Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MERS and the Hajj: Public Health Agency of Canada's Summary of Assessment and Travel Advisory

From: Summary of Assessment of Public Health Risk to Canada Associated with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)


The public health risk posed by MERS-CoV to Canada is considered low based on available information at this time.


As of September 23, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 846 confirmed human cases, including 298 deaths. For the latest updates on cases and deaths please visit the Global Alert and Response website.


travel health notice is posted on the Agency's website. It does not recommend any restrictions on travel but encourages travelers to take routine precautions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Your Company Needs a Pandemic Preparedness Plan

The 2014 West African Ebola outbreak 

is currently out of control in Liberia and Sierra Leone, both of which have transmission rates >1.0, meaning each infected person infects more than 1 other person and causing exponential growth.  Simple projections show that at current transmission rates, the number of infected persons will be in the tens of thousands by year end.  This poses a significant risk for Canada, and Canadian businesses should prepare.

The probability of seeing cases of in North America approaches 100%,

as the outbreak drags on. There is an estimated 25% chance of seeing a case in the USA within 1 month, and this probability is higher in Europe.  This is expected to cause widespread panic, even though Ebola is much easier to contain than SARS, the effects of which are still reverberating through our health care system. While the panic will be a largely emotional response to a horrific and lethal disease, we should not minimize the precautions Canadians can take now to prevent the spread of Ebola as well as the eventual cost to Canadian businesses, particularly in the travel and hospitality sectors, should they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.  SARS had a negligible impact on the Canadian economy as a whole, but tourism and hospitality, in Toronto especially, suffered serious losses in 2003.

The first step for all businesses is to create a Pandemic Preparedness Plan. 

There are a number of publications from various levels of government in Canada to assist you, as well as good resources from the USA.  There are also guides put out by business associations which may be of help, particularly to the restaurant and hospitality industry.  These are generally geared toward an influenza-type pandemic, but they’re a good place to start for Ebola. You might find useful:
Business Continuity Plan by CCOHS
Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry by FEMA
Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist by (USA)
Pandemic Preparedness Planning for US Businesses With Overseas Operations by (USA)
Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic by US Dept. of Labor
Interim Guidance on Environmental Management of Pandemic Influenza Virus by  (cleaning and disinfecting surfaces)

There is also an International conference held in Canada on Disaster Management, the WCDM (, next held in Toronto on June 8-11 2015.  You may want to plan your attendance now.

Managing an Ebola event within your company would differ considerably from Influenza, but in either case you cannot wait until the event has occurred before taking precautions, or updating your existing plans as the case may be.  Once a transmission case of Ebola is reported in Canada or the USA, expect supplies such as hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes, masks, and other basics to be sold out almost immediately. Training and planning consultants will be booked for months in advance. You will have distressed employees afraid to come in to work, especially if they use public transportation. You will need contingency plans to continue operations, to contact missing employees, to deal with holes in your supply chain or disruptions in transportation, and if you are a retail or hospitality business, you may be faced with shutdowns where the disease has struck. A reassuring show of preparedness, such as a supply of masks, gloves and sanitizer for your employees and at the entrance of your business could help allay fears of transmission and keep your business in operation. A Pandemic travel kit containing airplane-approved sanitizers and isolation supplies (such as masks and gloves) for any employees on the road, especially those who must travel to Africa, could save a life.  CanadianSafetySupplies can help.

We certainly hope the Ebola outbreak is contained soon, and we are reassured that greater international assistance is being brought to bear.  We are confident that our National Health Care and Public Health institutions are fully capable of dealing with Ebola should it ever reach Canada. We are also proud of the Canadian contribution to a potential Ebola vaccine, and of the gifts of vaccines and isolation materials made this week.  But hope should not replace sound contingency planning, as pandemics will remain constant risk into the foreseeable future with air travel and migrations of populations fleeing war, disasters, and economic downturns.

By Jody Blair Sumner, September 16, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Preparedness Tips for Seniors

Personal  Support Networks

are key to living a healthy, happy life as a Senior.  Here are some tips from the American RedCross for developing an effective personal support network:

Make arrangements, 

prior to an emergency, for your support network to immediately check on you after a disaster and, if needed, offer assistance.

Exchange important keys.

Show them where you keep emergency supplies.

Share copies 

of your relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans and emergency health information card.

