TORONTO - Ottawa is giving $5 million to the provinces and territories to ensure they're able to respond when disaster strikes, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Monday during a stop in Toronto to kick off Emergency Preparedness Week.
The funds, available under the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, are expected to support some 360 local emergency preparedness projects aimed at purchasing new equipment, enhancing training and emergency management planning.
While none of the money will go towards Toronto's Heavy Search and Rescue team - whose training facility Day toured following the announcement - other programs in Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax and Manitoba are expected to benefit.
"We're doing what we can as a federal government to make your job somewhat easier with the funding that's required," Day said before some of the 120 Toronto firefighters, paramedics, police officers, heavy equipment operators and trauma room physicians that comprise Canada Task Force 3.
"We also are trying to communicate to our citizens that, really, the best thing that they can do in a time of emergency is to get out of the way."
Holding up an emergency preparedness kit, Day urged people to take a moment this week to make sure they're ready to take care of themselves for at least the first three days of an emergency.
"The first 72 hours especially of a disaster or an emergency are critically important," he said, noting this will allow emergency responders to first help those who need urgent care.
A kit containing food, water, flashlights, an emergency blanket and other basic necessities is a good way to do that, he said.
Public Safety Canada has also created an emergency preparedness guide and a household emergency information checklist for families to fill out and keep handy.
"Have an emergency preparedness package so that you can ... take care of (yourself) in those early stages of a large disaster," said Toronto Fire Division Chief Doug Silver.
"It gives us time to move into the area to help out as well."
Silver said funding from all three levels of government is crucial, and he noted that the Toronto search and rescue team received $2 million from the federal government last November.
"Funding drives these urban search and rescue teams," he said, noting the Toronto team has everything it needs.
"What that means is the team's ready - ready to deploy anywhere in Canada."
The team is trained to handle difficult rescue situations that may require sniffer dogs, rappelling or other means of extrication.
It works with provincial partners and the Department of National Defence to ensure a "seamless and timely" response, Silver said, adding his team has not yet had to respond to a major event using its full capacity.
On the Internet: www.getprepared.ca.