During a disaster

Follow instructions from the authorities

When a situation requires, public authorities will communicate instructions and recommendations. Following them will help keep you and your family safe. Consult trusted sources of information to learn the status of the situation, instructions and recommendations in effect, and the programs and services available. For example:

  • Consult your municipality’s website and follow its social media accounts
  • Consult the section about the disaster on the Urgence Québec governmental website. You can also follow Urgence Québec on Facebook and Twitter​
  • Consult the websites and social media accounts of the authorities in charge of disaster response
  • Watch and listen to your regional television and radio stations or follow them on social media
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Report any incident or event to the following organizations when people safety is at risk:

Keeping in touch during an emergency

It is natural to call family members to reassure them or check up on them during a disaster or emergency. In some cases, however, communication systems may be unavailable or overloaded. Keep the following in mind:

  • It’s better to use email, text messages and social media messaging to contact family members, to avoid overburdening the voice networks. This will leave telephone lines open for emergency calls.
  • If you must use the telephone, be brief and provide essential information only. If you makes short telephone calls, you will extend the life of your cellphone battery.
  • Avoid non-essential wireless Internet communication, in particular, you should avoid sending photos and video.
  • Use web applications specially designed to search for loved ones in emergency situations, such as Facebook’s Safety Check, Google Person Finder or the Red Cross Restoring Family Links.
  • Avoid spreading false, unlikely or unimportant information. Spreading incorrect information can slow down emergency response times and put lives at risk.

In the case of a terrorist attack or active shooter, don’t post photos and video to social media. It could help the attackers. Contact the police to find out if your images could be useful.

Use social media responsibly

Social media has become a very popular source of information. During an emergency, you will likely consult social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to learn the status of the situation and find out about the services offered to disaster victims or to comment on or react to actions taken by the authorities.

MAKE SURE to only share information from official sources, including:

  • Municipal, provincial or federal authorities
  • Emergency services (e.g. police and fire departments)
  • Parapublic organizations or government corporations (e.g. Hydro-Québec, SOPFEU)
  • Recognized volunteer organizations (e.g. Red Cross)


  • Share unverified or dubious information or information that is not useful in the circumstances. An excess of inaccurate information can slow down rescue operations and put lives in danger
  • Post or share photos or videos showing victims or individuals in distress
  • Share photos or videos that could help the assailants in the event of a terrorist attack or active shooter situation
  • Post or share identifying information (e.g. name and address of a disaster victim)
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Adopt good behaviour and the right attitude

In the event of a disaster:

  • Keep your family together in a safe place.
  • Locate the other members of your family and your friends affected by the disaster and join them as soon as there is no longer any danger. If you can’t get home, go to the meeting place identified in your family safety plan.
  • Comfort your family and friends and offer them support.
  • Talk about your emotions with a loved one or an intervener to reduce your level of tension.
  • Make concrete gestures that will help you pass the time and better handle the situation.
  • Get information by listening to the media and interveners.
  • Offer assistance to those around you who need it.

Children are particularly vulnerable during a disaster. Follow our tips to help them get through the event and understand what’s happening.

  • Keep them close
  • Comfort them about what they are feeling
  • Explain what’s happening, but avoid going into too much detail with younger children
  • Encourage them to talk about the situation
  • Listen to their questions and do your best to answer
  • If they want, let them help out or give support
  • Avoid letting them see images of the disaster on television or electronic devices
  • Consider consulting a mental health professional if you see psychological effects for more than 4 weeks, or if effects appear later on

Persons with special needs may also need support. Always ask the person if he or she wants assistance and how you can be of help. Before taking action, explain to the person what you intend to do. Express yourself clearly and calmly, without raising your voice. Avoid lifting, supporting or physically assisting a person if you are not familiar with recommended safety techniques.

Contact your municipality if you want to offer your assistance (for example, to fill sand bags or help out with community clean-ups). If you’re volunteering following a natural disaster, make sure you work safely (in French only)!​

Be confortable with the media

The presence of the media during a disaster is normal. Journalists are there to do their job, in keeping with their code of ethics. If a journalist asks you for an interview as a victim or a witness, you can:

  • Agree to the interview. Your comments, the images and the sound of the interview then become the property of the media and are used at their discretion.
  • Agree to the interview while setting your conditions: you can prohibit the media from naming you, showing your image or using your voice.
  • Politely refuse the interview.

In case of evacuation

If the authorities ask you to evacuate your home, your municipality will set up for you temporary accomodation. You should register or indicate your place of temporary residence, for example, with family members, neighbors or friends.

If you leave your home of your own volition for safety reasons, inform your municipality by indicating the time of your departure and the location of your temporary housing.

Notify your employer and service suppliers

If you must miss work because you are directly affected by a disaster, notify your employer within a reasonable time and work out together the necessary arrangements.

Notify your service suppliers of your situation and make the necessary arrangements with them.

Other useful link

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Social media

Urgence Québec Twitter page

Urgence Québec Facebook page

Publications Facebook