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Preparedness 101

1. Understand the Hazards

We know what hazards are most likely to pose threats in our community. Focusing on key hazards and learning what to expect for each is the best way to be prepared.

Vancouver’s Top 10 Hazards

  1. Earthquakes
  2. Severe weather
  3. Floods
  4. Hazardous material spill
  5. Critical infrastructure failure
  6. Wildfire
  7. Disease outbreaks
  8. Energy shortages
  9. Civil unrest
  10. Active threats or terrorism


Earthquakes are a likely threat to our region. They are caused by tectonic plate movement or fault activity in the earth’s crust. The intensity can vary greatly – sometimes the shaking will be minor and other times, it could be catastrophic (as in the case of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake).

Learn More About Earthquake Preparedness

Severe weather

Severe weather happens during prolonged periods of cold and ice or excessive heat. Sometimes, our region also sees short-duration, extreme events such as windstorms with gusts above 50 miles per hour or even tornados.

Learn More About Severe Weather Guidance


Short-duration periods of heavy rain, sometimes compounded by saturated or frozen soils, or by winter snowmelt, can cause water to rise quickly in flood-prone areas across the city.

Learn More About Flood Guidance

Hazardous material spill

Dangers occur when hazardous chemicals or chemical wastes are released or spilled. This most commonly happens as a result of equipment failure, human error or sabotage. Hazardous spills can occur several different ways including roads,y, rail, waterway, or pipeline or while being stored.

Learn More About Chemical and Hazardous Materials Incidents

Critical infrastructure failure

Critical infrastructure like roads and bridges can be incapacitated by single or sequential incidents such as earthquakes, extreme weather events or man-made events.


Lightning or human activity can cause fires to spread quickly and out-of-control across grasslands, brush or wooded areas.

Learn More About Preparing for Wildfires

Disease outbreaks

Disease outbreaks, including food borne illnesses and respiratory diseases, can cause public health emergencies on a localized or global scale.

Learn More About Guidance for Disease Outbreaks

Energy shortages

Limited supplies of petroleum, electricity or natural gas due to naturally-occurring events, political situations or increased demand – such as during periods of extreme hot or cold weather – can lead to energy shortages.

Learn More About Power Outages

Civil unrest

A demonstration, riot or strike can disrupt a community in a variety of ways that could require intervention to maintain public safety.

Active threats or terrorism

Terrorism happens when groups or individuals actively engage in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined or populated area, or who direct unlawful force or violence at elements of our government or population in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Learn More About Public Unrest

2. Build Your Plan

We know preparedness can be an overwhelming task, but having even a simple plan takes you a long way toward being ready when disaster strikes. Our advice? Start simple and build from there.

Your plan should consider:

  1. Who are your people?
  2. How will you communicate?
  3. Where will you meet?

How to plan

Work through the steps below in discussions with the people in your household and capture your thoughts in writing. Consider the hazards considering the places where you spend most of your time. Keep copies of your plan in places where you can easily find them, such as:

Write all your important phone numbers on your emergency plan sheet. You can also program your emergency numbers in your mobile phone, but remember, you may not be able to recharge your phone if electrical power is disrupted.

 Use an online emergency plan template

Who are your people?

In your household

Do you have children at home? Are elderly parents living with you? What about pets? By planning for the safety of those in your household, you’re planning for your own safety too. These people (and animals) will be your top concerns in a disaster.

  • Ask for the safety plans at the schools or daycares where your children spend time.
  • Consider and understand all special mobility, communication, dietary and medical needs within your household.
  • Talk about your plan together at least twice a year.

At your place of work

Who reports to you? Who are your on-site customers, students, passengers or guests? If disaster strikes while you’re on the job, these people could be the first to need your help. Make sure your workplace has a safety plan and reviews it regularly with the team.

How to create an emergency plan at work

In your orbit

People in your life may depend on you for help even if they don’t share a roof with you. You may have friends, extended family members and neighbors in your orbit who would turn to you in times of need. By recognizing this ahead of time, you can better plan ahead. For example:

  • Know your neighbors and how to reach them.
  • If you can, keep extra supplies in your kit in case you’re asked to share.
  • Ask your local friends, extended family and neighbors whether they have a preparedness plan. Their preparation could help you when you need it most.

How will you communicate?

If disaster strikes while your people are all at home with you, and your home is not at risk, count yourself lucky. But if you find yourself separated, how will you connect?

Most of your household is likely to have a mobile phone, but bandwidth can be limited after some emergencies. Texts use less bandwidth and battery power than phone calls and are more reliable when networks are spread thin, but if the network is down, texts won’t go through either. And batteries will eventually run out.

Talk through the following options:

  • Do you keep a phone charger in your purse, backpack or laptop bag? Is it car-compatible?
  • If the internet is available, is it best to communicate through an app? Which app?
  • If the internet is not available, but landlines still work, do you have a home phone number with voicemail where you can leave each other messages?
  • If neither wireless internet nor landlines are available, will you default to:
    • Going home?
    • Going to an agreed upon location?
    • If you need to change locations and someone is looking for you, leave a written note in a visible place.

Because local networks can be overloaded during emergencies, out-of-area calls or texts can be easier to complete.

  • Designate an out-of-region contact who can serve as a hub for sharing information between members of your household.
  • Talk with your contact about their role so they are ready to help when you need them.
  • Consider designating a backup contact too.
  • Make sure their numbers are programmed into your phones and kept up to date.

Where will you meet?

Many of Vancouver’s more likely hazards are best endured by sheltering in place. If you’re not at home, when a “shelter in place” warning is issued, STAY WHERE YOU ARE or find the nearest place to take cover.

If it is safe to travel to and stay at your home, plan to meet there. But what if going home isn’t an option? Choose two locations outside of your home where everyone can meet up. The two locations should be:

  • Within walking distance of your home.
    • Choose somewhere close to your home but far enough away that you can escape dangers like fire or falling debris.
    • Consider an iconic tree nearby, or maybe a park.
  • Outside your neighborhood.
    • Choose a familiar place that is unlikely to flood and is open enough not to be vulnerable to falling debris in an aftershock.
    • Make sure the location is accessible for the least mobile in your household.

3. Build your kit

A major disaster is likely to overwhelm City resources, and it will take time before outside assistance can arrive. Setting up and maintaining your emergency kit makes you resilient in the face of disaster so you can survive until help reaches you.

Start with the essentials:

  1. Water (1 to 1.5 gallons per day per person)
  2. Non-perishable food to last your household for 7 to 10 days
  3. Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  4. Flashlight with spare batteries (separate from your phone)
  5. First aid kit
  6. Medication, prescription and non-prescription
  7. Dust masks (to filter contaminated air)
  8. Moist towelettes, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other sanitary needs
  9. Plastic garbage bags, ties and duct tape
  10. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  11. Radio with spare batteries or hand-crank powered
  12. Bleach or disinfectant wipes
  13. Candles
  14. Spare change of clean clothing
  15. Dry blankets
  16. Basic eating and drinking utensils
  17. Can opener
  18. Pet food and supplies
  19. Whistle to call for help
  20. In a watertight container:
    • Local map
    • Cash
    • Copies of important documents (insurance policies, IDs, bank information)
    • Matches/lighter
    • Notepad and pencil

Remember to keep your kit in an easy place to access it so it’s ready to grab-and-go! And be sure to refresh the food, water and moist wipes about every year, as needed. You’ll be glad you took the time to build your kit because it will serve you well in almost any disaster.

Read more about how to Build a Kit