Agree on and practice methods

 for contacting each other in an emergency. Do not count on the telephones working.

You and your personal support network 

should always notify each other when you are going out of town and when you will return.

The relationship should be mutual. 

You have a lot to contribute! Learn about each other's needs and how to help each other in an emergency. You might take responsibility for food supplies and preparation, organizing neighborhood watch meetings and interpreting, among other things.

Technology is not the answer to everything, 

but there are some important new technologies that could save your life, or spare you hours or days of agony should you suffer a bad fall or a stroke: a panic alarm button from Lifeline or an equivalent service. There are many Canadian providers; Lifeline, Titan, LifeCall, or your home alarm provider may have a service.

Be prepared for common household emergencies.  

Do you have a First Aid Kit? Is it accessible should you need it? Is it full, are the products fresh? Do you have a fireextinguisher in a readily accessible location? If you need to leave your home quickly, are your medications and other necessities easily rounded up? Do you have a list of medications and a contact list ready if you should have to go to the hospital? 

Canadian Safety Supplies is dedicated to saving lives.  

We can assist with all your First Aid Kit and Safety Supply needs, and more.  Free Shipping across Canada for orders over $75!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Iceland has a new volcano about to erupt. It’s bigger than Eyjafjallaj√∂kull.


is erupting already, but from a fissure that spread outside of it’s caldera area toward another massive volcano, Askja.  Fortunately the magma reservoirs of the two did not merge. Still, the fissure eruption is currently spewing lava as high as 100m into the air, and is releasing impressive amounts of the toxic gas SulfurDioxide.

Icelandic officials have given a warning to those living in the area,

 to avoid exposure at all costs; remain indoors, turn off ventilation systems, and evacuate if possible.  Concentrations as high as 2600 micrograms/cubic meter have been observed; the 10-minute safety limit for humans is 500.  The plume of gas is heading toward Finland and Norway at the moment, after threatening Scotland a few days ago.  There is virtually no chance of the current plume of toxic gas reaching Canada in any concentration to cause concern for public health.  At the moment, there are no significant disruptions to air travel in Europe.

Still, there is some cause for concern.  

Earthquakes in the range of 5.0-5.5 on the Richter scale are coming sometimes seconds apart, in Bardarbunga’s caldera. A classic explosive caldera eruption seems likely in the near future, probably larger than 2010’s Eyjafjallaj√∂kull . Depending on the size of the eruption, a large quantity of dust and ash could be thrown into the atmosphere, and eventually cause respiratory problems for susceptible people worldwide.  If Bardarbunga increases it’s gas emissions, there will eventually be consequences in Canada as well, depending on the type of gas released.

How bad could a Bardarbunga eruption eventually be?

 In 1783, a fissure eruption of the Icelandic volcano Laki spewed so much Sulfur Dioxide and Hydrofluoric Acid that it killed 25% of Iceland’s population, and 23,000 people in Britain from direct poisoning alone, besides the many around the world who died from disruption of farming cycles.  It caused the coldest winter on record in North America, resulting in the Mississippi freezing all the way to New Orleans and ice formed in the Gulf of Mexico.  Bardarbunga is one of the largest volcanoes in Iceland, but the vast majority of volcanic eruptions in Iceland do not rise to this level.

There is no cause for alarm, but a massive eruption could have public health consequences in Canada, and cause climate disruption.  The most likely effect we will see is simply beautiful sunsets for a few months. What should you do? N95 masks will help protect those with respiratory conditions, should a massive eruption send dust and ash into the high atmosphere. In Iceland, gas masks and meters are already sold out, but there is no reason to think Canada will ever face similar levels of toxic gas from the East. For the moment, I do not think any precautions are necessary, but we should keep watch.

By Jody Blair Sumner, September 12, 2014

September 13 is World First Aid Day!  

Are you prepared?

Does your home have a First Aid Kit?  Your car?  Your workplace? No matter how good your training, if you don't have the supplies you need, you will not be able to properly respond to an emergency.  Canadian Safety Supplies can help.

What are you doing that might save a life?

Recent polling by the Red Cross shows that nearly 40 per cent of Canadians say they have been in an emergency situation where they have had to perform first aid; however, only 18 per cent are currently certified.  World First Aid Day - Red 

First Aid Saves Lives!

