Municipal Services

After an Emergency

Some Common Impacts Of An Emergency

  • There can be significant numbers of casualties and the safety of buildings and houses may be compromised, rubble may block areas making it dangerous or difficult to get out or walk around.
  • Health services in hospitals and mental health resources in an affected community may become strained, maybe even overwhelmed. Know they are doing their very best under extraordinary circumstances. Health care facilities have emergency plans and might access additional resources, such as mobile hospitals or enlist the support of medical staff/facilities from neighbouring communities, provinces or the Government of Canada.
  • Law enforcement from local, provincial and federal levels might be involved following a terrorist attack due to the event's criminal nature.
  • Extensive media coverage, high public anxiety and social impacts could all continue for a prolonged period.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there might be restrictions on local, domestic and international travel.
  • You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area following routes specifically designated to ensure your safety.
  • Clean up and recovery operations could take many months.

Right after the emergency

  • You may be confused or disoriented. Stay calm and remember the following procedures.
  • Help the injured.
  • Help anyone who is injured. Get your emergency survival kit (the first aid kit should be with it).
  • Listen to the radio. Listen to your local radio station on your battery-operated radio for instructions.
  • Don't use the telephone. Don't use the telephone unless it is absolutely necessary. Emergency crews will need all available lines.

Expect emotional reactions

You won't "act like yourself" for a while. Most people caught in a disaster usually feel confused. They may tremble, feel numb, vomit or faint. Immediately after the disaster, they often feel bewildered, shocked, and relieved to be alive. These feelings and reactions are perfectly normal. Later, many survivors sleep poorly, have no appetite, are angry with those around them or panic at the slightest hint of a storm. Children might start thumb sucking or bedwetting. These feelings and reactions are perfectly normal too. 

How to get yourself and your family back on track

Talk about your feelings. Talk about what's happened. Encourage your children to express their feelings. They may want to do this by drawing or playing instead of talking. Understand that their feelings are real. Recognize that when you suffer a loss, you may grieve. (Yes, you can grieve the loss of a wedding photo or your grandfather's favourite ring.) You may feel apathetic or angry. You may not sleep or eat well. These are normal grief reactions. Do give yourself and your family permission to grieve and time to heal. 

How to help your children

Children exposed to a disaster can experience a variety of intense emotional reactions such as anxiety, fear, nervousness, stomachaches, loss of appetite and other reactions. These are normal and temporary reactions to danger. Parents can help relieve such reactions by taking their children's fears seriously, reassuring them, giving them additional attention and hugging them.

  • After a disaster, children are most afraid that:
  • The event will happen again
  • Someone will get hurt or injured
  • They will be separated from the family
  • they will be left alone.

So comfort and reassure them. Tell them what you know about the situation. Be honest but gentle. Encourage them to talk about the disaster. Encourage them to ask questions about the disaster. Give them a real task to do, something that gets the family back on its feet. 

Keep them with you, even if it seems easier to look for housing or help on your own. At a time like this, it's important for the whole family to stay together. 

Raw, unedited footage of terrorist incidents and other tragedies and people's reaction to those events can be very upsetting, especially to children. Talk to your children about what is happening, and how you and governments are keeping them safe. We do not recommend permitting children to watch television news reports that show images of the same incident over and over again. Young children do not realize that it is repeated video footage and will think the event is happening again and again. Adults might also need to give themselves a break from watching disturbing footage. 

However, since listening to local radio and television reports will provide you with the most accurate information on what's happening and what actions you will need to take, try to make arrangements to take turns listening to the news with other adult members of your household. 

Steps to take when Returning Home

Check for damage to your home. Remember the following points:

  • Use a flashlight - don't light matches or turn on the electrical switches if you suspect damage or smell gas.
  • Check for fires, fire hazards or other household hazards.
  • Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas, turn off the main gas valve, open windows and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately. Wear protective clothing. For major spills or leaks, call in professional help.
  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Check on your neighbours, especially the elderly or people with disabilities.
  • If you turn off the gas, a professional should only turn it back on from the gas company.
  • Listen To The Radio. Listen to your local radio station on your battery-operated radio for instructions.

Watch for hazards:

Post-flood hazards

  • Contaminated drinking water: Use bottled water or bring water to a rolling boil for ten minutes or add one drop of non-perfumed chlorine bleach per litre of water (or three drops per litre of cloudy water) and allow it to stand for 30 minutes before consuming. (Water should still have a slight chlorine smell.)
  • Contaminated dishes and utensils: Wash and sterilize dishes and utensils. Use boiling water or use a sterilizing solution of one part chlorine bleach to four parts water; then rinse dishes and utensils thoroughly.
  • Basement full of water: Drain the water in stages, about a third of the volume of water per day. (Draining the water too quickly can structurally damage your home.)

Food poisoning

  • Check food supplies in refrigerator, freezers and cupboards for signs of spoilage. When frozen food begins to defrost it should be cooked; otherwise dispose of it in accordance with the instructions from local health authorities.

Loose or dangling electrical wires

  • Stay away. Advise the authorities if you can.

Broken sewer and water mains

  • Advise the authorities if you can.

Contaminated floodwater in the basement

  • Disinfect every three days if the flood is severe and the house is occupied for an extended period. For the average home, mix two litres of liquid bleach into the floodwater.

Watch for mold

  • Mold is a health hazard. If mold is present wear a facemask and disposable gloves. Anything that stays wet long enough will grow mold. Dry everything quickly to avoid future health problems.

Information for these pages was taken from the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada web site with permission.