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Step 2. Make a Plan - Emergency Preparedness

It is important that you and your family know what to do if an emergency of any size happens (make a plan), especially if you are not all together.  As a team, address the following issues (but make sure you understand Step 1. Know the Risks first and then continue on to Step 3. Get a Kit).

Your Home Escape Plan 

Young girl creating a home escape plan.

  • Develop an escape plan by drawing a floor plan for each level of your residence.
  • Use a black or blue pen to draw the location of doors, windows, stairways and large furniture for each level.
    • Indicate the location of emergency supplies (Family Emergency Go-Kit), fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, collapsible ladders, first aid kits and utility shut off points.
  • Use a coloured pen to draw a broken line charting at least 2 escape routes from each room.
  • Mark a place outside of the home where household members should meet in case of an emergency.
  • If you live in an apartment, know the location of the emergency exits. Ensure your family knows where the fire alarm is and explain when and how to use it.
  • In a fire or other emergency, never use the elevators as they may not work if the power goes out. For further information on high-rise safety, contact your local Fire Department.
  • Practice emergency evacuation drills with all household members at least twice per year. Keep your home escape plan visible where babysitters or children can see it. For further information on developing a Home Escape Plan, contact your local Fire Department – Fire Prevention Division.
  • Make an emergency plan (external link)  - Government of Canada

Locate & Label Switches

  • Locate all shut-off switches for heating and ventilating equipment in your home. Identify these switches with easy-to-see signs placed near the breaker panel or main circuit breaker, gas and water. Clearly label the on/off position for each and teach members of your family how to shut off these services.
  • If your home is equipped with natural gas, tie or tape the appropriate wrench near the pipe but note that only a qualified technician should turn the gas back on – never attempt this by yourself!

Shelter In Place

    A man sitting in his living room with his dog laying on the floor.
  • Shelter-in-place is the practice of going or remaining indoors during the release of an airborne hazardous material or other toxic substance rather than evacuating the area or staying at home due to an extended power or water outage.
    • DO NOT attempt to pass through smoke or fumes.
    • Move out of the path of smoke or fumes and seek shelter inside a house or automobile and remain indoors. (This can reduce your exposure to 1/10 of that outdoors.)
    • Close all exterior and interior doors so that you compartmentalize” your house. Wet towels under the doors will help prevent smoke or fumes from entering your house. If fumes do threaten you, cover your mouth and nose with a wet handkerchief or towel.
    • Close windows and use duct tape to cover window openings (you may want to have pre-cut pieces of plastic to cover windows).
    • Shut down air conditioners, fans, etc., which bring in outside air. Do not use bathroom vents, kitchen vents, fireplaces (close dampers) or clothes dryers.
    • Set thermostats so that air conditioners, furnaces and hot water heaters will not come on.
    • Monitor your radio, television or Internet for additional information, pre and post-incident advice and instructions as to when it is safe to open windows and doors and go outside.
    • Only evacuate if told to do so; staying indoors with the house closed up is the most effective action you can take.
    • If travelling, stay away from the emergency area, as you may hinder rescue and recovery efforts.
  • Always be prepared to stay in your house (shelter-in-place).
  • Responsible family members should:
    • Have a roll of duct tape.
    • Save old towels for use under doors.
    • Know how to shut down the air conditioner.
    • Know how to close dampers.
    • Be able to locate and identify all shut-off switches for heating and ventilating equipment in the home.
    • Prepare Shelter-in-Place/Stay at Home Kits.


  • For your protection, you may be notified that it is necessary to evacuate an area impacted by an emergency. Notification may occur in several ways. Read more about emergency alerts.
  • If a community emergency requires residents to leave their homes, the Region may open an evacuation centre in one or more of the following local facilities to provide temporary shelter:
  • Always be prepared for an evacuation. Responsible family members should:
    • Know how to shut off their home’s gas and hydro.
    • Keep their vehicles fuelled at all times.
    • Prepare/update their Car Survival Kits and Family Emergency Go-Kits (see Step 3 – Get a Kit) and advise the other family members of their location.
    • Always have their cell phones charged and in a location where it easy to grab if they must evacuate their home.
  • If you expect to be evacuated during an emergency:
    • Keep phone lines open for use by emergency workers and monitor local radio, TV, and Internet for emergency instructions and current information.
    • Do not assume an evacuation will last only a few hours; take your Go-Kit with you.
    • If you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity in your home.
    • Follow instructions from officials and evacuate promptly if asked; travel only on routes specified by officials – a shortcut could take you to a blocked or dangerous area.
    • If you have time, leave a note (in a mailbox if you have one) telling others when you left and where you went.
    • If you are evacuated, register with the authorities (evacuation or reception centre) so that you can be contacted and reunited with your family and loved ones.
    • If you are going somewhere other than a designated centre, advise the centre, local government or police of your whereabouts.
    • Securely lock all windows and doors and take your pets with you when leaving your home.
    • Check in on nearby older adults, people with special needs or individuals who may be vulnerable to see if they require assistance.

Blackberry with a message on the screen: I.C.E., Other: 905-123-4567Communications Plan and I.C.E.

  • Have a communications plan – if something happens, who do you contact for help.
    • Include 2 contacts.
    • If possible, make sure one of your contacts is in a different geographical location then you.
  • Program I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) into your cell phone so that the responding personnel know who to contact.


  • Carry a Car Survival Kit – every driver should.
  • Remember to keep your vehicle serviced and the gas tank half full.
  • In an emergency situation where you must pull off the road:
    • Pull your vehicle completely off the road.
    • Turn your emergency flashers on.
    • Car with a Highway Help Sign in the window Roll the driver’s window down halfway, hook the Highway Help Sign (external link) on the window and roll the window back up.
    • Lock all doors and remain in the vehicle.
    • Open a window 1 cm for ventilation.
    • If someone other than a police officer approaches your vehicle, DO NOT open the windows further or unlock the doors.
  • Follow routes specified by officials as shortcuts could take you to a blocked or dangerous area.
  • Watch for fallen power lines, debris, damaged bridges/roads and dangling wires.
  • Always pull to the right for emergency vehicles when you hear the siren or see their lights flashing!
  • If the traffic signal is not functioning at an intersection, the first vehicle to arrive and stop has the right-of-way. If two or more vehicles stop at the same time, then the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way.
  • If the road is flooded:
    • Travel very carefully and only if absolutely necessary through flooded areas. Roads may be washed away or covered with water. Make sure you are on firm ground.
    • If you come across a barricade or a flooded road, take a different route.
    • If you are caught in fast rising waters and your car stalls, leave it and save yourself and your passengers.