What will you do if you get caught in an emergency? It takes planning to prepare for an emergency so you can prevent, respond to, and recover from emergencies that may put your life at risk.
Renfrew County and District Health Unit recommends that everyone “Get Prepared” by understanding the risks in your area, creating a household emergency plan and building an emergency kit. Emergencies can happen at any time and without warning. Be ready. With a little preparation you can respond quickly to help yourself and others.
See Your Emergency Preparedness Guide for vital information on how to get prepared for emergency situations.
Hand hygiene is the most important way to prevent you and others from getting sick from potentially harmful germs. Hand hygiene refers to the cleaning of your hands by either washing them with soap and water or applying alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR).
It is important to protect yourself and your family from illness during an emergency situation, such as a flood. Natural disasters are known to bring devastation and can increase the risk of becoming ill due to harmful germs. Consistently practicing good hand hygiene is essential to reduce the spread of infection and prevent an emergency situation from becoming more complicated.
When to wash your hands
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before putting on your mask, before and after taking your mask off
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- Before and after changing contact lenses
- After using the toilet
- After helping with someone’s personal care (e.g., changing a diaper, assisting someone who has used the toilet, assisting someone to eat)
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After being in a public place or outdoors
- After touching an animal, feeding an animal, or picking up animal waste
- After handling garbage
- After doing household cleaning (e.g., toilets)
- After coming into contact with high-touch surfaces in public spaces (e.g., handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs)
- After contact with items contaminated by floodwater or other debris during an emergency
Soap and clean water
If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
- Wet hands under warm running water
- Apply soap
- Be sure to lather soap and rub palms, back of your hands, between fingers, wrists and fingernails for at least 15 seconds
- Rinse hands under running water
- Dry using a clean towel
- Turn off tap with towel
Alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) is a great way to clean your hands. ABHR must contain between 70-90% alcohol, which kills bacteria on your hands. If hands are visibly soiled, ABHR will not be effective. If you cannot clean your hands with soap and water when your hands are visibly soiled, first use a hand wipe to remove debris and then use ABHR.
How to use ABHR
- Apply a quarter-sized amount of ABHR to the palm
- Rub your hands together; make sure to rub palms, back of your hands, between fingers, wrists and fingernails for at least 15 seconds
- Continue to rub until they are dry
Hand Hygiene Quick Tip
Applying a non-scented moisturizer to your hands daily will also help ensure your skin remains healthy and prevents chapping, leading to optimal hand health!
Each emergency comes with a variety of hazards that can affect the safety of the food you eat. With power outages affecting refrigeration or floods directly contaminating your food, the response to each situation can be different.
Learn how to respond during each emergency to ensure your food remains safe to eat by visiting:
Climate change is increasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of the number of very hot days in Canada. In Renfrew County and District a heat warning is defined as a daily maximum temperature of ≥ 31°C with a minimum nighttime temperature of ≥ 20°C or Humidex ≥ 40°C for 2 or more days.
Sings and Symptoms of Health Illness
Heat illnesses are preventable. Extreme heat can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death. High temperatures can put everyone at risk.
- High body temperature
- Confusion and lack of coordination
- Skin rash
- Muscle cramps
- Dizziness or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Extreme thirst
- Dark urine and decreased urination
If you experience any of these symptoms during extreme heat, immediately move to a cool place and drink liquids; water is best.
- High body temperature
- Confusion and lack of coordination
- No sweating, but very hot, red skin
Heat stroke is a medical emergency! Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. While waiting for help—cool the person right away by:
- moving them to a cool place, if you can;
- applying cold water to large areas of the skin; and
- fanning the person as much as possible.
If you have health related questions Call 8-1-1 Health Connect Ontario for non-emergency medical advice or Call 9-1-1 for medical emergency assistance such as heat stroke.
Those most at risk of experiencing health effects from the heat are:
- Older adults
- Infants and young children
- People with chronic illness, such as breathing difficulties, heart conditions, or psychiatric illnesses
- People who work in the heat
- People who exercise in the heat
- Homeless people
- Low-income earners
If you are taking medication or have a health condition, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendations.
