Last September, tornadoes touched down in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, damaging homes and leaving thousands without power in the days that followed. This event is a good reminder that while we can’t control the weather, we can at least prepare for it.

Red cross worker in area damaged by tornadoThe first step to being ready for potential disasters and emergencies in your community is to know the risks. Some areas are more at risk for events like wildfires, flooding, or tornadoes, so having this information can help you prepare.

Is your area at risk for tornadoes? Here are some ways you can be ready:
  • Make an emergency plan with your family.
  • Have an emergency kit ready. This kit should contain the essential items you and your family would need for at least 3 days , like water, food, medications, important documents, and a first aid kit. You can download a emergency kit checklist on the Canadian Red Cross website.
  • Pay attention to local storm warnings and tornado warnings. During storms, visit Environment Canada or The Weather Network for up-to-date information.
  • Have a plan for how you and your family would evacuate your home. Have a designated point to meet.
  • As part of your emergency plan, identify a safe place for your family to take shelter during a tornado – preferably a basement that is away from windows, external walls, and doorways. A windowless room on a lower floor or in the basement is best.
    • If you are in a high rise, or home without a basement, pick a place in the hallway in the centre of the building. Talk to your building manager and know the building’s emergency plan.
  • Have practice drills with your family, so everyone is ready and knows what to do. Make sure to include pets and kids in your drills.
  • Download the BeReady app for access to practical and useful information for a range of disasters. In-app information is available anytime, anywhere, even without reception or an internet connection.
The impacts of a disaster like a tornado can be felt in a community for days, weeks, and even years. Here are some steps to take after:
  • Check on vulnerable family, friends and neighbours.
  • If you are away from home, only return when it’s safe.
  • Disasters put a lot of pressure on people. It’s very common to feel extremely stressed. Check out this guide with some tips for how to cope, and how to help those around you.
  • If your home has been damaged, do not enter it until you know it is safe. Rely on professionals to determine if it is okay to go in.
  • Take pictures of damage, of your home and belongings, for insurance claims.
  • Check with local authorities on how to properly dispose of damaged items and debris like branches.
  • In some disasters and emergencies, you may be requested to register with local government or Canadian Red Cross. Even if you don’t need immediate assistance, it’s important to register for future information.
Just like after any emergency, take the opportunity to review your family emergency plan and restock any items you used in your emergency kit.

We can’t control the weather, but by having a plan and being prepared we can be ready for what the weather can throw at us.