Emergencies can strike anytime, anywhere and affect anyone. In emergencies, 90% of lives are saved by people like you. You can be a hero by learning and providing  first aid when the time comes and ensuring first aid training is accessible to all. World First Aid Day - Red 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New Virus spreading through Southwestern USA

Enterovirus D68 is spreading like wildfire 

through the Southwest in the USA, and will likely reach Canada in a few weeks.

 The virus has been seen in kids 

from ages 4 months to 16 years, with most around 4 years of age.  It affects the respiratory system, with a lot of kids acting as if they have asthma.  Of course this means large quantities of the virus are spread as the victim struggles to breathe. The virus does not aerosolize (it does not stay in the air), so transmission is normally through contact with droplets that have been coughed out, and reach another child.  Or they may land on a surface that another child then touches before touching their own mouth, etc.

The virus does not follow the classic pattern 

of fever, cough, and runny nose; only 25% or so of kids have a fever. The majority have a cough and trouble breathing.  Those who are weak or already have difficulty breathing may need medical assistance, such as oxygen, to cope.   Because this is a new virus, no one has built up any immunity to it, so I expect this to spread very quickly, especially because the outbreak coincides with the start of the new school year.

There is no vaccine and no anti-viral treatment.  

While a number of kids will need to be hospitalized, treatment consists mostly of support, making sure the child is hydrated, breathing, and not infecting others.  You should bring your child to the hospital if he or she has wheezing, labored breathing or rapid breathing (more than one breath per second for an extended period of time, like 1 hour).  I have not heard reports of any fatalities, but I expect there may eventually be cases with children that had other, more serious, underlying illnesses.
The CDC (USA) says the virus can be found in saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum.  Measures to prevent transmission include washing hands and surfaces (like doorknobs) with anti-microbial agents.  Children should be taught to use a tissue or otherwise cover their mouth when coughing. Of course infected children are contagious and should not be sent to school or daycare, where they may spread the virus.

What can you do? 

Monitor your children, teach them measures like hand washing and not coughing on others, and when in doubt use sanitary wipes or other measures to clean any area or object that could infect your child. An ear-loop mask may help stop your child from infecting others, if they have the virus, but because children often have difficulty breathing, I expect most parents would be reluctant to force their child to wear one. An N95 mask will not be of any great use in preventing your child from catching D68, because the virus is not transmitted through the air. Hospitals will of course take measures to isolate children brought in with this virus.

By Jody Blair Sumner, September 10, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

What is a bug-out bag and do you need one?

Simply put, a bug-out bag is a bag, containing what you and your family need to survive for 72 hours, normally left in an accessible place in the home, which can be grabbed as you are evacuating due to some emergency.  This is different than a survival kit or a disaster preparedness kit, life raft kit or similar, in that the bug-out bag focused on evacuating quickly without having to search through the home in a panic for essential items.

Why 72 hours?

Experts calculate that this is how long it takes the authorities to set up emergency care for citizens after a major event, such as a hurricane or earthquake. Until then, you’re on your own, and if you’re missing essential items such as your prescriptions or diapers for your infant, you will probably have to do without.

So do you need one? 

Some people would say yes, because any home can be ravaged by fire or any area of the planet is susceptible to some sort of natural disaster. If you have special needs that cannot go 72 hours without care, then yes you need to be prepared. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, such as the West Coast (earthquakes) or much of the Plains (flooding), then I recommend that you give some thought to what you would do if you had to evacuate suddenly.  A bug-out bag is a valuable tool for surviving a major event unscathed.

What should you put in your bug-out bag? 

You can find lists of suggestions from the Government of Canada, the Canadian Red Cross, FEMA(USA), and an thorough one from the LDS Church. There are also specialized web sites for those with express concerns.  How comprehensive you choose to make your bag depends on your personal assessment of risks and your family’s needs. If you do not know if your home is vulnerable to natural disasters, you may contact your municipality for advice.  All towns and cities in Canada are required to conduct emergency management planning, with assistance from Public Safety Canada.

Canadian Safety Supplies 

does sell Survival and DisasterKits, as well as Personal First Aid Kits that can serve as a basis for building your family’s bug-out bag. We also sell a range of supplies that can be included in more advanced kits. As always, we offer fast shipping to anywhere in Canada, with Free Shipping on orders over $75 (with some exclusions)!

In my next post, I will go over some of the more common, as well as special-needs items you should include in your personal bug-out bag.

By Jody Blair Sumner, September 8 2014.

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