Emergency preparedness

Hazardous materials release and sheltering in place

Hazardous materials can pose a great danger to you and your family. In the event of an emergency where hazardous materials may have been released into the atmosphere, authorities may instruct you to shelter in place.

This is a precaution aimed to keep you and your family safe while remaining in your home. If you are told to shelter in place, take your children and pets indoors immediately.

While gathering your family, you can provide a minimal amount of protection to your breathing by covering your mouth and nose with a damp cloth.

 What Shelter in place means:

One of the instructions you may be given in an emergency where hazardous materials may have been released into the atmosphere is to shelter-in-place.  This is a precaution aimed to keep you safe while remaining indoors.  (This is not the same thing as going to a shelter in case of a storm.) Shelter-in-place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. 

 Why you might need to shelter in place:

Chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants may be released accidently into the environment. Should this occur, information will be provided by local authorities on television and radio stations on how to protect you and your family. Because information will most likely be provided on television and radio, government websites, social media or wireless public alerting, it is important to keep a TV or radio on, even during the workday. The important thing is for you to follow instructions of local authorities and know what to do if they advise you to shelter-in-place.

If the need to shelter in place should arise, local authorities will typically broadcast through TV, radio, government websites, social media or wireless public alerting. Alert Ready and/or Alert Waterloo Region

 How to shelter in place:
  •  Close all windows and exterior doors.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds or curtains.
  • Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems to avoid drawing air in from the outside.
  • Close fireplace dampers.
  • Get your family 72 hr Emergency Kit and make sure your battery-operated radio is working.
  • Go to an interior room with few or no windows that is at or above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground room is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
  • Bring your pets with you, and be sure to bring additional food and water supplies for them.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
  • Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than the kind used to wrap food) to seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.
  • Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate.

Sheltering-in-place is meant to protect you and your family for a few hours. Shelter in Place techniques are effective because they are easily and quickly accomplished. In a matter of moments, you can be safe inside your pre-selected room. For more information about shelter-in-place, contact your local emergency management office.


Flooding is a result of the rising and overflowing of a body of water especially onto normally dry land. 

What to do:

Prepare your property
  • Know where your property is located in relation to flood warning areas.
  • Check your lot is properly graded and that roof and eaves are draining properly in heavy rain.
  • Move valuables that may be subject to flooding to upper levels.
  • Consider installing a sump pump and zero reverse flow values in basement flood drains.
  • Consider buying a portable generator and pump.
  • Consult your respective utility companies for instructions on how to safely shut off and protect your furnaces and other household equipment and for the necessary steps to take before restarting.
  • Overland flood insurance is now available in Ontario, please contact your insurer to determine if are covered or to obtain coverage.

During a flood
  • Stay tuned to local media for warnings and advisories and visit www.cambridge.ca and/or www.grandriver.ca
  • Follow the instructions of emergency response officials, such as police, fire and municipal staff.
  • Remove valuable items from the basement and lower levels.
  • If you have a generator and/or portable pump, test them and have fuel on hand.
  • Make sure your sump pump is working.
  • Follow the instructions from your utility supplier (gas, electrical, propane, etc.) to safely shut down and protect furnaces and other appliances.
  • Prepare to evacuate if necessary. Collect necessary items such as cash, medication, important papers, identification and change of clothes.
  • Ensure your pets are not left alone during a flood by taking them to a kennel or leaving them with family and friends.
  • Do not attempt to drive on a road that has been closed due to flooding, obey the signs and take alternate routes.

 After a flood
  • Do not return home until authorities advise it is safe.
  • Report broken utility lines.
  • Consult your insurer about steps to take if your property is flooded.
  • If you suspect your building has suffered structural damage, contact the City of Cambridge’s building department at (519) 623-1340
  • Exercise caution when re-entering your home. If the main power switch was not turned off prior to flooding, do not re-enter your home until a qualified electrician has determined it is safe to do so.
  • If your main electrical panel was under water, it must be cleaned, dried and tested by a qualified electrician to determine if it is safe. Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse breaker panels until they have been checked by the power company.
  • If natural gas lines were under water, contact your gas supplier before resuming service. If natural gas appliances were under water, have them checked by an approved heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor.
  • The water in your home could be contaminated with sewage and other pollutants. Contact Region of Waterloo Public Health at (519) 575-4400 for advice. 

