Possible Emergencies

All municipalities are subject to emergencies.  Part of emergency preparedness is knowing the risks and hazards facing Elliot Lake and knowing what to do during these specific emergencies.  Below is a list of possible emergencies and suggested tips to help you deal  them.

Forest Fire

Forest fires are a hazard to rural communities as they can ignite quickly and change direction if there is a wind shift.  The City of Elliot Lake is surrounded by extensive areas of mature and developing forests which, when exposed to spring / summer drought conditions, can pose a serious fire threat to the health and well-being of the community.  With the majority of the population living within the built up area of the City, the greatest risk comes not from direct contact with a large forest fire but from the smoke that may be generated by it.  In the outlying cottage areas where people and buildings are enclosed by the forest, both smoke and fire can pose a serious threat.  For those persons living in rural Ontario the Ministry of Natural Resources has developed a FireSmart Home Owners Manual which provides information and ideas for steps to take to reduce the risk of fire.

 What to Do?

  • Listen to the radio and television for news updates, including information on evacuation procedures.  If you are being evacuated, follow instructions without hesitation.  Bring only those items that are absolutely critical.  If you are driving, take your family pets with you.
  • If you are advised to stay indoors there are a number of steps you can take to keep the air inside your home as smoke-free as possible.
  • Keep your windows and doors closed.
  • Run your air conditioner, if you have one.  Be sure to keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean.
  • Use an indoor air filtration device with a HEPA filter.  Make sure to change the filter regularly.  Do not use air cleaners that work by generating ozone:  They put more pollution inside your home.
  • If you have asthma, be vigilant about taking your medicines, as prescribed by your doctor. If you're supposed to measure your peak flows, make sure you do so. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
  • Avoid using anything that burns, including wood stoves and gas ovens.  If possible also try to avoid using candles.
  • Don't smoke.  That just puts more pollution in your lungs - and those of the people around you.

Electrical Failure

A sustained power outage has the potential to adversely impact public safety, the environment, security and the economy.  Most Canadian home-heating systems are dependent upon electrical power.  Following these simple suggestions can reduce the harmful effects of power and heating failure.  Listen to the radio and television for news updates.  Dependant on the length of a power outage the municipality may open heating and/or cooling stations for the public. 

What to Do?

  • Check whether or not the power failure is limited to your home.  If your neighbour's power is also out, notify your electrical supply authority.
  • Turn the thermostat(s) down to minimum and turn off all appliances, electronic equipment and tools to prevent injury and damage to equipment upon restoral of power.  Power is also restored more easily when the system is not overloaded.
  • Make sure you have battery operated smoke alarms working.
  • Leave one light switch on so you know when power is restored.
  • Don't open your freezer or fridge unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Shut your stove off.  Make sure all elements and ovens are OFF and that nothing has been left on the top of the stove.
  • Your emergency supplies kit will now come in handy.
  • Use flashlights whenever possible.  Light sticks are also handy and can be left on edge of the floor areas and used for lighting stairwells, etc.
  • If you need to use candles, always place them in secure holders and never leave them unattended.
  • Use your battery powered radio for local information.
  • Check that your non-electrical telephone is working.
  • Use caution when travelling because traffic lights may not operate.
  • Remember ATM's and gasoline fill-up stations may not be operating.
  • Check on your neighbours or, if you need assistance, contact your neighbour for help.

Electrical Generators.  Serious accidents can result when a home generator is connected to an existing electrical current.  Direct installation should only be done by a qualified technician and approved by the local electrical supply authority.   Portable generators should be placed outside to ensure that fumes do not enter the home.  Make sure you have a battery powered CO detector in your home.

  • Generators and hot exhaust gases should be kept away from combustibles.
  • Refuel the generator only after shutting it down and letting it cool.  Follow manufacturer's directions regarding use.

Winter Power Failure

What to Do?

  • Remember that even in very cold weather a house with doors and windows closed will not become too cold for comfort for several hours.
  • Babies and the elderly are more at risk from the cold and should be kept warm.

If you have to evacuate:

  • Turn off the main breaker or switch of the circuit-breaker panel or power-supply box.
  • Turn off the water main where it enters the house. Protect the valve, inlet pipe and meter or pump with blankets or insulation material.
  • If you have a standby heating system, make sure it produces enough heat to prevent the plumbing from freezing. If not, or as a sensible precaution, drain the water from your plumbing system. Starting at the top of the house, open all taps and flush toilets several times. Drain your hot water tank by attaching a hose to the tank drain valve and running it to the floor drain. (If you drain a gas-fired water tank, the pilot light should be turned out - and the local gas supplier should be called to re-light it.)
  • Unhook and drain washing machine hoses.
  • Don't worry about small amounts of water trapped in horizontal pipes.  Add a small amount of glycol or antifreeze to water left in the toilet bowl, the sink and bathtub traps.
  • If your house is protected from groundwater by a sump pump, it won't work if the power fails.  Clear valuables from the basement floor in case of flooding.

