Ensure that You and Your Family are Ready for an Emergency - Emergency Preparedness 101

When I was growing up, my father worked as a safety manager at a petrochemical plant in Alberta. Safety was his job, but also his passion, and so sitting around the kitchen table reviewing our family emergency plan was a yearly ritual: What do we do if the fire alarm goes off? How do we get out of each room of the house? Where do we meet up?

I always found it pretty exciting as a kid, and the importance of planning for the unexpected stuck with me. Also, once I’d moved away from home, I could expect my visiting father to look for the fire extinguishers and ask about my escape route within minutes of setting foot in any new place I was renting - and I’d better be ready with an answer!

Family creating an emergency plan
Family creating an emergency plan

These days, I’ve come to realize that “emergency preparedness” means more than it used to when I was growing up. Every year, the number of severe weather or dangerous environmental situations affecting Canadians seems to increase. The reality is that we could find ourselves encountering a crisis at any time of year, whether we're at home or on the road.

The general guidance from our government is that in the event that we’re cut off from power, supplies and assistance, we should be able to look after our own needs for at least 3 days. This allows strapped emergency crews to focus on the most vulnerable people first.

Despite my upbringing, I initially found the idea of preparing for these types of situations to be a little overwhelming. Putting together an emergency kit seemed like a great place to start. I found a good checklist online and assembled the following:

  • Water: a couple of larger containers and some smaller water bottles that are easier to carry
  • Food: cans, granola and energy/protein bars (small with lots of calories) - and an extra can opener just for the kit
  • This awesome hand-crank flashlight that my mom put in my Christmas stocking one year
  • A tiny little radio that runs on batteries (+ back up batteries)
  • First aid kit - I bought a small one that was pre-packed with all the essentials like bandages, wipes, and ointments
  • Some painkillers, and an extra doses of my allergy medications
  • A key ring with a set of extra house keys
  • An envelope with cash in smaller denominations
  • One of those little toothpastes I got from the dentist on my last check-up, and an extra toothbrush
  • A little bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Candles and matches
  • A photocopy of my passport and insurance info, sealed in a plastic bag
  • An extra charging cord for my mobile phone

I tucked my life-saving kit somewhere out of the way, but easy to grab. As a final check, I made sure my kit was not too heavy or cumbersome to carry should I need to throw it in the car, or travel somewhere by foot.

Packing all the items on the list got me thinking about emergencies in a less panicky and more proactive manner. Now that that was done, what about a plan for me and my loved ones? What happens if an emergency hits, and we’re not together? Where would we meet-up? How would we get word to each other, if communication systems were down? With the help of this online guide I was able to put together a plan that covers those scenarios, and review it with my partner and family.

Of course, my car is the final piece of my emergency prep package. I always make sure its maintenance is up to date and I keep the tank full. That way, in the case of a sudden evacuation order, I’m ready to go. I also keep an extra kit in the trunk packed with anything I might need if I were to be stranded on the road.

This year, I updated my emergency kits by purchasing ones put together by the experts at the Red Cross. The great thing about these is that they are compact, light and packed with all of the essentials mentioned above PLUS some useful extras: Mylar sleeping bags! Light sticks! Multi-purpose tools! I gotta say, these kits feel COMPLETE.

Contents of an emergency kit
Contents of an emergency kit

The world around us continues to be unpredictable, but I feel a little better about things, knowing that I’ve taken some steps to look after myself and my loved ones in the event of a crisis. If you haven’t already, I hope you will too. The first week of May is Emergency Preparedness Week #ReadyForAnything so the timing is just right to give your kits, plans and cars a once over, and make sure you’re ready for whatever surprises might come our way.

How do you stay prepared for the unexpected? What emergency kit items did I forget? Leave your tips and stories in the comments below!

(My Dad is going to be so proud when he reads this post.)

~ Paul D.

The Great Canadian Candy Basket

We’re coming up to the Easter long weekend, and depending on your faith and cultural practices, for many Canadians that means treats: hidden around the house, provided by loved ones, or dropped off by a very busy bunny. It’s a wonderful time to gather with family and friends and indulge in some sweetness. But did you know that certain candy bars and snacks are unique to our country, and our Canadian identity?

Basket of Canadian Candy and Snacks

A number of years ago, I was given the task of providing a basket of treats for my two American “nieces” who were visiting for the long weekend - the young daughters of my close college friends who had married and moved to the States shortly after graduation. I’m ashamed to say that I totally dropped the ball and was scrambling, the day of, to find a store that was open (Long weekend! Stat holidays!) and that had not been seriously picked over (if you’ve ever tried buying treats after Good Friday, you’ll know what I mean - all the “good stuff” is GONE).

During my desperate search, I stopped to get gas. I went in to pay and, glancing down at the row of candy bars at the counter, I had a stroke of genius: an idea that could turn me from a zero to a hero. Looking at the boxes of Smarties, I remembered my friends once remarking that they DIDN’T HAVE SMARTIES in the States. (They have a candy called “Smarties” apparently, but they are more like our sugary “Rockets”). As the friendly clerk scanned my card I wondered “What ELSE don’t they have?”.

