A photo of an emergency preparedness kitEmergency Preparedness

What is an emergency?

In Ontario, an emergency is defined as a situation or impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act, whether intentional or otherwise, according to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

In the event of a large scale municipal emergency, a team of qualified professionals from the City of St. Catharines and Niagara Region will work together to co-ordinate the emergency response.

Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere.

The City of St. Catharines is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of its citizens, visitors and businesses by identifying and mitigating risks where possible, educating citizens, and training staff and partners to handle the situation.

Residents can do their part by being prepared, and following a few measures to ensure their families are safe in an emergency.

Emergency Preparedness Guide

The first thing residents can do is to keep enough supplies stocked in the home to survive for at least 72 hours.

Keeping an emergency kit well supplied, and having a plan can make all the difference. Check out the City's Home Emergency Preparedness Guide for a handy emergency kit checklist and more on planning for an emergency.

Click here to view our Home Emergency Preparedness Guide

Emergency Kits
Update household emergency kits twice a year when clocks are adjusted for daylight savings time. Every kit should include:
  • Enough bottled water and food for 72 hours
  • A First Aid kit
  • Necessary prescriptions for household members
  • Flashlights
  • Basic tools
  • A battery-operated or crank radio to prescriptions updates and news during an emergency. Stock extra batteries in the kit, and place batteries in reverse inside the radio when not in use to conserve battery life
  • A list of emergency contact numbers such as family, friends and neighbours
 Planning and Preparing for an Emergency

In the event of an emergency it is important to have a plan prepared in advance. Moments matter in an emergency and an established plan will ensure you and your family know what to do.

Read and fill out the City's Home Emergency Preparedness Guide to create a plan for the household. This booklet is available in hard copy at City Hall and St. Catharines fire stations.

Include the guide, and plan, in emergency supply kits.

The plan should include gathering locations for the household after a disaster, identifying two specific places to meet, one near the home and one outside the neighbourhood. 

Designate an out of town contact household members can call if separated during an emergency and plan around the specific needs of those in the household, especially seniors, people with disabilities, children and pets.

Individual preparation can also go a long way. Taking a CPR or First Aid course may provide life-saving skills if needed before emergency teams arrive.


Know the Hazards

Emergencies can vary in type, scope and duration. 

Emergency situations can present themselves as a result of a variety of hazards. Some, including the 10 listed below, are more likely than others to occur in Niagara. Knowing the hazard types, and the best ways to respond, can help residents survive an emergency.

Photo of hazards


Flooding can occur in a multitude of ways, be it an overflowing body of water like a lake or river, storm surges, precipitation overwhelming urban infrastructure, or even rapid flash flooding caused by rain.

Flooding has affected hundreds of thousands of Canadians causing hardship, property damage and economic loss.

There are ways individuals can prepare for a flood, and reduce the likelihood of damage:

  • Applying weather-protection sealant around basement windows, and the base of ground-level doors
  • Installing drainage for downspouts a sufficient distance from buildings
  • Installing sump pumps and zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains
  • Storing important documents in higher levels of the house, above potential flood waters

If a flood is forecast:

  • Turn off basement furnaces and the outside gas valve
  • Take precautions to safeguard electrical, natural gas and/or propane heating equipment
  • If there is time consult electrical or fuel supplier for instructions on next steps

If flooding is imminent:

  • Move furniture, appliances and other belongings to floors above ground level
  • Remove toxic substances from the flood area
  • Remove toilet bowls, plug basement sewer drains and toilet drains with a wooden stopper
  • Disconnect eavestroughs that are connected to the house sewer
  • Protect homes with sandbags and polyethylene barriers only with specific instructions from local emergency officials
  • Under no circumstance attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present. Water and live electricity make a lethal combination, leave your home immediately and do not return until deemed safe by authorities

For information on basement flooding visit the City's basement flooding information page.

Freezing Rain and Ice Storms

Freezing rain occurs when upper air temperatures are warm enough for rain, but surface temperatures  are cold enough for rain to form into ice on contact with the ground or structures. Ice can cause precarious travel conditions, coat trees and infrastructure, and ultimately damage them under its weight.

A long-lived freezing rain event is often referred to as an ice storm.

A few safety tips for freezing rain:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Turn to radio or television for weather reports and emergency information
  • Turn household taps to slightly open, even a trickle of running water helps prevent pipes from freezing
  • Wear layers of lightweight clothing, mittens and a hat, preferably one that covers the ears
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry while preventing slips and falls on ice or snow
  • Regularly check for frostbite, looking for numbness and/or white areas on the face and body
  • Bring pets inside and move livestock to sheltered areas with unfrozen drinking water

For more information on frozen pipes please see the City's frozen water lines information page.

Hazardous Material Incidents

Hazardous material incidents occur with the unintentional release of material that is considered to be hazardous to humans, animals, plants, or the environment due to its explosive, flammable, combustible, corrosive, oxidizing, toxic, infectious or radioactive properties.

Hazardous material incidents can be fixed site, occurring at a location where such materials are stored, produced or utilized; or as transportation incidents, occurring during the transportation of hazardous materials.

If authorities notify residents to shelter in place they should:

  • Remain inside, close all windows and doors
  • Use the home 72-hour emergency kit if needed
  • Use radio or check local news for updates

If an evacuation is ordered individuals should:

  • Take the home 72-hour emergency kit
  • Lock home windows and doors
  • If instructed turn off power, water and gas
  • Leave a note on the door with information on where you left and where you are headed
  • Follow recommended evacuation routes if available
  • Check on neighbours and assist individuals with disabilities or other special needs
  • Do not leave any pets behind
Snowstorms and Blizzards

Snowstorms and blizzards are described as a rapid accumulation of snow, often accompanied by high winds, cold temperatures and low visibility.