Summer Power Failure

What to Do?

  • Stay at home, stay cool.  Watch for signs of dehydration.  Drink lots of fluids.
  • Conserve water supply.
  • Take showers, not baths, they use less water.
  • Postpone using dishwashers and laundry appliances.
  • Don't water the lawn.
  • Don't wash the car.
  • Do not open your freezer or fridge unless it is absolutely necessary.  A full freezer can keep food frozen for 24-36 hours if the door remains closed.

Rolling Blackouts

  • Keep air conditioner off or use it sparingly.
  • Turn off lights in any room and shut off all non-essential appliances.
  • Allow food to cool before putting leftovers in refrigerator.
  • Use your microwave instead of your oven for cooking whenever possible.
  • Eat cool - consider salads, sandwiches and other cold foods.
  • Conserve water.
  • Take showers, not baths, they use less water.
  • Postpone using dishwashers and laundry appliances.
  • Don't water the lawn.
  • Don't wash the car.
  • Conserve gasoline.
  • Don't drive unless you have to.
  • Consider carpooling.

Human Health Emergency

Human health emergency refers to the possibility of an Influenza Pandemic.  Influenza is an acute highly contagious viral disease characterized by sudden onset of fever, severe aches and progressive inflammation of the respiratory mucous membrane.   Pandemic is a worldwide epidemic.  An Influenza Pandemic is the emergence of a novel strain of the influenza virus to which the population has no immunity.  This emergency would be led by Algoma Public Health with the municipality supporting its efforts.  Visit the Algoma Public Health website for more information on pandemic planning.

Influenza can be contagious for one or even up to two days before any symptoms arise and for five days after the onset of symptoms. This means you could spread the virus without knowing you are infected.  In addition, the contagious period may be longer in the very young and those with a weakened immune system.  Influenza is transmitted from person-to-person primarily when infected persons cough or sneeze.  Transmission may also occur through direct and indirect contact, i.e. via objects and surfaces.

What to Do?

Protect Yourself and Others Against Respiratory Illness

  • Handwashing is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself.
  • Avoid contact with individuals at risk (i.e. small children or those with underlying or chronic illnesses such as immune system suppression or lung disease) until influenza-like symptoms have resolved.
  • Avoid contact with people who have influenza-like symptoms.
  • When you are sick keep your distance from others.
  • Stay home when you are sick.  Stay home from work and school, and avoid running errands. Not only will rest help you recover more quickly, but staying home will help prevent others from getting your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose.  Use a tissue and dispose of this in the waste.
  • Always wash hands after coughing or sneezing or disposal of tissues.
  • Ask people to use a tissue and cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and to wash their hands afterwards.
  • Clean your hands.  Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Be sure to use warm water and enough soap to create a lather. Rinse your hands completely to allow the water to carry the soap, dirt and germs away. If soap and water are not available, using alcohol gels (such as Purell®) is a good alternative.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.  Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Ice and Sleet Storms

Ice and sleet storms would create an unnatural buildup of ice over the total infrastructure.  Changing weather conditions, unpredictable weather patterns and the Ice Storm of 1998 in Eastern Ontario has brought this type of storm to the attention of emergency planners.  Freezing rain is heavy, clings to everything it touches and is more slippery than snow.  A little freezing rain is dangerous, a lot can be catastrophic. 

What to Do?

In preparedness ahead of time:

  • Trim dead branches and cut down dead trees to reduce the danger of these falling onto your house during a storm.

During:

  • Ice from freezing rain accumulates on branches, power lines and buildings. If you must go outside when a significant amount of ice has accumulated, pay attention to branches or wires that could break due to the weight of the ice and fall on you.  Also pay attention to the possibility of ice sheets dislodging from rooftops, etc.
  • Never touch power lines. A hanging power line could be charged (live) and you would run the risk of electrocution. Remember also that ice, branches or power lines can continue to break and fall for several hours after the end of the precipitation.
  • When freezing rain is forecast, avoid driving. Even a small amount of freezing rain can make roads extremely slippery. Wait several hours after freezing rain ends so that road maintenance crews have enough time to spread sand or salt on icy roads.