Canadian Red Cross Emergency Shelter Cot

Date / Period
Mississauga, Ontario
Object Type
Disaster Management

Remembered as one of the worst weather disasters in Canadian history, the 1998 ice storm smashed into southeastern Quebec, eastern Ontario and parts of the Maritimes, dropping 100 millimeters of rain and frigid temperatures.

The freezing rain knocked out the power for millions of people, forcing more than 100,000 to emergency shelters and many to stay home in the dark and cold. The dangerous conditions were linked to 46 deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries in a five day span. 

The Red Cross quickly deployed 3,300 volunteers and opened 450 shelters, equipped with 60,000 cots, 50,000 blankets and 16,000 hygiene kits. They also served 100,000 meals each day and raised over $10 million for the Red Cross Ice Storm Relief Fund.

Even shelters for those with specialized needs popped up, like in St-Lambert, where Red Cross volunteers supported seniors’ home residents at a local college and created a separate room for two dozen patients with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Most importantly, the ice storm also changed the way we respond to similar disasters by establishing improved coordination with all government levels and better volunteer training. In addition, over 50,000 cots, blankets, pillows and comfort kits were stockpiled in 15 warehouses across Quebec.

The Quebec government has also codified individual responsibilities in the event of another emergency situation and has since recognized the Red Cross as its Public Safety auxiliary, entrusting the Red Cross with the management of 55,000 beds and its emergency material.

An example of this partnership came as recently as September 2015, when 5,000 cots and blankets from the stockpile were sent to Germany by the Government of Quebec to support the German Red Cross response to the refugee crisis.

Canadian Red Cross Emergency Shelter Cot

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