Things you can do to prepare for a heat warning
Prepare for the heat:
- Tune in regularly to local weather forecasts and alerts so you know when to take extra care.
- If you have an air conditioner, make sure it works properly.
- If you don’t have an air conditioner, find an air-conditioned spot close by where you can cool off for a few hours on very hot days.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades or awnings.
- Include extra water, sunscreen and sunglasses (with full UVA and UVB protection) in your emergency survival kit.
- Know the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses.
If you are indoors:
- Stay indoors to limit sun exposure.
- Take frequent cool showers or baths.
- Stay on lower floors if there is no air conditioning.
- Drink plenty of liquids – water is best.
- Prepare meals that don’t need to be cooked in your oven.
If you are outdoors:
- Never leave children or pets alone in a parked vehicle.
- Spend a few hours in a cool place. It could be a tree-shaded area, swimming facility or an air-conditioned spot (e.g., mall, library, cooling station).
- Plan strenuous outdoor activities for cooler days, or choose a cooler location, like a place with air conditioning or with tree shade.
- Drink plenty of liquids – water is best.
- Dress in light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing covering as much of your skin as possible.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face.
- Wear full UVA and UVB protection sunglasses.
- Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher 20 minutes before going outside.
Pay attention to how you and those around you feel:
- Frequently visit neighbours, friends and older family members, especially those who are chronically ill, to make sure that they are cool and hydrated.
- Fact Sheet: Staying Healthy in the Heat – Canada.ca
- 27-18-2210-ExtremeHeatInfoSheets-EN-final-web2 copy (canada.ca)
- Extreme heat events: Overview – Canada.ca
- Publications – Healthy living – Canada.ca
- Extreme heat | ontario.ca
- Keep children cool! Protect your child from extreme heat – Canada.ca
- Weather Information – Environment Canada
The impact of a stressful event can be immediate or delayed, and those affected directly or indirectly can feel a range of emotions and reactions. In the wake of stressful events our reactions can affect us physically or emotionally. It can affect our thinking.
It’s OK to NOT be OK
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during and after a stressful event. Everyone reacts differently, and your own feelings will change over time.
Notice and accept how you feel. Taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to urgent needs to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Self-care during a stressful event
- Practice healthy coping habits such as eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding alcohol or other drugs
- Ask for help from your support system (e.g., family, friends, coworkers, clergy)
- Watch for common signs of stress
- Listen to your feelings and give yourself time
- Set realistic expectations
- Reach out for support when needed
Reaching out for help
Sometimes we may need help from a health professional such as a family doctor, social worker, or nurse. Ask for help if you have:
- Feelings of shock, numbness, or disbelief
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of extreme helplessness
- You are not able to take care of yourself or your loved ones
Remember that reaching out for help is a sign of strength and courage and is an important part of self-care.
If you or someone you know is experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, grief, worry, anger or suicide, contact a crisis line, 24/7:
Mental Health Crisis Line:
Ages 16 or older
Child, Youth and Family Crisis Line and Crisis Chat:
Ages 18 and under
For more information on mental health resources, please visit Mental Health.
Flooding is common in Canada and Renfrew County and District has experienced flooding in the past. It is important to be flood ready. Take time to review RCDHU’s flood information so you know what to do in the event of a flood.
The outdoor air quality in Renfrew County and District is almost always ideal for enjoying outdoor activities and poses a low risk to people who are sensitive to air pollution. However, every day there are sources of air pollution that can impact people and places. Wildfires can pose a significant change to air quality.
What is wildfire smoke?
Wildfire smoke is dense smoke from the burning through of forests and grasslands, that can be a major source of toxic air pollutants. Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations. Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of gases, fine particulate matter, and water vapour – these pollutants can harm your health.
Some health effects of wildfires are respiratory illnesses (especially for those at higher risk-older adults, children, individual with pre-existing health conditions, etc.); and poor mental health (which can range from temporary disturbances to severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder). Less commonly, exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to stroke, heart attack, and premature death.
The best way to protect your health is to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke.
Note: If your community is threatened by an approaching wildfire, be prepared to evacuate at any time if directed by an authority issuing an evacuation. Have an evacuation kit ready. For more details on how to build an evacuation kit, visit Your Emergency Preparedness Guide.
