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Survey of Emergency Preparedness and Resilience in Canada, 2014

Released: 2015-10-28

Almost three-quarters of Canadians say they are confident about their ability to manage in an emergency.

The new 2014 Survey of Emergency Preparedness and Resilience (SEPR) in Canada asked Canadians living in the provinces to report on the various precautionary and emergency preparedness measures they have taken in anticipation of natural and human-induced emergencies or disasters.

Vast majority of Canadians live in homes with working smoke detectors

Fire safety measures, such as having a working smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector or fire extinguisher, were among the most commonly reported precautions taken by Canadians. According to the 2014 SEPR, 98% of Canadians lived in homes with a working smoke detector, while 66% had a working fire extinguisher and 60% had a working carbon monoxide detector. About 4 in 10 Canadians lived in households that had all three of these fire safety devices.

More than half of Canadians have wind-up or battery-operated radios for their homes

Beyond fire safety measures, many Canadians employed a number of other precautionary measures to prepare for emergencies. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) reported having a wind-up or battery-operated radio in their home, while about half (48%) had an alternate source of heat. Just over 4 in 10 (43%) had an alternate source of water on hand (for example, a well or litres of stored water), while less than one-quarter (23%) had a back-up generator. However, while about 8 in 10 (82%) Canadians had at least one of these precautionary items, 16% reported having none.

Less than half of Canadians have a home emergency supply kit

In 2014, 98% of Canadians lived in a household that had participated in at least one emergency planning activity. This includes preparing an emergency contact list (69%), creating a home emergency escape plan (60%), establishing a contact plan for getting in touch with household members if they were ever separated as a result of an emergency (55%), or keeping copies of important documents (53%).

However, Canadians were less likely to have set aside items such as water, food, medicine, flashlights or cash in an emergency supply kit for their homes (47%), and one-third had a designated place for meeting up with household members if they cannot return home in the event of an emergency. Overall, fewer than half (47%) of Canadians indicated that their household engaged in what could be described as a moderately high or high number of emergency planning activities.

Winter storms and extended power outages are the risks most frequently identified by Canadians

Canadians believe that there are a variety of weather-related emergencies, natural disasters and human-induced hazards that are likely to affect their community. Winter storms (86%) and extended power outages (76%) were the two most frequently named emergencies or disasters, followed by outbreaks of serious or life-threatening disease (51%) and industrial or transportation accidents (50%). About half of respondents mentioned heat waves (49%), while contamination or shortage of food or water, and floods were cited by over 4 in 10.

News broadcasts identified as the first source of assistance and information during weather-related emergencies and natural disasters

According to the SEPR, in the event of a natural or weather-related disaster, more than one-quarter (26%) of Canadians in the provinces would first listen to the radio news for information or help. About 20% would watch the news on television and a similar proportion would seek out online news sources. However, the source of information Canadians would first turn to varied depending on the type of emergency, the province where the individual lived and other socio-demographic characteristics, as well as previous experience with emergencies.

Levels of emergency preparedness differ across the provinces

Provincially, individuals from Ontario (53%) and Alberta (48%) were most likely to live in households that were equipped with all three fire safety measures (a working smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher). Conversely, those in New Brunswick (27%) and Quebec (28%) were least likely to have all three of these devices in their homes.

Individuals in the Atlantic provinces were generally more likely to report having alternative heat and water sources, wind-up or battery-operated radios and back-up generators than those in other provinces. Emergency planning was more prevalent in British Columbia, where 53% of individuals resided in households that had engaged in a moderately high or high number of emergency planning activities, and less common in Quebec (40%).

Chart 1  Chart 1: Canadians living in households with three fire safety devices,¹ by province, 2014
Canadians living in households with three fire safety devices,¹ by province, 2014

Large majority have at least one person to rely on during or following an emergency

Overall, more than 9 in 10 Canadians had at least one person they could rely on in an emergency, whether it was for emotional support (95%), assistance in the case of a physical injury (94%), a place to stay (94%) or financial help (83%). About 6 in 10 Canadians across the provinces reported more than five people in their social network that they could lean on for assistance during an emergency involving a physical injury. Almost 60% indicated that there were more than five people they could turn to for emotional support and 54% for shelter.

For financial support in an emergency, however, 24% reported that there were more than five people they could turn to for help. Large social support networks were less common among seniors, immigrants, individuals with an activity-limiting health condition and those from lower-income households.

  Note to readers

The Survey of Emergency Preparedness and Resilience (SEPR) in Canada, carried out for the first time in 2014, was developed in partnership with Defence Research and Development Canada's Centre for Security Science and Public Safety Canada. The purpose of the SEPR is to improve the understanding of community resilience across Canada's provinces by collecting data on factors that affect how well individuals and communities are able to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from major emergencies or disasters. The main objective of the survey is to provide estimates of emergency preparedness and resilience at the community, provincial and national levels.

The target population for the SEPR included all people 15 years of age or older, residing in Canada's provinces, excluding full-time residents of institutions. Since data for the SEPR were collected only from people living in the provinces, information for the territories is not available. The SEPR also does not cover people who do not have a working telephone. Together, people who do not have a working telephone and those residing full-time in institutions represent approximately 2% of the provincial population.

In addition, the SEPR does not include certain populations that may be considered vulnerable or in greater need of support in emergency or disaster situations. Such populations include the homeless and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Moderately high or high number of emergency planning activities

There were eight types of emergency planning activities that individuals could potentially be asked about on the SEPR. The set of emergency planning questions asked varied depending on whether respondents lived in a single-person versus multiple-person household, had a vehicle, or whether they or someone in their home had special health needs.

However, all respondents were asked about a minimum of four activities: having an exit plan, an emergency supply kit, extra copies of important documents and an emergency contact list. Households participating in three or four of these activities are described as engaging in a moderately high or high number of emergency planning activities, and those participating in one or two as engaging in a low or moderately low number of planning activities.


The Juristat article "Emergency preparedness in Canada, 2014" (Catalogue number85-002-X), is now available. From the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, then Crime and justice and Juristat.

Contact information

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