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Storm Preparedness

Earthquakes, floods and fires are not the only emergencies or disasters that can occur. Here's how to prepare for other emergencies such as severe storms and hazardous spills.

Severe Storms

Staying indoors during a severe storm is generally your safest option. If you are outdoors, take shelter wherever you can find it. Learn the meanings of weather terminology and listen to the weather reports each day. Pay particular attention to forecasts if you have to drive during poor weather conditions. If there is a severe storm warning, it is better not to travel until it is over.


If you're caught outside during a thunderstorm:

  • Take shelter in a building or depressed area such as a ditch or culvert.
  • Don’t go near trees, especially those standing alone.
  • If swimming or in a boat, get to shore as quickly as possible.

Lightning storm

If you're inside during a lightning storm:

  • Stay inside away from windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks or anything else that could conduct an electrical charge.
  • Unplug all TVs, radios, coffee pots and other electrical appliances.
  • Don’t use the phone or other electrical equipment.

 If you're outside during a lightning storm:

  • Seek shelter in a building, cave or any depressed area.
  • If there is no shelter, crouch down with your feet close together and your head down.
  • Don’t lie flat – you want to minimize your contact with the ground to reduce the risk of being electrocuted by a ground charge.
  • Keep away from pay phones, power lines, fences, trees and hilltops.
  • Get off bicycles, motorcycles, tractors or other equipment.
  • If you are in a vehicle, pull over and stop away from trees or power lines, and stay in your vehicle.


If you're outside in a hailstorm:

  • Take cover in a building or under something solid when hail begins to fall.
  • Do not go out to cover plants, cars or garden furniture or to rescue animals. Although no one in Canada has ever been killed by hail, people have been seriously injured by it.

Severe rainstorm

If you're outside during a severe rainstorm:

  • Take shelter on higher ground in case of fl ash flooding.
  • If in a vehicle, pull over and stay inside.

Blizzard or snowstorm

If you're caught outside during a blizzard or snowstorm:

  • Take shelter wherever you can. Visibility can be virtually zero and you may easily lose your way.
  • If you must travel, do so during the day and let someone know your route and expected arrival time.
  • Review Surrey's Snow & Ice webpage for full details regarding snowstorms.

If you're caught in a vehicle:

  • Make you have a Vehicle Emergency Supply Kit
  • Pull off the highway and put your hazard lights on.
  • Hang a distress flag from the radio antenna and set out warning lights or flares.
  • Switch on your dome light rather than headlights.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. While the engine is running, open the window slightly and keep the exhaust pipe free of snow.
  • To maintain body heat, exercise your limbs, hands and feet, huddle with passengers and wear a hat.
  • Take turns sleeping.

If you're stranded in a remote rural or wilderness area:

  • Spread a large cloth over the snow to attract attention of rescue personnel. Place the cloth over the top of your car with the edges locked in the windows if windy.

Power Outages

Outages may be caused by fallen trees or branches, accumulations of ice or equipment failures. Regardless of the cause, follow these steps when the power goes out.

First, look out your window and see if other homes have lights on. If they do, check your fuse box or circuit breaker panel to see if a switch is blown. If other homes also have no power, listen to your portable radio for information. If you have internet service and a mobile device, you can check BC Hydro's Power Outage Map for power outage information.

From your home, scan the neighbourhood to look for trouble indicators, such as fl ashes of light or downed wires. Do not go to these areas. Instead, report them to BC Hydro at 1-888-POWERON (1-888-769-3766) or *HYDRO (*49376) on a cell phone.

In your home:

  • Turn off the breaker on large appliances such as ranges and dryers, but make sure they are already off before you do so, or remove any fuses.
  • Leave your refrigerator and freezer on, and keep the doors closed as much as possible.
  • Turn down thermostats and unplug electrical heaters and appliances to reduce the initial demand when the power is restored. Also unplug sensitive equipment such as computers, microwaves etc. against possible surges.
  • Keep doors, windows and drapes closed, and close off extra rooms so head is concentrated in one area.
  • Conserve water in case electrical pumps from wells or pumping stations are out of power.
  • Turn off all lights except one to alert you when the power has been restored.
  • In very cold weather, the temperature of a house will drop about 1C per hour. If the power is out for a long time and you have no way to safely keep warm, leave rather than risk getting hypothermia.
  • If you leave your home, double check to make sure all heat-producing appliances are unplugged.
  • Never use propane or gas-powered barbecues, heaters or portable generators indoors. These units must be exhausted to the outside.

Fallen Power Lines

Any fallen power line may still be alive. Stay away! Don’t try to free someone in contact with the line – call 911 instead. Stay clear of anything that is or may be in contact with the line, like a fence or tree. If you find yourself within 33 feet (10 metres) of fallen power lines, stay put if possible and wait for emergency crews to arrive. If you must move away for safety reasons, slowly shuffle away by sliding your feet along the ground, always keeping both soles in contact with the ground.

If you are in a vehicle, stay inside until help arrives. If you must leave the vehicle (e.g. because it’s on fire), jump out of it with both feet together, making sure no part of your body is touching the vehicle when you hit the ground, then shuffle away as described above. This technique is difficult and dangerous, so only advised during life-threatening situations.

Hazardous Materials Spills

Hazardous material spills are a serious safety threat. Use safety precautions whenever handling dangerous items, and be sure to carefully store your chemicals. Factories, chemical plants, pulp and paper mills, agricultural operations and transporters of dangerous goods represent some of the hazards outside your home.
Stay informed about the dangers around you:

  • Contact Surrey Fire Service to learn where reportable quantities of hazardous substances are stored and used.
  • Determine how close you are to freeways, railroads or factories that produce or transport toxic materials.
  • Have materials available to seal off your home from airborne contamination. Well weather-stripped doors and windows can slow the movement of air into buildings.

When a Spill Occurs

If you are caught outside, stay upstream, uphill or upwind.

If you are in a car, close windows and shut off ventilation. Unless the hazardous material is flammable, stay inside until you receive instructions to leave. It is imperative that you stay indoors if you see a cloud, vapour or smoke from a hazardous material outdoors or can smell it while inside.

If you are inside:

  • Close all outside windows and doors, and every door inside the building.
  • Do not use kitchen vents or bathroom vents.
  • Do not use fireplaces and close all dampers.
  • Set thermostat so air conditioners and gas furnaces and water heaters will not come on.
  • Do not operate clothes dryer.
  • Shelter in an inside room away from windows and doors if possible.
  • If an explosion is imminent, close drapes, curtains and shades.
  • Reduce or avoid smoking as it contaminates the air.
  • Pay attention to local radio or TV stations for further information and follow all instructions.
  • If you suspect gas or vapour contamination, take shallow breaths through a cloth or towel.
  • Avoid contact with spilled liquid materials, airborne mist or condensed solid chemical deposits. If medical help is not immediately available and you suspect contamination, remove all clothing and shower thoroughly.
  • Place exposed clothing and shoes in a tightly sealed container. Get directions for proper disposal from the fire department or by calling 911. Emergency officials can also refer you to authorities on how to clean up your land and property.
  • Do not leave the building until told to. If you must evacuate, shut vents and turn off attic fans and other ventilation systems if there is time.

Learn more about Emergency Preparedness in Surrey, including how to create a Fire Safety Plan.

Review the Disaster Recovery Kit to learn what to do after disaster strikes.