After An Emergency

These are general instructions that apply to many emergencies but not every situation is the same. These tips can also apply during an emergency. Also, please read the sections on specific disasters.

  • Try to stay calm.
  • Check yourself and others for injuries. Give first aid to people who are injured or trapped. Take care of life-threatening situations first. Get help if necessary.
  • Check on neighbours, especially the elderly or people with disabilities.
  • Confine or secure pets.
  • Use the battery-operated radio from your emergency kit to listen for information and instructions.
  • Do not use the telephone except to report a life-threatening injury. Please leave the lines free for official use.
  • If possible, put on sturdy shoes and protective clothing to help prevent injury from debris, especially broken glass.
  • If you are inside, check the building for structural damage. If you suspect it is unsafe, leave and do not re-enter.
  • Do not turn on light switches or light matches until you are sure that there aren’t any gas leaks or flammable liquids spilled. Use a flashlight to check utilities.
  • Do not shut off utilities unless they are damaged, leaking (a gas leak smells like rotten eggs) or if there is a fire. If you turn the gas off, don’t turn it on again. That must be done by a qualified technician.

If tap water is available, fill a bathtub and other containers in case the supply gets cut off. If there is no running water, remember that you may have water available in a hot water tank, toilet reservoir or in ice cube trays.

  • Water supplies may be contaminated so purify your water.
  • Do not flush toilets if you suspect that sewer lines are broken.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, do not use the elevator in case of power outage. If you are in an elevator, push every floor button and get out as soon as possible.
  • Pick up your children from school or the pre-determined collection point.
  • Stay away from damaged areas unless you are asked to help or are qualified to give assistance.
  • Do not go near loose or dangling power lines. Downed power lines can cause fires and carry sufficient power to cause harm. Report them and any broken sewer and water mains to the authorities.
  • If the power has been off for several hours, check the food in the refrigerator and freezer in case it has spoiled.


After any disaster, we can expect to have a disruption or lose our utility services all together. The following tips will help you know what to do.


After any disaster or emergency, we will want to keep our power on. However, in some cases, we may have to turn it off.

Make sure everyone in your household knows where your electrical panel is and how to turn it off.  It is a good idea to tag your electrical panel for quick identification in the event of an emergency.  Consider turning off individual breakers so when power is restored, you can control the turning on of your appliances, lights and reduce the load on the system when the power does come back on.

Natural Gas

Natural gas heats our homes, our water, sometimes our stoves and other appliances. Like most fuels, natural gas is safe when properly used. However, accidents and emergencies can happen and it’s important for everyone to know about natural gas safety. If you smell gas or hear the flow of escaping gas, follow these steps immediately:

  • Get out and call the FortisBC 24-hour Emergency Line: 1.800.663.9911 or 911.
  • Get out fast! Leave the building; leave the door open and any windows that may already be open.
  • Don’t use either your cellphone or landline, don’t smoke, light matches, operate electrical switches, or create any other source of ignition.

Natural gas and piped propane smell like rotten eggs or sulphur. Natural gas is actually odourless, but trace amounts of a chemical called mercaptan are added, which has a distinctive rotten egg or sulphur-like odour so you can detect and identify it.

 After an emergency or disaster, if you do not smell a leak, consider leaving the gas on to provide a source of energy heat, hot water, and cooking. Check the vents, chimney and connections at each gas appliance to be sure they have not been dislodged or blocked.  If you have turned off your gas, always call a registered gas contractor to turn it back on.

Water Shut Off

Another service you may also need to shut off is your inside water shut off valve:

  • If there is an inside water leak or burst pipe.
  • If you are evacuating for the long term.
  • If you are advised to by emergency officials.

The water shut off valve controls the water inside your home or building.  Make sure that everyone in your household knows where it is and how to turn it off.

Health and Hygiene


After any disaster, stress will be high and immunity low. Children, the elderly and people with chronic health problems or weakened immune systems will be more vulnerable to – and seriously affected by – communicable diseases. Health officials stress that hand-washing is the single most important practice that can protect you and your family members from getting a communicable disease.

Diseases like the cold virus, and influenza can also spread through the air via respiratory droplets.  There must always be some method of handwashing available to people after they use whatever toilet system is in place and before handling, preparing or eating food, especially in a situation where water is limited. You don’t need much water: pour ¼ cup of water on your hands to wet them apply plain liquid soap rub your hands together vigorously for a minimum of 20 seconds pour the remaining ¾ cup of water over your hands to rinse dry hands thoroughly with a paper towel

Human Waste

After a major disaster like an earthquake, water and sewer lines may be broken. Health officials advise us to separate solid waste from liquid waste. Urine is not considered a serious health problem. If you use one bucket for urine, you can dispose of it in your back yard or other green space. Feces, on the other hand, are a source of many disease-causing bacteria, including cryptosporidium and cholera.

It must be disposed of more carefully to prevent outbreak of disease. You can use your existing toilet as container to collect solid waste.

  • Lift the toilet seat.
  • Scoop out the water in the bowl.
  • Line the toilet bowl with a double garbage bag (to protect against leakage)
  • Put the seat back down.

 After you use the toilet, cover the waste in the bag with a liberal dose of hydrated lime. The hydrated lime controls odour, bacteria and flies which can spread disease.

It also helps to dry out the waste in the bag so that when it is time to dispose of this waste, it will be easier to handle.

Listen to Public Health bulletins for instructions on how the bags should ultimately be disposed of.