If disaster strikes, will you be prepared?
That question and the accompanying messages are drilled into our heads countless times each year; before potential hurricanes and tropical storms, blizzards, and in the wake of manmade and other disasters.
But as I learned through a new app now available through the Canadian Red Cross Facebook page, I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was. In fact, my level of preparation was just 70 per cent.
So exactly where did I go wrong?
I didn't have nearly enough water or cash in small bills.
My first aid kit is missing a few items, so I couldn't claim I had one. I have no duct tape, no roll of plastic sheeting nor do I have a whistle in my kit.
I also had no emergency plan. Very bad, I know. I have since remedied that.
Janice Babineau is the Canadian Red Cross's Community Manager who oversees the organization's national social media sites. She gave me a quick demonstration of the user-friendly app late last week from the Red Cross office in Burnside.
A piece of advice: if you have children, regardless of whether they're toddlers or teenagers, make sure to add "diapers" and "formula" to your kit because there is no way to identify a child's age using the app. If you don't add those items, your preparedness score will be lower.
A mobile version of the app will soon be available for iPhone and Android users, but it is currently only accessible via a desktop or laptop.
Launched last month, Babineau says the Disaster Preparedness Calculator app (found at www.facebook.com/canadianredcross) is a great way to quickly determine what you have, and what you might be missing, from your family's emergency preparedness kit.
Every family should have a kit ready to go, and it should contain enough supplies to help each person stay safe for 72 hours in the event of a disaster.
Many of the items can be easily found in most homes. Toilet paper, a manual can opener, an extra set of keys, garbage bags and twist ties, scissors, a multi-tool and personal hygiene items.
While some families may already have many of the items on the list, not all of them have collected the items in one place, like a large plastic storage bin or backpack. In the event of an emergency evacuation, you may only have minutes or seconds to leave.
"We think it's a unique way to introduce emergency preparedness taking advantage of a tool everybody is already using," Babineau says.
Dan Bedell, communications director with the Atlantic Canadian Red Cross, says the organization helps more than 2,000 Atlantic Canadians in disaster situations each year.
"It doesn't matter the reason they were evacuated, the one thing they all have in common is they didn't think it would happen to them. When you get that bang at the door, people run for their photo album or laptop but forget the heart medicine on the bed stand or insulin in the fridge," Bedell says.
"If you have a kit already packed with a reminder attached for any last-second additions like medications, you just grab it and go. Time and again after disasters we hear people say ‘I wish we had this or that,' which is why we so strongly encourage having your bin or tote ready to go with you."