 How to stay up-to-date?

To stay up-to-date on flood watches and warning

  • Subscribe to the Grand River Conservation Authority’s flood warning system at www.grandriver.ca and
  • Follow the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) on Twitter at @grca_flood_msg

For local flood response, including road closures, detours and more

  • Visit the City’s website at www.cambridge.ca,
  • Subscribe to the City of Cambridge’s weather and emergency updates at www.cambridge.ca/subscribe, and
  • Follow the City of Cambridge on Twitter at @cityofcambridge
Power outages

See below for a few tips to keep you prepared.

 Before the power goes out
  • Have emergency light sources (flashlights, batteries, rechargeable flashlights) in all major rooms of your house such as the kitchen, hallways, family rooms, and bedrooms.
  • Consider a portable mobile device charger that can keep your phone charged without electricity.
  • Have several coolers or ice chests on hand (inexpensive Styrofoam coolers will work), and get a supply of ice for food storage in the event of a long-term power outage.
  • Install surge protectors in your home to safeguard valuable electronic equipment such as computers and home entertainment systems.
  • Make sure you have at least one vehicle with no less than half a tank of fuel; gas pumps are electrically operated and gas stations will shut down during a power outage.
 During a power outage
  • First check to see if your neighbours have power. If you are the only home without electricity, check the main fuse in your electric service panel or fuse box to see if the main circuit breaker has been tripped or if a fuse has blown. If your neighbours don't have electricity either, then you know there has been a power outage in your area.
  • Turn off all major non-essential appliances such as your electric range and washer/dryer. Appliances and tools left switched on will start up automatically when your power is restored; turning them off prevents injury or fire.
  • Avoid opening the fridge unless necessary.  See "prepare an emergency food supply" below.
  • If you light candles, use candle holders and NEVER leave burning candles unattended.

Stay up-to-date on power outage information, including outage maps, by visiting the Grandbridge Energy Inc. website. You can also contact Grandbridge Energy Inc. emergency call line - (519) 621-3530 or 1 (877) 871-2215 to report an outage.


For more power outage tips, visit the Waterloo Region Emergency Management website

Generator safety

If you're thinking of using a generator, always be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions and keep the following tips in mind.

 Carbon monoxide safety
  • Do not use a generator indoors or in partially enclosed spaces such as homes, garages, and crawl spaces - even those areas with partial ventilation.

  • Do not use near open doors and windows. Using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up in the home. Do not place the generator in front of open windows.

  • Remember that carbon monoxide fumes emitted by gasoline, propane, diesel or gas engines are odourless and can be fatal. 

  • Install carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to alert you of dangerous levels. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommended placement.

For more information on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

 Reduce the risk of shock or electrocution
  • Always connect the generator to the appliances with heavy-duty extension cords.

  • Hooking up your generator directly into your home power supply could increase the voltage or could cause a surge to the outside power lines and potentially injure or electrocute an unaware utility lineman. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices. 

  • Use a qualified electrician to install the appropriate equipment in accordance with local electrical codes, or ask your utility company to install an appropriate power transfer switch.

 Fire safety
  • Keep your generator outside and fuel your generator outside.

  • Do not store fuel for your generator inside your house. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, diesel and other flammable liquids should be stored outside living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers.

  • Do not store fuel near a fuel-burning appliance, for example a gas stove.

  • If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the appliance's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches.

  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline or other flammable liquids spilled on hot engine parts could ignite, and invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the generator's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

Severe winter weather

Severe winter weather includes ice storms, blizzards, extreme cold, and other severe winter storms that pose a threat to life, property, or the environment, staying warm and safe can be a challenge. Winter storms can bring extreme temperatures, extended power failures, loss of communication services, and dangerous road conditions. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, you should know how to prepare your home and your car before a winter storm hits.

 Before the storm hits

Listen to weather forecasts, check and restock your 72 hour emergency kit; make sure you have extra blankets, batteries, emergency food and water supply, etc. ready to go before the storm hits. Even though we can’t always predict extreme cold in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days of notice to prepare.

  • For older adults, keep an easy-to-read thermometer inside your home. If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.

