Who, What, When, Where, How and sometimes Why?

Metchosin is faced with a large scale emergency and you have just been informed of an evacuation order to leave your home.   Do you know what it means; do you have any idea what you would do?

This is the first in a series of FAQs from the Emergency Program.  For the next series, we are asking you, the Metchosin public, to submit questions you may have about any aspect of the Emergency Program or an emergency in our community.

There is no such thing as a silly question.  Chances are if you have a question, others likely have the same question.


Please send your questions to EOCChief@metchosin.ca

All questions will be answered directly via email/phone – and may be published in the next FAQ issue.

Thank you for your interest!


How safe is it to use candles indoors during an emergency? Answer

Candles pose a fire hazard and must never be burned unattended. For safety reasons, battery powered flashlights may be a better option. That said, candles are an inexpensive light source and are often readily accessible. If you decide to use candles, be sure to follow the necessary fire safety precautions. Keep lit candles in sturdy containers on level surfaces. If possible, place a glass shade over them.

Candles can be easily knocked over, so keep them out of the reach of children and pets, and away from anything that can burn. Extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.

How much water should I have for an emergency and how should I store it safely? Answer

Water quantity
You should have at least four litres of water per person per day – for drinking, food preparation, personal hygiene and dishwashing. So for example, if you have three family members, you should have 12 litres a day for at least a three-day period, i.e. 36 litres of bottled water in a cool, dark place, in washed and disinfected plastic bottles that are easy to carry.

Record the date that you bottled or stored the water on the label. Replace stored water every six months and store-bought bottled water every year.

If you have pets or a service animal, don’t forget to store approximately 30 millilitres of water per kilogram of the animal’s weight per day. For example an average cat or small dog would require at least 1/5 of a litre (or half a cup) of water per day.

Water storage
If your local water is treated commercially by a water treatment utility, you do not have to treat the water before storing it. If your water comes from a public well or other public, non-treated system, follow instructions about water storage provided by your public health agency or water provider. Likewise, if your local water comes from a private well or other private source, consult with your local public health agency about recommendations regarding storage of water. Only your local public health agency should make recommendations about whether your local water can be safely stored, for how long, and how to treat it. In all cases, it is important to change and replace stored water at least every six months.

Water treatment
You should treat all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene. Treatment can vary depending on the nature of the contamination, but when in doubt, do not drink water you suspect may be contaminated. There are many ways to treat water and none are perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. Boiling and disinfection will kill most microbes but only distillation will remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.

  • Boiling Water: Boiling is the safest method of treating water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.

  • Disinfection: You can use household liquid bleach to kill micro-organisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient. Do not use scented bleaches, colour-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Add one to two drops of bleach per litre of clear water. If the water is cloudy, treat with three to four drops of bleach per litre. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odour, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.

  • Distillation: Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapour that condenses back to water. The condensed vapour will not include salt and other impurities. To distil, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down. Make sure the cup is not hanging into the water and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

For more information on drinking water safety, visit Red Crossand/or check with your municipality.

What stations should an emergency radio be able to pickup, i.e. AM/FM and SW or Weather Alert? Answer

A good emergency radio will include: AM (530-1710 kHz), FM 88-108 MHz, TV VHF channels and “Weather Alert”. SHORTWAVE (SW) (3-12 MHz) could be useful but not found on most emergency radios as it usually requires an optional antenna.

Can I use my camping gas stove indoors in case of an emergency? Answer

Never use unvented combustion appliances, such as barbecues, cook stoves, fondues, butane camping lantern, propane or kerosene heaters and lamps inside your house. They burn up available oxygen. They produce C02 (carbon dioxide) and other combustion gases and fumes. Some produce huge quantities of colourless, odourless and deadly carbon monoxide. Sterno cookers, fondues, and charcoal-burning devices are especially dangerous. Room ventilation won’t get rid of fumes from unvented appliances. Use portable propane or naphtha cook stoves, heaters and lamps outside only. There is a very real risk of fire, explosion, asphyxiation or poisoning from fumes.

In the event of extended power outage, how can I safely heat my home?

