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Emergency preparedness everyone's business

After a long, cold winter in West Central Alberta, residents are no doubt glad to be outside, getting some much-needed spring cleaning underway, preparing lawns and yards for summertime fun, or just enjoying anything but snow and ice.

After a long, cold winter in West Central Alberta, residents are no doubt glad to be outside, getting some much-needed spring cleaning underway, preparing lawns and yards for summertime fun, or just enjoying anything but snow and ice.

Yet while spring is always a good time to get recharged after the brutal winter months, it is also a time when natural disasters can strike with little or no warning. Specifically, since many communities in the region are fairly close to the Rockies, the danger of snowmelt flooding is ever present at this time of year.

Although the last major flooding in the region occurred in 2005 – when widespread uncontrolled flooding of rivers and creeks caused millions of dollars in damage – the danger that a similar situation could develop in 2011 cannot and should not be discounted.

And of all the lessons learned from the 2005 flooding disaster, the most important is surely the need for families to be prepared to respond without delay should emergencies occur.

In part due to the springtime flooding danger in many provincial communities, Emergency Preparedness Week is recognized in Alberta from May 1st to 7th this year, a time set aside to remind everyone of the dangers and the need to be ready for them.

“Emergency preparedness is one of the best things we can do before an emergency happens and it's the best defence we have against disaster,” says Hector Goudreau, Minister of Municipal Affairs. “Create an emergency plan and practise it with your family and others who depend on you when an emergency strikes.

“Albertans should be prepared in the event of sudden weather changes, flooding, wildfires, tornadoes and severe springtime storms. Other non-weather related risks include power outages and transportation and industrial accidents.”

As it does every year, the province is encouraging all families to make sure they have a 72-hour emergency kit prepared and ready for use.

Preassembled kits can be purchased at retail stores or they can be made from scratch at home. Suggested kit items include food and water, bedding and clothing, candles and batteries, and personal supplies, medication and important documents.

“Albertans should have a kit that will keep them and their family safe during the initial stages of a disaster for up to 72 hours. This will allow emergency responders time to assist the most critically injured or affected people first,” he said.

Firefighters and other responders in every West Central Alberta community train and practise year-round in preparation for unforeseen emergency situations.

Area families are encouraged to do their part in helping those same emergency workers by being ready and prepared for flooding and other disasters.