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EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

- Emergencies Strike Without Notice; Be Prepared To Handle Potential Disasters, Health Unit Advises -

Expect the unexpected by preparing for the worst.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging area residents and local communities to be prepared for any type of emergency or disaster. “Whether it is an extended power blackout, extreme weather, flooding, train derailment, or drinking water disruption, you never know when disaster can strike this area, so people should be prepared for anything and everything,” says Carol Chan, the Emergency Preparedness Co-ordinator with the HKPR District Health Unit.

Emergency Preparedness Week runs May 3 to 10. While the awareness week marks the importance of being ready for an emergency, the Health Unit also wants that message to resonate with local residents the other 51 weeks of the year. “Disaster can hit home suddenly and unexpectedly, so it is important to be prepared individually and as a community,” Chan says. “Ideally in an emergency, you should be prepared to take care of yourself for a minimum of 72 hours.”

The Health Unit recommends keeping an extra supply of food in your home. Ready-to-eat, non-perishable items such as canned ham, tuna and salmon, energy bars, and dried foods are invaluable when electricity is knocked out and it may be impossible to cook or warm up food, Chan says. During a power outage, the refrigerator door should also be kept closed to maintain the inside temperature.

Food in a fridge will stay cold for several hours provided the door is kept shut. In the summer, a full freezer will keep food frozen for approximately two days provided the door is kept closed.

“When the power comes back on, check to see that food in the fridge or freezer is still safe to eat,” she notes. “If there are still ice crystals present in the food, and there is no odour or visible sign of spoilage, then it is safe to refreeze the food. However, if food is completely thawed and has warmed to room temperature, the decision is easy… just throw it out.”

Clean drinking water is also essential in an emergency. If a power outage occurs, fill as many containers as possible with water to ensure there is a supply on hand. Another good idea is to keep bottled water at home to use in an emergency, but be sure to rotate and replace the water prior its best-before date. In the event that the drinking water supply – either a private well or a municipal water system – loses pressure or is contaminated with micro-organisms, it is important to boil the water before using it, Chan advises. Water should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute, then cooled before drinking or using it.

People should consider creating an emergency kit that contains short-term essentials such as clothing, bathroom supplies, fold-up blankets, flashlights and batteries, adds Chan. An up-to-date list of medication and emergency contacts should also be part of the kit.

Chan says being neighbourly during an emergency is also important. “Some people do not have the support or ability to deal with an emergency on their own,” she says. “It’s good to reach out to neighbours, family or friends who may be vulnerable or unable to look after themselves to see if they need assistance during an emergency.”

For additional resources, visit the federal government’s Get Prepared website or the Ontario government site. Help is also available by contacting the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 or clicking here.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Carol Chan, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100, or 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1235.

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