Snowfall warnings are issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada when an accumulation of 15 centimetres or more is expected in a period of 12 hours or less.

Safety tips for snowstorms and blizzards:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Wear layers of lightweight clothing, mittens and a hat, preferably one that covers the ears
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry while preventing slips and falls on ice or snow
  • Regularly check for frostbite, looking for numbness and/or white areas on the face and body
  • Avoid overexertion when shovelling snow by taking frequent breaks
  • Bring pets inside and move livestock to sheltered areas with unfrozen drinking water
Explosions and Fires

Fires and explosions bring with them a risk of fatalities and injuries resulting from several factors, including burns and smoke inhalation. Beyond the immediate dangers caused by smoke and heat, toxins contained in smoke, if breathed, can cause severe respiratory effects, and long-term health impacts.

Safety tips for fires and explosions:

  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, change batteries immediately if needed
  • Check fire extinguishers
  • Check for overloaded or damaged extension cords and replace them where needed
  • Ensure emergency kits are up to date and stocked
  • Practice a household fire escape plan before an emergency occurs
  • Ensure home windows open and close properly
  • Check and clean filters above the stove
  • Vacuum or dust the coils on refrigerators
  • Always keeps stairs and landings clear to ensure a safe evacuation if needed
Road Transportation Emergencies

Transportation emergencies involving a vehicle on roads or highways can be caused by crashes involving objects or other vehicles; poor road conditions; human error; technological error; or inclement weather creating poor driving conditions.

Such emergencies pose risks of potential injury, property damage and environmental impact, in addition to causing disruptions and delays in travel.

Road transportation emergency safety tips:

  • Avoid the area
  • Yield or pull over for responding emergency vehicles
  • Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle
Rail Transportation Emergencies

 These emergencies can arise from a number of circumstances, including:

  • A train derailment
  • Environmental hazards such as storms, high winds or wild-land fires endangering a train
  • Train collisions with other trains, vehicles, objects or people
  • Track-related circumstances such as buckling of tracks, broken rails, and track geometry problems
  • Equipment-related circumstances such as broken wheels; bearing and axle failures; and component failures
  • Operational circumstances such as operating violations, technological and human error

Safety tips for rail transportation emergencies:

  • Avoid the area
  • Yield or pullover for responding emergency vehicles
Critical Infrastructure Disruptions

These emergencies involve interdependent, interactive, interconnected networks of institutions, services, systems and processes that meet vital human needs, sustain the economy, protect public safety, and maintain continuity of government.

In instances of critical infrastructure disruption individuals must be prepared to cope on their own for 72 hours. Having a well stocked emergency kit, and emergency plan are crucial.

Critical infrastructure sectors include:

  • Food and water
  • Electrical power systems
  • Gas and oil
  • Transportation networks
  • Health systems
  • Telecommunications systems
  • Financial services
  • Public safety and security
  • Continuity of of government
Health Emergencies: Pandemics and Epidemics

Infectious disease outbreaks that are widespread can present a danger to the general health and well-being of residents. Such outbreaks can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Diseases can be passed from person to person, or acquired through the environment.

When a disease spreads rapidly and affects many individuals in a specific area at the same time it is defined as an epidemic. If the outbreak affects a large number of people worldwide, crossing international boundaries, it is defined as a pandemic.

When facing an epidemic or epidemic individuals should:

  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for about 15 seconds, especially before and after eating; visiting public places; using the bathroom; after coughing or sneezing; and touching shared surfaces
  • Stay healthy by eating well, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate rest, and regularly exercising
  • Get the annual flu shot
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Keeping their distance from others if sick
  • Staying home from work, school and errands when sick
  • Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing

Tornados are a rotating column of air, forming a funnel cloud that can touch down and cause destruction on the ground.

Tornados usually occur between May and September, in the afternoon or early evening. They can move at speeds of more than 70 km per hour, leaving long paths of destruction, uprooting trees, tossing cars and demolishing houses.

Individuals should remain aware of weather conditions and warnings, seeking shelter immediately if a warning has been issued or it is believed one could occur.

If indoors individuals should:

  • Ride out the storm in an underground shelter, basement or safe room
  • If there is no underground option such as a basement, shelter in the centre of an interior room on the lowest level of the building, stay clear of corners, windows, doors and outside walls
  • Get under a sturdy piece of furniture, use their arms to protect the head and neck
  • Keep windows shut

If outdoors individuals should:

  • Not wait until the tornado is in sight to seek shelter indoors
  • Lie in a flat ditch and cover their head if indoor shelter is not possible
  • Avoid sheltering under an overpass or bridge, low flat areas are safer


Further Resources

 St. Catharines Emergency Plan

Since 1982 the City of St. Catharines has maintained an emergency plan to provide for the extraordinary measures that may be required in an emergency to protect residents and visitors while limiting damage or destruction of property, infrastructure and the environment.

The City of St. Catharines Emergency Plan is reviewed annually by council and staff, and aligns with the upper-tier municipal government Niagara Region Emergency Management Plan.

Climate Change

The changing climate has already increased the number of extreme weather incidents that can lead to emergencies. 

For more information on climate change visit the City's Climate Change Page.

St. Catharines Emergency Management Program

The City's Emergency Management Program aims to prevent or mitigate the impacts of emergencies; prepare staff and the public for risks and hazards; respond to emergencies through the City's Emergency Operations Centre; and guide recovery after and emergency or disaster.

Oversight of the program is managed by the City's Emergency Management Coordinator.

 Outside Agencies and Sources
Copyright © 2014 The Corporation of the City of St. Catharines