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Natural Disaster Survival Tips From a Canadian Red Cross Volunteer

A Canadian Red Cross volunteer shares his expert advice on how to make it through a natural disaster safe from harm.

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natural-disaster-survival-tips-survival-kitPhoto: Shutterstock

Assemble a survival kit

Plan ahead by assembling a survival kit with enough supplies to last at least 72 hours. Include blankets, water and food—and don’t forget a manual can opener, says Guy Lepage, a veteran Canadian Red Cross volunteer. “A lot of people have electric ones, but if you’ve got no power, you’ve got a big problem.”

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Backpack on wooden tablePhoto: Shutterstock

Keep your kit in a backpack or gym bag

Make sure your kit is placed in something that zips up and is easy to carry. Don’t get stuck with an unwieldy plastic container or unsealable bag during an evacuation.

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Woman with pills Photo: Shutterstock

Take extra care of medications

If you use a hearing aid and live in an area prone to earthquakes, secure the device to your nightstand using Velcro. As well, Lepage says running out of medications is one of the most common problems people face during an emergency, so always have at least three days’ worth of pills on hand.

Here’s when it’s OK to take expired medication.

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Cat and dog sleeping on couchPhoto: Shutterstock

Remember your pets

Find out in advance which hotels and shelters allow animals, and stock your pet’s medication like you would your own. Keep a crate and plenty of food for your furry friend.

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Road maps with pinsPhoto: Shutterstock

Never go digital

Analog maps and paper money may seem cumbersome in the digital age, but when a natural disaster knocks out the power grid, you’ll be glad to have them on hand.

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Survival tips include texting instead of callingPhoto: Shutterstock

Text instead of call

Let family and friends know you are safe by texting them instead of calling. A text is more likely to get through than a phone call if cellular networks are overwhelmed. Plus you will help free up phone lines, which are needed by rescue workers.

These are the smartphone repairs you can do yourself.

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Faucet Photo: Shutterstock

Collect water

If a winter storm has you stuck inside, let your faucets trickle continuously and collect the water in a basin. This will keep the pipes from freezing and ensure you’ve got enough water to cook and bathe (and make plenty of hot chocolate).

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Emergency evacuation plan checklistPhoto: Shutterstock

Make preparation a family affair

“We encourage people to discuss it around the kitchen table,” Lepage says. Ask your kids what they’d like to take with them during an evacuation. It may just be a blanket or a stuffed animal, but that could be enough to keep them calmer during a crisis.

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Open doorwayPhoto: Shutterstock

Don’t believe what you see in the movies

A doorway isn’t the safest place to be in an earthquake (you should seek shelter under a table instead), and waiting in your car beneath an overpass is one of the worst things you can do in a tornado. Don’t believe what you see in the movies.

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Glass of water on wooden tablePhoto: Shutterstock

Purify your water

If the water in your area becomes contaminated, you may need to purify it using iodine tablets, which impart an unpleasant flavour. Make treated water more palatable by passing it back and forth several times between two separate containers.

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Canadian passportPhoto: Shutterstock

Photocopy important documents

Photocopy your passports, licences, wills and insurance forms-and store them in a re-sealable plastic bag, along with recent photos of family members. Scan each document to create a PDF file, which you can then email to yourself or store using a cloud-based service like Dropbox, iCloud or Google Drive.

Remember to never leave these items in your car.

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Pumping gas into carPhoto: Shutterstock

Keep your car’s gas tank full

Life in Canada doesn’t stop for a blizzard or an ice storm, so keep your car’s gas tank full to ensure the fuel line doesn’t freeze. And if you use a backup generator at home, remember never to run it indoors—even in the garage—as it could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Learn about the freezing point of gasoline and its effect on your car.

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Man checking fusebox with flashlightPhoto: Shutterstock

Practice makes perfect

Run through your emergency procedures once or twice a year, making sure each family member knows what to do. “If you get the call that you’ve got to evacuate,” Lepage says, “it’s a lot less stressful knowing everyone’s ready.”

Next, find out which emergency items you should always have in your home.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada