From the Floor

March 06, 2014
Written by Jay Shaw
March 6, 2014, Winnipeg – I’ve been preparing for my first ever conference presentation next week. And while the PowerPoint slides are being tweaked and the notes double checked, I also had to round up all my emergency gear as my topic is emergency-preparedness messaging and how the names of the different kinds of kits seem to overlap and confuse consumers.

Do you know the difference between a bug-out bag and a disaster bucket? Basically the supplies are the same, but the implementation is a bit different; bug-out implies that you will evacuate quickly, while disaster bucket is a catch-all for all your emergency supplies. Both are emergency-preparedness kits and you should have one in your home. In Canada the preferred term is emergency-preparedness kit but a quick Internet search shows a plethora of consumer products with different names.

I guess as the last year progressed with a few camping trips and a some last-minute packing up the van when we were late for soccer, swimming, and whatever else, we seem to have depleted my emergency storage supplies of bottled water and dry goods such as granola bars. And, someone in my family has stolen my good flashlight! I recall an indoor basement sleepover party at which a bunch of eight-year-olds were building forts. I have a hunch my good flashlight may be inside a sleeping bag somewhere.

So, as I made my way out to run some errands and go emergency supply shopping, I followed my usual route, cutting through the side streets and the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot to avoid the super long left-turn light and hideous traffic jams. This secret route takes me down a side street that the hospital emergency room entrance happens to be on, and while I’ve seen this entrance several times a week for the last 10 years, the irony never really hit me until I was the unprepared firefighter driving by the unhealthy nurses as they smoked their cigarettes out in front of the hospital entrance. I had a chuckle and thought, why does it seem like the worst offenders of the rules happen to be the ones who should be setting the examples. Nurses and hospital staff outside smoking – that’s like a Facebook post I saw recently that said, “Fast food restaurants sponsoring the Olympics is like tobacco companies sponsoring a cancer running event.”

You would think that the ones who do the work a living would be the ones who walk the walk. If I were to survey everyone who reads Fire Fighting in Canada magazine, I wonder how many have themselves and their families fully ready for an elongated disaster event. I am guilty of having had my preparedness level drop every so often, but once I get my back-up pumps ready for flood season and eventually buy a generator, I will be about as prepared as I can be.

So, the first five firefighters to email me a picture of their fully stocked emergency kits as per the 72-hour preparedness list at will receive a gift from me – I will buy each one a coffee! Well, I will email everyone a $5 gift card. The picture must include all the supplies and you must be in the photo. You have to identify yourself and your department, and you must be willing to have the photo posted at Please provide a mailing address so I can send you your reward.

And please share, repost and promote this fun idea. Let’s be part of the solution. Any awesome extra additions to your kit will be shared and used as a learning tool. I know firefighters are the MacGyver’s of emergency response, so let’s see what you’ve got!

Jay Shaw is a firefighter and primary care paramedic with the City of Winnipeg. Along with multiple fire and emergency services courses and certificates, Jay holds a masters degree in disaster and emergency management from Royal Roads University and is an independent education and training consultant focusing on leadership, management, emergency preparedness and communication skills. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow him on twitter @disasterbucket
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