Learn more about wildfire smoke events, the effects of wildfire smoke on your health, and how to protect yourself at Government of Canada’s: Wildfires.
Those at high-risk of health effects from wildfire smoke:
Those at higher risk of health-related problems when exposed to wildfire smoke include:
- older adults
- pregnant people
- infants and young children
- people who work outdoors
- people involved in strenuous outdoor exercise
- people with existing illness or chronic health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, lung or heart conditions
When the air quality is poor, high-risk individuals should limit time spent outdoors to reduce the risk of potential health effects. Everyone should consider reducing or rescheduling outdoor activities for a time when air quality conditions are better.
Be sure to check on people in your care or those around you who maybe more susceptible to smoke during a poor air quality event related to wildfire smoke.
Symptoms of wildfire smoke:
Wildfire smoke can affect everyone differently. Symptoms can range from mild to serious.
Mild symptoms of smoke exposure can usually be managed without medical intervention, and include the following:
- A mild cough
- A runny nose
- Production of phlegm
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
More serious symptoms include:
- Chest pains
- Severe cough
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (including asthma attacks)
- Heart palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider or seek medical attention immediately.
Preparing for wildfire smoke events:
You can do many things to prepare yourself and your home for wildfire smoke events. Consider the following questions to help prepare you for exposure to wildfire smoke:
- Are you or is someone in your family at risk for wildfire smoke health effects?
- Do you have an adequate supply of medications?
- Do you have an adequate supply of food and water?
- Do you have spare filters for the air filtration unit (a high efficiency heat ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) system or a portable air cleaner) in your home?
- Do you know where you can go to take a break from the smoke?
- Do you know where to find information about local air quality conditions?
- Do you know the emergency number for your local health authority?
- Did you Download the WeatherCAN app, available on iOS and Android devices, to receive free notifications about weather events, extreme heat and special air quality statements?
Tips to keep smoke out of your home:
- Keep windows and doors closed as long as the temperature is comfortable. Seal any large gaps.
- Use recirculation settings on your HVAC system to prevent smoke from entering your home. Turn on air conditioner to recirculate the air in the home, use ceiling fans, or portable fans rather than taking air from the outdoors.
- Avoid using any exhaust fans like the ones in the kitchen, bathroom and clothes dryer.
- Use a clean, good quality air filter in ventilation systems. Visit Wildfire Smoke 101: Using an air purifier to filter wildfire smoke.
- Use an air purifier that uses HEPA filtration to remove smoke from your home. Check out: Infographic: Protecting your indoor air from outdoor pollutants.
- Visit community centres, libraries, and shopping malls, as these places often have cleaner filtered air and can provide a break from smoke.
- Avoid indoor pollutants such as tobacco smoke, heating with wood, frying or boiling foods, burning candles and using paints/adhesives.
Air quality alerts:
If your community is at immediate risk from air pollution caused by dense wildfire smoke, Environment and Climate Change Canada will issue an air quality alert.
The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) maintains 39 air monitoring stations across the province that collect real-time air pollution data and report information on key pollutants that are indicators of overall outdoor air quality. Unfortunately, these stations are not everywhere in Ontario.
The information they collect is shared with the public through MECP’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) or by visiting Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Ontario – Air Quality Health Index – Provincial Summary. General information about the program can be found by visiting http://airqualityontario.com/. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) hourly values and daily forecasts are calculated and produced by ECCC and posted hourly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Wildfire smoke and air quality – Canada.ca
- Weather Information – Environment Canada
- Ontario – Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) – Environment Canada
- Smoke Forecast – FireSmoke.ca
- Forest Fire Info Map
- Infographic: Protecting your indoor air from outdoor pollutants – Canada.ca
Download, print and share Wildfire Smoke 101 factsheets:
- Wildfire smoke 101: How to prepare for wildfire smoke
- Wildfire smoke 101: Combined wildfire smoke and heat
- Wildfire smoke 101: Wildfire smoke and your health
- Wildfire smoke 101: Using an air purifier to filter wildfire smoke