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Fall Back Into Good Habits

ESS Director Mary Brown offers timely tips to keep your family safe

With today's change back to standard time, Emergency Support Services (ESS) Director Mary Brown recommends using the extra hour to make some safety-related changes around the family home. She admits that according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, this time of year generally reflects fewer safety-related issues than the springtime change when we all lose an hour of sleep, but adds that shorter days require a higher level of attention from drivers. "People returning home after work need to be wary of pedestrians on the roadside," Brown cautions.

On the home front, Brown says that emergency management programs target the switch to and from Daylight Saving Time, because it's a regular six month marker that can be used as a memory tool. "It's a good time to do things like change batteries in smoke detectors, carbon monoxide and other monitoring devices you may have in your homes, and to check on your safety supplies," she adds.

While smoke detectors are an insurance requirement for most policies, Brown notes that carbon monoxide detectors are also important. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless gas that is the byproduct of incomplete combustion of carbon, and it can build up in the home. Brown says that CO may be produced by fuel-burning appliances that have been improperly installed or maintained, back-drafting appliances, fireplaces and from cars idling in garages.

"CO poisoning can be fatal. If you are using propane in your home for heating and/or cooking, you should have a CO monitor installed. You can pick them up at any hardware store and easily install them yourself," she says.

And what about the humble flashlight? It might be the most basic of necessities, but chances are you're not alone if you found yourself without a functional light source during the last power outage. "True confession," says Brown. "I had to go out the next day and buy batteries for three different kinds of flashlights."

In addition, she notes the return to standard time is also a reminder to check the status of water supplies in the home. In emergency situations, the basic standard is four litres of water per person per day. "We each need two litres of drinking water and two litres of washing and cooking water," adds Brown.

She also reminds residents that this is a good time to check the expiration dates on food stored for emergencies, as well as on stored water. She notes that the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggests storing water in plastic containers for a maximum of six months, adding that expired water can be used for watering plants and for pets.

Brown says the change to and from Daylight Saving Time is an ideal six month reminder to check over all emergency supplies. "This should include everything you and your family and pets need to survive without power and water for a minimum of 72 hours. Check your Grab n’ Go bags. If you have emergency clothes put away, do they still fit? Check the insurance papers stored in your Grab n’ Go bag are still up to date."

She emphasizes the importance of every family member having an emergency out-of-area contact list. "These lists can be electronic copies but I would also suggest a hard copy, should cell phones be down or if you run out of battery power and can’t access information on your phone. Emergency Preparedness is all about 'what if?' What if the Lower Mainland is struck by a large, devastating earthquake? Family members may be scattered across the region, at work, at school or elsewhere."

Having an out-of-province contact person to check in with is essential. When local communication lines are down, it means a family can let each other know they are safe. "We use my sister-in-law in Alberta as our out-of-area emergency contact person," says Brown. "We all know to phone or text her in the event of a major emergency or disaster. She's our point person and will co-ordinate family information."

As a final word of advice, Brown turns to Aesop's Fables. "Be like the ant in the fable of the Hungry Grasshopper. Prepare in advance, check and prepare again every six months. Make it a family event, but please do it."

Have you got thoughts to share about Emergency Preparedness? Leave your comments below, or email The Watershed at

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This article has reminded me how hopelessly unprepared we are. Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to help us help ourselves.


Absolutely, thank you Mary. You have reminded us that we have smoke detectors and a CO detector expiring next month and we had not put them on the list yet to purchase the new ones. Excellent reminder story, I’ll get those insurance and other documents copied for the Go bag also. Thank you!


Thank you Mary for the timely recommendations and reminders.

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