(NC) Disasters like floods and tornadoes can profoundly impact our lives, homes and communities. In fact, flooding and other water-based events are the most frequent and costly disasters in Canada, making up 80 per cent of all claims under the Disaster Financial Assistance Agreements.

Wildfires are also increasing in frequency and cost over the previous decades. We can’t predict when disasters will happen or the extent of damage they will inflict, but we can understand and learn about disaster risk so we can plan and be prepared to react.

There are simple steps we can all take to do so. We can start by finding out about risks and other hazards that can trigger emergencies in our communities. Could it be an event like an earthquake, flood or winter storm? Who in your community would be affected? Could it be residents, family pets, children and women, or residents at the local retirement home? And what are the tools and services at your disposal that could help you respond to the potential vulnerabilities? This information can help you assess, prevent and mitigate potential disasters around you.

A lot of useful information is available online. For example, you can learn how to make an emergency plan and kit (https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/yprprdnssgd/index-en.aspx) and how to be flood ready (https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/flood-ready.html). These resources are readily available at no cost and can help all of us take action before disaster strikes to make our communities safer and more resilient.

Sometimes disasters cross boundaries, like city limits, provinces and even borders. It can be a domestic and even an international issue. Here in Canada we have a platform for Disaster Risk Reduction that’s helping to build community resilience by having ongoing discussions about innovative ways governments, communities, the private sector and individuals can reduce the risks and impacts of disasters.

Internationally, last year the United Nations’ endorsed the Sendai Framework for DRR that aims to substantially reduce losses in lives, livelihoods and health due to disasters over the next 15 years.

As part of this commitment, Canada will be hosting the United Nations Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas (www.eird.org/rp17/), an international emergency management event with over 1,000 delegates from the Americas, including over 50 sovereign states and territories. This will be an opportunity to advance collaboration and coordination in meeting objectives to reduce disaster risks. The event will take place on March 7 to 9, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec.

Follow the discussion on Twitter with #SendaiAmericas.