By Conrad Sauvé, President and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross

Last year, we saw an unprecedented number of emergencies across Canada. Our communities were impacted by emergencies including tornadoes, wildfires, apartment fires and flooding, and other tragic events. We must accept that disasters are on the rise. In fact, the Red Cross responds to an emergency every three hours in Canada. Our hard working volunteers and staff are always inspired by the resiliency of people at home and around the world, but we need to do more. We need to actively prepare for events before they happen, so that we’re more effective in our recovery afterwards.

As we start a new year, it’s time to reflect on lessons learned from 2018.

Personal disasters

Canadian Red Cross President and CEO Conrad Sauvé with Red Cross volunteers in Iqaluit

One of our first emergency responses in 2018 took place on New Year’s Day.  Five families in Iqaluit, Nunavut were forced from their homes when a fire destroyed a housing complex. A dedicated group of local Red Cross volunteers supported those who had to evacuate with vouchers for essentials like food and clothing, as well as hygiene kits.

Fires are one of the most common emergencies experienced by Canadians in their home. Taking proper precautions can help prevent fires, and can keep you and your family safe.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire, like clothes, towels, and oven mitts, away from heat sources like the stove or space heaters;
  • Never leave candles unattended and use a deep, wide holder when they are lit
  • Never smoke in bed;
  • Talk to children about the dangers of fire and keep matches and lighters out of reach;
Weather emergencies

Damage from Ottawa tornadoCanadians are famous for their ability to deal with difficult weather. But it takes a little extra preparation to deal with an extreme weather emergency.
From winter storms to wildfires to floods to tornadoes, each of our communities and homes face their own risks. Take the time to know what might happen in your area, and make a plan with your family.  
  • Know the risks in your community;
  • Make a plan for evacuation if you need to leave your home;
  • Create your own Emergency Kit;
  • Download the Red Cross Be Ready app.
Community emergencies

Red Cross worker holding a child's handSometimes, an emergency can strike at the heart of our communities, our cities, and the nation as a whole. One such event took place on August 10, 2018, when a mass shooting in Fredericton, New Brunswick, left four dead including two city police constables.  In addition to supporting residents who were asked to evacuate during investigations, the Red Cross team worked with others from across the East Coast to support a memorial parade and regimental funeral service for Constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns. Our hearts remain with those who were impacted.

Learning psychological first aid is one way to learn how to cope with a crisis, and the skills can be used before, during, or after a devastating crisis event.

Supplies for an emergency kit

In 2019, I know that Canadians will continue to be resilient in the face of whatever challenges come our way. I have seen firsthand outpourings of generosity and compassion in times of need, supporting neighbours and vulnerable people we may have never met. Helping people in their time of need is the type of compassion that we will continue to need in a changing world, but it isn’t enough.
As disasters happen more frequently, we need to remember that the time to plan for emergencies is before they happen. By taking some of these steps to prepare, you can help keep your loved ones - and your community - safe.