You can only safely heat your home during a power outage if you already have a standby heating unit installed, such as a non-electric stove or heater, or a wood-burning fireplace. Unvented combustion appliances are not safe for indoor use.

When choosing a standby heating unit, pick one that is not dependent on an electric motor, electric fan or some other electrical device to function. It is also important to adequately vent the stove or heater with the type of chimney flue specified for it. Use only fuel-burning heaters certified by the Canadian Standards Association(CSA) or Canadian Gas Association.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, clean the flue every fall in preparation for its use for home heating (i.e. sustained use at high temperatures). The creosote in a flue can be ignited by sustained high temperatures and develop into a chimney fire.

If the standby heating unit will use the normal house oil or gas supply, have it connected with shut-off valves by a competent technician.

For more information, contact the Canadian Gas Associationor the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

In case of an emergency what should I do with my pets? Answer

You should personalize your basic emergency kit items according to your needs. If you have pets include special items such as food, water and medication for your pets or service animal. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to have a plan ready for your pets. If you need to evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, remember that animals may not be allowed inside (except for service animals). Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbours, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so.

I know what an emergency kit is, but what is a grab-and-go emergency kit? Answer

A grab-and-go kit is an emergency kit that you can easily take with you if you need to leave your home. Make sure your kit is easy to carry and everyone in the household knows where it is. Keep it in a backpack, duffel bag or suitcase with wheels, in an easy-to-reach place, such as your front hall closet. If you have a large household, your emergency kit could get heavy, so it’s a good idea to separate some of these supplies in backpacks. That way, your kit will be more portable and each person can personalize their own grab-and-go emergency kit.

If I’m at work when an emergency occurs, what should I do? Answer

Find out today about plans in place for emergency evacuation at your workplace and what you are meant to do. Have some basic supplies at work like water and food that won’t spoil, in case you have to stay put for a while.

I need to take daily medications. The emergency kit suggestion is that a supply of prescription medication is stored for future need during an emergency. The problem is that you can’t get additional medications dispensed. A pharmacist will only fill your prescription to meet current needs, so putting anything aside isn’t permissible under their code of practice. What would suggest?

The Public Health Agency of Canada advises that it if it not possible to keep additional medication on hand for emergency use, you should prepare and keep on you an accurate description of your health conditions, your prescriptions (including dose) , treatment requirements, and name of your prescribing physician. Having this information readily available can assist emergency responders to address people’s medical and health needs in the most timely and efficient way possible.

Do you have any ideas in terms of which non-perishable food I can put in my emergency kit? Answer

  • Canned food such as fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, chicken, stews, puddings (canned or ready to eat)
  • Milk and juice, in boxes or cans
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dried sausages
  • Dried fruit and vegetables, mixed nuts and seeds
  • Granola bars
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Cereal
  • Peanut butter, nut spreads, etc
  • Dehydrated humus and other dips (rehydrate with water)

Try to choose foods that will meet your daily nutritional needs and that you and others in your household will like. Always check expiration dates, and if in doubt, restock it. Replace all food once a year.

Where do we go if we need assistance after an earthquake? Answer

The District of Metchosin will open facilities to assist residents following an earthquake or other emergency that impacts a wide number of people. Before these facilities can be opened they must first be inspected to verify they are safe for use. They must also be staffed with an adequate number of people to be effective. Once both of these conditions are met, a facility can open. Local media will be asked to broadcast which facilities are open.

Should I listen to the radio following a disaster? Answer

Yes. It is highly advisable that you listen to a battery operated AM/FM radio and listen to local radio stations for instructions from local emergency officials.

How well can the Metchosin Emergency Program handle a disaster? Answer

The Metchosin Emergency Program (Emergency Social Services, Metchosin Search and Rescue, Emergency Communications, Neighbourhood Program and the Emergency Operations Centre) regularly trains and exercises its volunteers and staff.

In the event of a disaster, police, fire fighters and ambulance workers may be unable to respond to all individual and family emergencies immediately, due to a high call volume. Metchosin residents must be personally prepared in advance for a disaster.