  • Expect stores to be busy - buy emergency supplies in advance

  • Plan to be without electricity - and heat - for 72 hours

  • Winterize your vehicle - ensure you have snow tires installed well in advance of the winter storm season

  • Create an emergency car kit

  • Make a communications plan for your family - how are you going to get in contact with each other if you’re away from home when the storm hits? How are you going to get everyone home?  (Click here to download a Family communication plan)

  • Make a plan to check in with neighbours, family, friends and anyone else who may need your help or whose help you may need.

  • Prepare a plan to help your family evacuate if needed.

 During the storm

  • Keep warm; change out of wet clothing, wear multiple layers, keep plenty of blankets available.

  • Stay indoors, if you must go out, dress for the weather to avoid serious cold-related injuries.

  • Use your 72 hour emergency kit.

  • Avoid driving unless absolutely necessary.

  • If you must drive, keep on main roads and avoid unplowed side roads.

  • Do NOT use propane stoves or barbecues indoors. They release deadly carbon monoxide fumes when used indoors.

  • If you have pets, bring them indoors and make sure they are dry. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.

  • Run a trick of water to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Consult safety manual when using space heaters - keep heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and curtains.

  • Check in with neighbours, family, and friends.

  • Evacuate if necessary or if advised to do so from officials.

 After the storm

  • If power in your home remains out beyond 72 hours, consider going to an emergency shelter (if available) or staying with friends and family.

  • Consult your utility company before reconnecting power and gas.

  • Check in with neighbours, family, and friends.

  • Safely begin to clear debris around your property - fallen tree branches, shovel snow, etc.

  • Keep away from any fallen power lines and do not attempt to remove debris near or on power lines.

  • Check with your local waste department for debris collection schedules.

 Ice storm

Ice storms can be the winter's worst hazard. The severity of ice storms depends on the accumulation of ice, the duration of the event, the location and extent of the area affected.  Ice can bring down power lines, tree limbs and sometimes even fully uproot a tree.

When ice is in the forecast, be sure to make sure you are prepared.

  • Check where your car is parked. Make sure it is not under power lines or a tree which can be brought down by ice. Use your garage if you have one or park in a clear area.
  • Bring your ice clearing tools inside. Make sure the ice doesn't keep you out of your vehicle by bringing your ice scraper, jumper cables, lock de-icer, etc. inside the house before the ice starts.
  • Re-stock or put together your emergency kit

 More information

 For more information on how to prepare you and your family for severe winter weather check out the following:

Prepare an emergency food supply

An Emergency can easily disrupt the food supply at any time, so plan to have at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food on hand. Stock canned foods, dry mixes and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water or special preparation. Be sure to include a manual can opener and eating utensils.

Keep foods that:

  • Have a long storage life

  • Require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration, in case utilities are disrupted

  • Meet the needs of babies or any special dietary needs.

  • Your family will eat.

  • Are not very salty or spicy, as these foods increase the need for drinking water, which may be in short supply

  • Meet pets’ needs

 Suggested foods list
  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener

  • Protein or fruit bars

  • Dry cereal or granola

  • Peanut butter

  • Dried fruit

  • Canned juices

  • Non-perishable pasteurized milk

  • High energy foods

  • Food for infants

  • Comfort/stress foods

 Food safety & sanitation

When storing food, it is not necessary to buy dehydrated or other types of emergency food. Certain storage conditions can enhance the shelf life of canned or dried foods. The ideal location is a cool, dry, dark place. The best temperature is 4 °C (40 °F) -21 °C (70 °F).Without electricity or a cold source, food stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 4 °C (40 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F), and if these foods are consumed you can become very sick. Thawed food usually can be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.” It can be re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, “When in doubt, throw it out.


  • Keep food in covered containers.
  • Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
  • Discard any food that has come into contact with contaminated flood water.
  • Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
  • Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Use ready-to-feed formula. If you must mix infant formula use bottled water, or boiled as a last resort.
  • Check the expiration dates on canned foods and dry mixes. Home-canned food usually needs to be thrown out after a year.
  • Use and replace food before its expiration date.
  • Protect food from rodents and insects. Items stored in boxes or in paper cartons will keep longer if they are heavily wrapped or stored in waterproof, airtight containers.
  • Eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat.
  • Eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks normal.
  • Store foods near ranges or refrigerator exhausts. Heat causes many foods to spoil more quickly.
  • Store food near petroleum products, such as gasoline, oil, paints, and solvents. Some food products absorb their      smell.
  • Let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons.
 Preparing food/cooking

Preparing food after an emergency may be difficult due to damage to your home loss of electricity, gas, and water. Alternative cooking sources can be used including candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots or a fireplace.

