The Fort McMurray Wildfire: How to Help and How to Protect Your Family in an Emergency
Image via: Alberta RCMP
Our hearts go out to all the families displaced by the wildfire raging around Fort McMurray. It’s been an emotional week and unfortunately this tragedy is not over yet. Despite the horrific nature of the event, the outpouring of support from people across the country has made our hearts a little lighter. Stories like Syrian refugees in Calgary helping evacuees, to company presidents driving through the night offering free fuel to those stranded on the highway have restored our faith in humanity. Here’s a look at how you can support those affected by this wildfire, how you can prepare your own family for an emergency, and a few shout-outs to some heroes who deserve to be recognized.
How to Help (from anywhere in Canada)
The Canadian Red Cross has set up an Alberta Fires Appeal, and both the Alberta and federal government have pledged to match donations to the agency. Click here to donate or simply text “REDCROSS” to 30333 to donate $5, or to 45678 to donate $10. You can download your receipt if desired and the charge goes right onto your cell bill.
Another alternative is donating to local charities such as United Way of Fort McMurray, Salvation Army Fort McMurray and The HUB Family Resource Centre—all key organizations that will do much to rebuild the community in the coming weeks and months.
A unique auction has been set up via Instagram to raise money for Red Cross relief efforts. Bid on Canadian-made items (like SavvyMom faves minimioche and luvmthr) and other services (think restaurant and store gift cards) by leaving your bid in the comments. We love seeing that some of our favourite brands and companies have donated items.
Larger companies are making it easy for consumers around the country to contribute. Most liquor stores are accepting donations, as are many major chain grocers (Safeway will match customer donations up to 100,000) and Canadian Tire. Tim Horton’s has re-released their special Alberta Rose donut (last seen during the 2013 flood in Southern Alberta) for a limited time at Alberta Tim’s locations, with the proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross.
How to Help (from Alberta)
Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is calling for donations and volunteers. Specifically, they are collecting diapers, baby wipes, new toiletries (soap, shampoo, tampons, toothpaste etc.) and new socks and underwear. Donations can be dropped off at the ERS offices in downtown Edmonton (10255 104th St.). To volunteer, call 780-428-4422. Some amazing people are organizing donations from Vancouver, and some intrepid Ontarians have organized drop-off points for supplies as well.
Both the Calgary and Edmonton Food Banks are accepting donations. In Edmonton, donations can be made at any major grocery store or fire hall. In Calgary, a designated donation area has been set up at Door #3 in the loading dock at 5000 11 St. S.E. The most urgently needed items are: Diapers (especially size 5 & 6), formula, baby and toddler food, bottled water, juice boxes, powdered or tetra-pack milk, pop-top/easy-to-open cans (think soup, tuna, chili or fruit), dog and cat food, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, detergent and toilet paper.
On the Fort Mac Recovers site, residents can request help and others can sign up to donate and volunteer.
If you or someone you know has been affected by this tragedy, support is available by calling Alberta’s 24-hour Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
What Would You Do?
Tragic events like the fire in Fort McMurray are a sobering reminder anything can happen to anyone at any time. Here’s how you can protect yourself in case of an emergency:
- Have a disaster preparedness kit. The Red Cross has a handy printable list of what they recommend you include.
- Know what’s in your home. It’s a good idea to comb through your home and list out your contents once a year. (Warning: there is profanity in this article, but it gives great tips on how to accurately describe your items for insurance purposes.)
- Consider what you would take if you had minutes to evacuate your home.
- Wondering how you would organize disaster relief should you need to in your community? This site walks you through the process.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Alberta residents and businesses quickly stepped up to help those in need. While by no means a comprehensive list, this article gives you some sense of the outpouring of support. Some notable gestures that we want to shine a light on include:
- ATB Financial working with customers to put their mortgage payments on hold, increasing credit limits and loan payment deferrals.
- Northstar Ford offering everyone with a Fort McMurray postal code a 90 day grace period for car payments whether they bought their vehicle from them or another Ford dealership.
- Labatt Breweries has shipped 200,000 cans of drinking water to aid those affected by the fire. (The company, which has a brewery in London, Ontario, switches from canning beer to canning emergency water one day every year.)
- The major communications companies waived the cost of calls and texts in Fort McMurray so that loved ones wouldn’t have to worry about staying connected.
- WestJet has been known to step up in times of crisis, and this is no exception. Planes have been flying into Fort Mac loaded up with supplies—and leaving with evacuated residents. Other airlines, such as Canadian North, have also been flying in supplies and flying out people—and pets. (Flight 1515 to Edmonton welcomed aboard 19 dogs, five cats and two turtles—right into the cabin.)
Most of all, to all those providing emergency services from the RCMP to Alberta Health Services to the many firefighters who are risking their lives, we thank you.
There are so many who deserve acknowledgment, and unfortunately it’s not possible to list the multitude of generous acts. We at Savvy would like to thank everyone for their continued support of this community.