By Fanni Barocsi

On December 11th, 2017 a fire broke out at the Crestview Housing Cooperative in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan damaging several of the apartments and displacing a lot of the residents. The fire began around 10 am and spread quickly through the north-east end of the senior’s complex. Fortunately, no one was injured but the damage was extensive.

In an overwhelming show of support, the citizens of Moose Jaw, with help from some teams from the Canadian Red Cross, rallied to the scene.

We reached out to Ron Richards, the Chair of the Crestview Housing Cooperative to hear more about his thoughts concerning the event. Ron says that he was thoroughly impressed by the speed and efficiency of how everything got handled and the support the residents received.

Preparation played a crucial role in the effective evacuation of everybody. And with many suites and residents developing a plan to get everyone out safely was not easy! “We had continual fire drills that were ongoing,” says Ron.

At the time of the drills there was some grumbling, but now the residents are very glad they practiced and developed a plan for an efficient evacuation. In addition to an evacuation plan, Crestview also ensured that the residents had somewhere to go and gather after the evacuation.

Once the residents were safely evacuated and all accounted for, transportation was provided to the First Baptist Church where the displaced residents had a place to stay. Both the Canadian Red Cross and the First Baptist Church worked hard to ensure that those affected had meals and their necessary prescriptions.

There is a lot to learn from the fire at the Crestview Housing Cooperative. Work with your family to decide the best way to evacuate your home if there is an emergency like a house fire. Make sure to practice your evacuation plan regularly until it becomes second nature to everyone in your household. And do not forget to include your pets in your evacuation plan!

After you have developed an evacuation plan think of a safe and familiar place for your family to gather. Get to know your neighbours and find out if your community has any emergency plans in place. Make note of your community’s evacuation routes and emergency shelters.

At the Canadian Red Cross, we also recommend that you choose an out-of-town contact (pick someone who lives far away to ensure that they will not be affected by the same event). Provide their contact details to everyone in your family and confirm that they know how to contact them.

These types of emergencies are unexpected and stressful, having a plan in place that will ensure everyone’s safety is essential to reducing some of the stress. And although there might be some grumbling along the way taking the time to get a plan together could very well save your life.