according to Cathy Clark, Simcoe County manager of 911 and emergency planning.

“Over the past decade, flooding, especially spring flooding, has resulted in the greatest number of large scale emergency responses. There are several areas in the county that are particularly prone, including the townships of Ramara, Severn, Essa and Springwater,” Clark said, adding the county has also experienced tornado activity with varying degrees of intensity most years since 2005.

“In 2014, there were four confirmed tornadoes in Simcoe County as well as other severe summer storms. And 2016 was a busy year. We had a significant ice storm on Easter week-end and spring flooding in Ramara Township was also significant.

“Climate change is absolutely impacting the frequency and intensity of storms and Simcoe County is not immune to that. So it is a very real thing we prepare for,” Clark said.

Emergency preparedness kits are a must, she added.

A properly prepared kit will allow your family to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours, especially if you need to live without power, tap water or natural gas until services are restored.

Items include non-perishable food and bottled water, a crank radio, flashlight and batteries, first aid kit, extra keys, cash, clothing and footwear, blankets or sleeping bags, toilet paper and toiletries, medication, whistle and even playing cards.

But the most important item in the kit might not even be in there: common sense.

New technology isn’t the only answer during an emergency, Clark said, adding that having hard copies of important documents in the kit can also be invaluable.

“We’ve become extremely reliant on technology and we imagine that everything we’ve kept on our i-Pads or our phones will be readily available to us and that’s not always the case,” she said. “If there is a power outage, our access to some of those electric things is gone almost immediately.

“Have phone numbers of people you know you’re really going to want to speak to, children’s schools and daycares, and print it in your kit. If you’re just expecting that information to be in your phone, it may not available to you,” Clark said. “Trying to remember 20 different numbers that you might otherwise have no problem remembering might be difficult during a crisis.”

So it’s a combination of new technology and old school, she said.

While she would never recommend anyone not try to get a hold of someone over the phone during an emergency, she has some advice: text instead.

“So many people at once are trying to phone their loved ones and that jams up the signal space. The bandwidth gets eaten up very quickly,” Clark said. “We would be grateful if people kept their conversations short and it’s actually easier, from our perspective, that people text because it uses less bandwidth.

“Photos and videos use up a tremendous amount of the cellphone bandwidth. The texts will usually go through more readily than voice communication.”

To learn more about National Emergency Preparedness Week, visit www.simcoe.ca.

imcinroy@postmedia.com