I got on my phone and, after a quick google search, pulled up a list of Canada-exclusive candy. Scanning the list, I grabbed what I could that was in front of me, compiling an alarming array of goodies. Sure, there were no “bunnies” or “eggs” but there WAS delicious, exclusive Canadian content:

ONLY IN CANADA: Smarties, Eat More, Big Turk, Coffee Crisp, Maltesers, Caramilk, Wunderbar, Crispy Crunch, Mr. Big, Jersey Milk and MacIntosh’s Toffee.

And, not specifically exclusive to Canada, but NOT available in the States:

Wine Gums, Swedish Berries, Aero, Crunchie and Dairy Milk.

I topped it off with a bag of Hickory Sticks and Ketchup chips to complete the Canadian experience. The clerk looked at me with an expression that seemed to say hey, no judgement here, I don’t know your life, and said “I guess it's good to have snacks in the car. Just don’t keep them on your dashboard, or the chocolate will melt.”

After thanking her for her good wisdom, I headed to the hotel where my friends were staying. They seemed a little concerned when I presented the enormous stack of candy bars to their wide-eyed little girls but hey, it’s not my job to protect their kids from cavities. It IS my job to become their favourite Canadian “uncle”. Which I am.

The taste test that followed was a group event. The girls have a discerning palette, and had acute observations about our Canadian offerings:

Our chocolate is better, they decided. And it is! Canadian chocolate companies use a different recipe than Americans. The result is a smoother, sweeter, thicker coating. I confirmed for the girls that this has been well documented by the experts.

Big Turk (with its gelatinous Turkish Delight filling) is an acquired taste.

Coffee Crisp may be a national treasure, but it is for grown-up tastes. It was also decided that Dairy Milk’s Fruit and Nut is a chocolate bar… for dads.

Maltesers and CARAMILK beat their American cousins (Whoppers and Caramello) hands down for chocolate coating and quality of filling.

And, Wunderbar lives up to its reputation as the “greatest candy bar ever created,” as reported by the International Business Times.

So now you know. I hope you’ll go into this long weekend with these important lessons: If you are stuck for last-minute candy or snacks, your local Petro-Canada has got your back with a sweet and salty array of goodness. And don’t forget, it is possible to be patriotic whilst enjoying chocolate this weekend. #winning

What Canadian candy bar or snack keeps you fuelled up? Share your favourites in the comments below!

~ Paul D.

#ShineALight on Canadian Family Caregivers

This is a special edition of PumpTalk – brought to you by the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation. Today’s post is written by Leila Fenc, Executive Director, Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation.

This April, we invite you to #ShineALight on family caregivers* with the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation

Did you know that more than eight million Canadians provide unpaid emotional, social and financial support to ill, injured, disabled and aging loved ones?

Family caregivers in Canada make up over 75 per cent of all patient care in Canada and they often feel overwhelmed, overworked, and unsupported for the tireless work they do every day. Family caregivers spend an average of 19 hours per week caregiving in addition to paid work and other family commitments.

I (heart symbol) Family Caregivers.

Kicking off on April 5, National Caregiver Day, the CareMakers Foundation is working to shine a light on the important work of caregivers throughout the month of April.

How can Canadians get involved?

Shine a Light to support caregivers in your workplace, family and community:

  1. Through your social media networks, post a message online about a caregiver you know or why caregiving is important to you. Use #ShineALight #CareMakers and tag @petrocanadacaremakers on Instagram or @PCCareMakers on Twitter.
  2. Visit caremakers.ca to make a donation that helps fund resources, support and programs for caregivers across Canada.

Since launching in 2020, the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation has already awarded national grants totalling $1.7 million and local grants totalling more than $500,000 this year. The funds are used to support critical programs and resources for caregivers. I’ve seen firsthand the importance of these grants and thank you for your support.

Join us in acknowledging the essential work that family caregivers do across Canada and letting them know that we see and support them. Help us #ShineALight on family caregivers.

*Family caregivers are family, friends, and neighbours who provide unpaid emotional, social and financial support to ill, injured, disabled and aging loved ones.

The Great Spring Swap-Out!

The days are getting longer. The snow banks have disappeared and you’re tempted to put your snow shovel back in the garage for the season. But would that be tempting fate? Is that one last fierce winter storm just waiting for you to let down your guard… and prematurely swap out your trusty winter tires?

There’s lots of great guidance out there about when to make the changeover from your winter tires to your all-seasons or summer tires, and the general consensus from experts is the old “7 degree Celsius” guideline: make the switch when the average daily temperature looks to be staying above 7 degrees Celsius, in order to maintain the best traction, and preserve the life of your tread.

If only the weather was, well, predictable. It’s a fine balance. It’s a tricky gamble. And every year it’s a little bit different. Get the timing just right and you’re driving into the warmer weather maximizing your tires’ tread and feeling like a genius. Miss the magic window and you’re either wearing out your precious winter rubber on squishy-feeling tires, or caught slip-and-sliding though a late-season blizzard.