What can I expect if a major earthquake, like the one that struck Kobe, Japan, occurs? Answer

The Kobe earthquake of January 17, 1995 registered 6.9 on the Richter Scale, with an epicentre directly below the surface. A similar quake in the Victoria area would likely cause massive destruction of buildings not reinforced to modern seismic standards. Bridges would be damaged, water mains maybe ruptured, sewer and gas lines may be disrupted. Ruptured gas lines would likely result in fire.

Electrical power would be out and telephone service would probably be interrupted. Streets would be blocked by debris from damaged buildings, making evacuation difficult. Depending on the time of day, family members may be separated from each other; at work, home or school. Emergency services personnel would experience the same difficulties as everyone else in reporting for work. Hospitals would be inundated with casualties. People would need to rely on their battery-operated radios to learn about the scope of the disaster and efforts being made to deal with it.

This kind of anticipated scenario reinforces the need to be personally prepared before an earthquake occurs. Individuals, families and businesses need to make a plan that will see them through the aftermath of the earthquake and enable them to resume their pre-earthquake lifestyles and business functions as soon as possible.

Would the police and fire department help me if my home was damaged and family members injured? Answer

Emergency services, including police, fire and ambulance, will be unable to reach you in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, like an earthquake. For at least the first three days, you can expect to rely on your own preparations and the assistance of your neighbours in managing the after effects of a disaster.

How long will it be before power and water are restored? Answer

That depends upon the severity of the disaster. Factors such as the ability of the repair crews to reach affected sites, bring in equipment and repair the damage on site all impact the time it will take to restore power and water.

How will I know where to go and what to do if the telephone isn’t working? Answer

Your best option is to have a radio (with spare batteries) available at all times.  If there is an       Evacuation Order, you will be advised in person and will be directed to the nearest Reception Centre

Where should I store my emergency kit? Answer

The best place to keep your emergency kit is by the main exit of your home.  If you need to evacuate immediately, you must have quick access to your emergency supplies.  The front hall closet may be the best place to keep your emergency kit.

Why do I need supplies for 72 hours? Answer

It could take up to three days for assistance to come from other provinces.  Both the federal and provincial governments mandate that you need to be preparared to be on your own with no outside assistance for a minimum of 72 hours.

What do I do about my pets? Answer

Pack your pet’s favourite food in your emergency kit along with extra packets of water.

What else do I need in my emergency kit? Answer

You need to pack extra prescription glasses and whatever medication you require.  Bank machines might be unavailable.  Extra cash is always necessary.  If cell phones and land lines don’t work, you will need to find a pay phone.  Be sure to have sufficient change (quarters and dimes) for the pay phone.  Know where the closest pay phone is to your work, your children’s school and your home.

What else do I need to do to get prepared? Answer

If you have school-aged children, make sure there are emergency supplies at your children’s school.  Comfort kits are available from F.A.S.T. to provide your children with 72 hours of supplies.

Have an “out of area” contact.  This would be someone outside of Vancouver Island that your family members can call to find out if you are okay.  Communicate this contact person to all your family and friends.

Determine where your family is going to meet after a disaster.  Take into consideration day-time/night-time and weekdays/weekends.

Keep emergency supplies in your vehicle as well as your home.  You may not be at home when disaster strikes.

Why do I need to get prepared?  Isn’t the government going to help me? Answer

After a disaster, emergency services (police/ambulance/fire) are going to be busy responding to the most critical situations.  You and your family will be on your own; to cope in the best way you are able.  Having emergency supplies will help you survive.

What do I need in my emergency kit? Answer

Rescue items, first aid and emergency supplies for 72 hours.  Check out our content lists for emergency kits to ensure you have everything you need.  The most important item is a safe source of drinking water!  Heat and light is also vital.

What else can I do to be prepared? Answer

Every municipality has an emergency program.  Volunteer your time and join the neighbourhood emergency preparedness group.  Make sure your neighbours are prepared too.

What if there isn’t an earthquake? Answer

Being prepared for an earthquake will ensure you and your family are best able to handle any kind of disaster:  fire, flooding, power outage, winter storms and even chemical spills.