Canadian Underwriter

Ontario residents unprepared for another blackout: report

July 7, 2004   by Canadian Underwriter

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A new report published by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction shows Ontario residents remain unprepared for an emergency on the scale of last summer’s blackout, or worse.
The report, written by Dr. Brenda Murphy of Wilfrid Laurier University, and funded by ICLR as well as the University of Western Ontario, finds that while many Ontario residents had the bare necessities on-hand to deal with the immediate emergency management needs during the blackout of 2003, few have those necessities easily accessible and many don not recognize the need to be prepared.
The blackout, which began August 14, 2003, lasted less than 24 hours for most, but some were left without power for more than two day. Overall, nine million Ontario residents were affected.
The survey of more than 1,000 Ontario residents finds that while more than 80% did have a flashlight, cash and canned food in their homes the day of the blackout, less than 60% had a supply of water and medicines, or access to a radio. And only 13% had these necessary items stored together in an “emergency preparedness kit”. And only 10% responded that they did not have such a kit because they were aware of where all those items are in their homes – the majority say such a kit is not necessary.
Also ironically, while most people feel individuals and families are responsible for emergency preparedness, only 38% say they want more information on how to become better prepared for an emergency. More than 80% of respondents do say governments need to do a better job of emergency preparedness, although most felt the local government response to the blackout in particular was effective.
About 30% of respondents suffered some economic loss as a result of the blackout, mainly in spoiled food, although only 5% submitted an insurance claim to cover their costs.
Murphy says much needs to be done to better prepare residents for an emergency – while the blackout was relatively minor, it does highlight the lack of preparedness generally. And government needs to make emergency preparedness a priority, specifically for society’s most vulnerable, including the poor, elderly and handicapped. “Unfortunately, these priorities are often moved ‘to the back burner’ when government budgets are tight or if the government of the day prefers tax breaks and scaled back government services. Instead, we wait for disaster to strike to remind us why emergency management is so important.”

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