Emergency Preparedness

During an Emergency

In an emergency, first responders will be working to ensure the safety of residents and to reduce the damage caused by the event. Emergency responders will work closely with utilities, businesses, provincial ministries and community partners to mount a coordinated response to the emergency.

When an emergency occurs, emergency responders will focus their initial efforts on helping people who need immediate assistance. If your neighbourhood is not in immediate danger, it may take time for responders to clear roads and restore utilities in your area.

When to call 9-1-1

You should call for emergency help when:

  • You require the immediate response of police, fire and/or an ambulance
  • You have a life-threatening situation
  • You need to report a fire or other dangerous situation
  • A crime is in progress


For your protection, it may become necessary to evacuate an area impacted by an emergency. If you are asked to evacuate take:

  • Emergency kit
  • Emergency plan
  • Wallet and personal identification for each family member
  • A cellphone, spare battery and charger
  • Pets
  • Essential medications and prescriptions
  • Leave immediately and follow travel routes identified by authorities
  • Lock your home, shut off water and electricity if instructed to do so by authorities

On the Road

If you are driving in emergency conditions:

  • Keep the radio on to hear important information and have a cellular phone with you.
  • Follow the routes specified by officials.
  • Don’t take short cuts; they could lead you to a blocked or dangerous area.
  • Watch for fallen power lines, debris, damaged bridges or roads and dangling wires.
  • If your car gets stuck, remain calm and stay in your car. Also:
  • Keep fresh air in your car by opening the window slightly on the sheltered side, away from the wind.
  • You can run the car engine about 10 minutes every half-hour if the exhaust system is working well.
  • Beware of exhaust fumes and check the exhaust pipe periodically to make sure it is not blocked with snow. Remember, you cannot smell potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes.

In a flooding emergency:

  • Travel very carefully, and only if absolutely necessary, through flooded areas.
  • If you must walk or drive in a flooded area, make sure you are on firm ground.
  • Roads may be washed away or covered with water.
  • If you come across a barricade or a flooded road, take a different route.
  • If you are caught in fast rising waters and your car stalls, leave it and save yourself and your passengers

What you should do during an emergency

When an emergency occurs you should:

  • Follow your emergency plan
  • Get your emergency kit
  • Make sure you are safe before assisting others
  • Listen to the radio or television for information from authorities and follow their instructions
  • Stay put until all is safe or you are ordered to evacuate

Knowing what to do if you basement floods will help you remain calm and be better prepared to protect yourself and your home.
If you experience basement flooding you should consider the following:

  • Move pets, as well as furniture, electrical appliances, equipment and other belongings to higher levels.
  • Make sure basement windows are closed. Remove or seal hazardous products like weed killers or insecticides.
  • Plug basement sewer drains and toilet connection.

Knowing what to do during an earthquake will help you remain calm and be better prepared to protect yourself and help others.
During an earthquake you should consider the following:

  • If you are indoors, stay there, take cover under a heavy table, desk or any solid furniture and hold on. In a hallway, crouch down against an inside wall.
  • Avoid doorways. Doors may slam shut and cause injuries.
  • Protect your head and face. Move away from windows, glass partitions, mirrors, fireplaces, bookcases, all furniture and light fixtures.
  • If in a wheelchair, lock the wheels and protect the back of your neck and head.
  • Do not use elevators. If you are in an elevator during an earthquake, hit the button for every floor and get out as soon as you can.
  • Take cover immediately wherever you are when an earthquake starts and stay there until the shaking stops.
  • Expect aftershocks – they may occur for some time after the initial quake.

Your response to an emergency involving a hazardous spill or fire resulting from the spill should be the same as in all other emergencies but you may be evacuated. Listen for instructions from local emergency response officials and be prepared to Shelter in Place. A hazardous material can be defined as any material that, because of its quantity, concentration, or physical or chemical characteristics, may pose a hazard to human health or the environment.

Hazardous materials include the following categories:

  • Flammable and combustible materials
  • Toxic materials
  • Corrosive materials
  • Oxidizers
  • Aerosols
  • Compressed gases

Shelter in place
Local authorities will advise you to stay in your home during an emergency when the air outside is not safe to breathe. They will ask you to Shelter in Place, this means ‘stay inside’ whether it be your home or vehicle.

