National Emergency Preparedness Week will run from May 2nd to the 8th, and the District of Muskoka’s Deputy Chief of Paramedic Services and Emergency Planning Stuart McKinnon hopes it inspires people to download their new emergency alert app.

The #AlertMuskoka app was launched at the end of March thanks to a partnership with the Voyent Alert! system. McKinnon says the first week the app was available for Android and iPhone users, over 1,000 people downloaded it. 

He explains the app doesn’t track your location but does send pings to nearby devices. “For example, if there was an explosion or flood near you or another site you have chosen like your children’s school for example it will send you an alert,” McKinnon says. If the emergency is severe enough, a loud tone will be sent out much like what happens when an Amber Alert is sent. Otherwise, you will get a call or text to tell you what’s happening. 

The theme of this year’s Emergency Preparedness Week is “be ready for anything.”

“There are all kinds of different emergencies we need to be prepared for,” McKinnon says. He points to the flooding that happened in Bracebridge and other parts of Muskoka in 2019 as an example or even the COVID-19 pandemic. “Whether it’s tornadoes or flooding or wildfires, losing your home or employment we basically need to be prepared for anything and in doing so you need to look at the things you would require to maintain your life and protect your family for an extended period of time,” he says about creating a 72-hour kit. In that kit, you should have things like non-perishable food, candles, a radio, batteries, and even something to keep yourself entertained like board or card games. McKinnon adds that you need to be aware of how many people will be with you and to have enough for everyone, including your pets.

It’s also important to have a home escape plan. That doesn’t mean just figuring out multiple ways to get out of your home, but also where you will meet once you’re outside. McKinnon says to also have a list of emergency contacts like another family member or a babysitter to reach out to. 

“The third thing is to stay informed,” he says. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, he says you should find a reliable news source like your local Health Unit or follow your town, District or County on social media so you can stay up-to-date with what’s happening.. With information changing so often, McKinnon says it’s vital that you know what the latest news is.