Man changing tires

I don’t like guesswork when it comes to my tires: their maintenance is crucial from a safety point of view and also, they’re expensive! I make sure to inspect their condition and pressure at the beginning of each month, and before any road trips. Making the spring swap at the best possible time has become a little bit of a personal obsession. So, beginning in mid-March, I start looking at the longer-range weather forecasts, consulting various sources to determine when that temperature shift will happen. Some forecasters go a little further than others, and will give you their best guess for a couple of weeks ahead (along with predictions based on historical data).

I use my car for a variety of obligations: local errands, visits to family (less local), and regular commutes to the big city a few hours away, and I need know well in advance when I’m going to be without my car for a few hours. Local garages can fill up their slots pretty quickly this time of year, so it’s important to be on top of it and plan ahead. So, I do my research, make my appointment, try not to second-guess myself and hope for the best!

Car going through car wash

Of course, spring is also a fantastic time to schedule my oil change/maintenance along with my tire swap. On those magical years (when the temperature shift aligns with my regular maintenance requirement) it can all happen in one trip to the garage. While I’m at it, I like to clean out the trunk and interior, and treat the car to a little love at my local Petro-Canada car wash. It’s been a tough winter, and it’s been through a lot:-)

How do you decide when to make the tire switch? Do you watch the weather like a hawk, or pick the same date every year? How often do you get it just right? Leave your tips and stories in the comments below!

~ Paul D

Why are Gas Prices So Darn High?

My weather app used to be the first thing I opened on my phone in the morning. These days, it’s GasBuddy. Over the last month, like the rest of the world, I’ve watched the price per litre rise quickly. And like the rest of the world (including my family who keep texting me about prices – give it a rest, Uncle Jim), I’ve wondered why.

Let’s break it down.

Hand holding a fuel nozzle at a gas pump and filling their car

As you know, gasoline is refined from crude oil. And the price for crude oil, the price that refineries pay, is set on a global market. Not local, but global. That means that events and factors across the world, not just here at home, affect the price of crude, which in turn affects the price of gasoline.

I live in BC and most of our gasoline is refined nearby in Burnaby (BC), Edmonton (AB) or Washington state. It’s difficult to internalize that events halfway around the world impact the price of gas at my local station.

Supply and Demand

What events and factors have an impact? Any threat to the supply of crude makes the price go up – that’s the economic principle of supply and demand. Russia is one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world, so when the supply of crude that they provide to the world is put into question, as has happened with their invasion of Ukraine, the global market responds.

However, even before the conflict, another major factor was already putting pressure on the market: global demand for gasoline was on the rise. Across the world, we’re emerging from two years of pandemic restrictions. People are returning to workplaces, going out more, starting to travel again – en masse. But, during the pandemic when demand was significantly lower, several oil and gas companies across the world slowed down their production (including capping wells and laying off employees) to try to stay in business. Our global supply of oil was already low.

This combination of an accelerated demand increase plus an already low supply, which may become even lower, has created a perfect storm for an unprecedented rise in crude prices.

Not Just Crude Prices

In addition to the cost of crude oil, which makes up about half of the price of retail gasoline, there are three other costs that determine the price of gas:

  1. Refining costs
  2. Distribution and marketing costs
  3. Taxes by federal, provincial and municipal governments (including a planned increase in the federal carbon tax on April 1st ).

Inflation is at a 30-year high in Canada, surpassing 5%. This impacts the costs of goods and services. Higher inflation rates increase the cost of refining, distribution and marketing fuel; transportation is more expensive as are operating costs at both wholesale and retail locations.

What about taxes? The federal government in Canada taxes gasoline at 10 cents per litre. Each province has its own combination of sales tax, fuel tax and carbon levies which impact the price of fuel. And three municipalities – Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria – also apply taxes to gasoline. This is why per litre prices vary so much depending on where you live.

Alberta, beginning April 1st, is going to pause their 13 cents per litre provincial fuel tax. British Columbia has indicated that they will not be pausing their tax, saying that it wouldn’t impact the cost of crude which is the main driver of fuel price increases. Prince Edward Island has announced a $20 million dollar relief package to help cushion the increased cost of living, including fuel prices.  Other provinces have not yet made any official announcements.

How Long Will It Last?

How long will gas prices remain at their current level is the question on everyone’s mind. And, like most things that affect the price of crude – it’s all about supply and demand. As long as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, and the global boycott on the purchasing of Russian crude continues, prices will likely remain high. We’re heading into the summer driving season, a period of typically high demand – which can keep gas prices high.

However, if refineries in the Middle East or North America are able to increase their crude supply – that could ease prices – but would likely take time as these facilities ramp up production which, as I mentioned earlier, had been reduced because of the lack of demand during the pandemic.

Saving Money on Gas

There are some small things we can do to help out with the cost at the pump:

Some Final Thoughts

As you can imagine, we get a lot of questions about fuel prices. Hopefully this post has helped clarify the complexity of the global fuel market and what goes into pricing fuel.

We’ve also been asked recently about the source of the crude that Suncor, the proud owner of Petro-Canada, processes into fuel. Suncor does not process Russian crude oil at any of its refineries. And the fuel you purchase at Petro-Canada is not made from Russian oil.

Do you have other fuel-related questions? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll try to get them answered.

~Kate T.