When asked to shelter in place, you need to:

  • Close all windows and doors
  • Place wet towels under doors to help prevent smoke or fumes from entering
  • Turn off fans, heating and air conditioning systems
  • Close the fireplace damper and do not use clothes dryer
  • Locate your emergency kit
  • Move to an interior room above ground level
  • Tape around windows, air ducts and vents
  • Listen to the radio for updates and do not go outside until authorities say it is safe to do so

To estimate how far away the lightning is, count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the thunderclap. If you count less than thirty seconds between the flash and the bang, take shelter immediately and remain there for 30 minutes after the last rumble. This is called the 30/30 rule.

If you are outside:

  • If you are caught in the open, do not lie flat but crouch in the leap frog position and lower your head; you do not want to be the tallest object in the area.
  • Take shelter in a building or depressed area such as a dry ditch or a culvert, but never under a tree.
  • Do not ride bicycles, motorcycles or golf carts, or use metal shovels or golf clubs as they conduct electricity.
  • If swimming or in a boat, get back to shore immediately.
  • If you are in a car, stay there but pull away from trees which could fall on you.

If you are inside:

  • If indoors, stay there but away from windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, sinks, bathtubs, appliances, metal pipes, telephones (you can use a cell phone) and other materials which conduct electricity.
  • Unplug radios, televisions and computers and use battery or crank powered radio instead.

If you have laundry drying on a clothesline, do not go outside to get it as the clothesline conducts electricity.

If you experience a power outage you should consider the following:

  • The refrigerator will keep food cool for four to six hours, depending on the kitchen temperature.
  • Remember that meat, dairy and frozen foods can be hazardous if not stored properly.
  • Use up perishables and foods from the refrigerator first, next use foods from the freezer, then non-perishables.
  • A full freezer keeps food frozen for about two days; covering with blankets will provide extra insulation.
  • For emergency cooking, use a barbeque, charcoal grill or camp stove, outside only. 

If a power outage leaves you without heat or cooling, contact your your utility provider to notify them the power is out. To prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, you should drain them and shut off the main water supply. Before you drain your pipes, you may want to collect water in clean containers for emergency drinking and cleaning purposes.

Hot, humid weather combined with a cold front could be a sign that a tornado is brewing and may be accompanied by lightning, high winds and hail. Boiling green-tinged clouds overhead are an indicator of possible tornado activity nearby. A funnel cloud hanging from a dark cloud may be visible before the tornado actually occurs.

When a tornado develops you should consider the following:

  • If you are at home, go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, closet or hallway or protect yourself by taking shelter under a heavy table or desk.
  • Stay away from windows and outside walls and doors.
  • At the office or in an apartment building, take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in the basement or the ground floor.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • Avoid buildings such as gymnasiums, churches and auditoriums with free-span roofs.

Do not get caught in a car or mobile home. If you are driving and spot a tornado in the distance, take shelter elsewhere, such as a building with a strong foundation. If no shelter is available, lie down in a dry ditch, away from cars or mobile homes. Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch out for flying debris.

A winter storm means there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. A Winter Storm Watch is issued by Environment Canada when conditions are favourable for the development of hazardous conditions. These bulletins may be issued 48 to 60 hours in advance. When a winter storm watch is in effect, listen to the radio or television for information or instruction.

You should also consider the following:

  • When a winter storm hits, stay indoors.
  • If you must go outside, dress for the weather.
  • If you must travel during a snowstorm, do so during the day and let someone know your route and arrival time.
  • Make sure you have your emergency car kit.

Getting information during an emergency

Through established partnerships with local media, we will provide regular bulletins and updates to the public on the status of the emergency, action we are taking in responding to the emergency, and any safety information or directives to the public. We will also post updates on our website and provide information through our Customer Contact Center. Keep in mind that during a power outage the only way to get information may be by using a crank or battery-powered radio.

The City of Hamilton

  • Customer Contact Center 905-546-2489
  • Twitter: @CityofHamilton
  • Updates on this website

Local Radio Stations

  • 900 CHML AM
  • Fnnny 820 AM
  • TSN 1150 AM
  • 102.9 K-Lite FM
  • Y108 FM
  • Energy 95.3 FM
  • KX 94.7 FM

Local Television