  • Having the following items available will help you to prepare

  • Cooking utensils

  • Knives, forks, and spoons

  • Paper plates, cups, and towels

  • A manual can- and bottle-opener

  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil

  • Propane gas or charcoal grill; camp stove

  • Fuel for cooking, such as charcoal. (CAUTION: Only use charcoal grills or camp stoves outside of your home to avoid smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.)

Commercially canned food may be eaten out of the can without warming.

To heat food in a can:

        1. Remove the label.

        2. Thoroughly wash and disinfect the can. (Use a diluted solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.)

        3. Open the can before heating.

Managing food without power
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.

  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.

  • Refrigerated or frozen foods should be kept at 4 °C (40 °F) or below for proper food storage.

  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to check temperature.

  • Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours.

  • Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 4 °C (40 °F) for two hours or more.

 Prepare and emergency water supply
  • Store at least 4 litres of water per day for each person and each pet. Consider storing more water than this for      hot climates, for pregnant women, and for people who are sick.
  • Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet. Try to store a 2-week supply if possible.
  • Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply.  Observe the expiration date for store-bought water.
  • Replace stored water that is not commercially bottled every six months.
  • Label container as “drinking water” and include storage date.
  • Keep stored water in a place with a fairly constant cool temperature.
  • Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.
  • Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides are present.
  • Store a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect your water and to use for general      cleaning and sanitizing. Try to store bleach in an area where the average temperature stays around 21°C (70°F). Because the amount of active chlorine in bleach decreases over time due to normal decay, consider replacing the bottle each year.

Note: Alcohol dehydrates the body, which increases the need for drinking water.

 Water containers (Cleaning & Storage)

Use of clean, sealable and undamaged, food-grade water storage containers, such as those found at surplus or camping supply stores, is recommended if you prepare stored water yourself.

Containers must:

  • be durable and made from non-porous material such as metal, glass or food grade plastic.
  • be in good condition; clean and dry; no stains, cracks or chipped pieces.
  • have tight sealing lids to protect you food/water and prevent leaks/spills.


Before filling with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitize storage containers.


Avoid using the following containers to store safe water:

  • Containers that cannot be sealed tightly

  • Containers that can break, such as glass bottles

  • Containers that have ever held toxic solid or liquid chemicals, such as bleach or pesticides

  • Plastic or cardboard bottles, jugs, and containers used for milk or fruit juices

Emergency Preparedness Week

Emergency Preparedness Week 2023 - Are you covered?

Heavy rain with warning sign

Every year in May Communities around Canada come together to encourage Canadians to take concrete actions to be better prepared to protect themselves and their families (and pets) during an emergency. This year Emergency Preparedness Week falls on May 7-13, 2023.

Remember even if you are renting, you need insurance. Visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada website for great tips on what to look for in an insurance policy and crisis management.

Visit us at Cambridge Mall on Saturday May 6th, 2023 from 11am - 2pm to get some information on insurance to make sure you are covered and enter a draw to win a 72-hour kit!

Follow us on Twitter Twitter Icon Twitter During the first full week of May where we will share tips on making sure you are covered by your insurance should you have property damage because of an emergency.

Remember if you want to be notified of emergencies, visit AlertWR and sign up to get texts on your mobile.


The Insurance Bureau of Canada provides a wealth of information and tips on getting the right insurance to protect your home.

Are you prepared for an emergency?

Waterloo Region Emergency Management encourages communities to be prepared! The Region of Waterloo, its cities and townships, and local utility providers challenge you to prepare your family for emergencies and disasters.

Sign up to AlertWR to get notified of emergencies in the Region of Waterloo.

When a natural disaster strikes, it can take first responders up to 72 hours to help those in non-critical situations. Do not wait until it is too late. Prepare your basic emergency kit today.  Have an emergency car kit.  Prepare an Emergency Food Supply.

Learn about the City of Cambridge's emergency response plan.

Colouring and Activity Book

Here is the Cambridge Fire Department and Emergency Management colouring and activity book that you can print for your child.