While not expected, emergency situations may arise at your vacation rental. 

As such, it is crucial to prepare your guests and your property for many possible scenarios. 

Planning for likely scenarios, providing guests with instruction and supplies, and taking preventative measures can minimize the damage caused by these emergency situations.


The most important thing you can do before an emergency is to plan for it and create a procedure you can follow with all the resources needed. This plan should include the emergency contacts you and your guests need, the supplies and tools needed to aid in the event of an emergency, and an evacuation plan. 

Other planning tools are enacting preventative measures and buying insurance for your property, as well as liability insurance.

Encourage guests to check the weather daily and secure the property in the case of a storm. Make sure they know the rules of fire safety, where all the supplies are, and where the safest place to evacuate the property in the case of a fire is. 

Inform them of the most likely scenarios, such as storms, power outages, injuries, fires, and water accidents, and how to handle each.

Create a Contact List

Make a list of contact information and post it in an easy-to-find spot for reference in an emergency. Some emergency contacts your guests should have are:

  • Your number as the property owner
  • Emergency services numbers
  • Local walk-in clinic numbers
  • Local police non-emergency number
  • Poison control 
  • Wildlife services numbers
  • Any other service you find prudent to include

Provide a phone or ensure guests can contact you and others if they need help.

Preventative Measures

There are some basic things you can do to get an early warning to prevent, prepare for, or escape from an emergency. 

Keeping The Interior Safe and Sound

Setting up and maintaining a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and security system will alert occupants of threats to their health and safety. Setting up a generator can help in the event power is lost.

Maintaining The Grounds

Routine maintenance of the property and supplies will ensure that damage is prevented, that guests are safe, and that equipment functions as it should. 

Pay particular attention to maintaining fire and water safety equipment, as well as boating supplies. Lacking the proper equipment in your boat can not only create a dangerous situation for the boat’s passengers but also put you in hot water with the law.

Eliminating Environmental Hazards

Take down environmental hazards such as bee or wasp nests close to the property, and warn guests about any risks on the property. 

Check your property for pests and predators, and do your best to keep wildlife at bay. Warn guests of local wildlife that may try to come onto the property. Instruct guests not to interact with wildlife. Tell guests how deep the water is and encourage using life jackets when in or on the water. Remove trip and fall hazards and maintain a safe and tidy environment.

Tools and Supplies

Essential supplies for every lakeside cabin or cottage should have on hand at all times are:

  • Fire extinguishers
  • First aid kit, and
  • Life jackets 

These will help with or prevent some of the most common dangers, being a small fire before it gets out of control, minor injuries, and dangers in the water, such as high waves, exhaustion, and dangerous currents.

Preparing for a Power Failure

At our cottage, the power has gone out more than once.  This is usually caused by a wind storm blowing over a tree that then falls on the hydro lines, consequently taking out the power. Many cottage owners have backup generators for this very reason that kick in when the main power goes out; not all properties are equipped with a gas or diesel generator.  

In this case, it’s best to have a way to generate light in the evening, such as candles or flashlights for emergency lighting. And, to keep warm, a fire blanket, emergency food and water, and extra blankets in the winter for a power failure. It’s not a bad idea to have a map of the region if you’re in unfamiliar territory.

Maintaining Communication and Your Humanity

You might want to provide a can opener, tools for basic repairs, a hand-cranked radio or a radio with batteries, extra batteries for the flashlight, hygiene supplies, a power bank to charge phones, matches or a lighter along with some kindling, a camp stove, extra toilet paper, and other nice to have but not necessary supplies in the case of a prolonged emergency scenario. 

At the bare minimum, you should have the supplies available to treat basic injuries, to contact outside help, to make it a day or two without power in all seasons, and to enable safe water and fire activities.

During an Emergency

You should be ready to receive calls from your guests anytime and help the best you can over the phone. Provide guests with information and remind them of the plan for how to deal with the emergency at hand. 

Remind guests to stay calm, tell them where supplies are, encourage them, and call outside help if needed. If you have guests staying an extended period of time, you should check in on them with a text or call every so often.

Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst

While you should always hope for the best, emergency situations may arise, and you should always be prepared for them. Keeping your property well stocked, your guests informed, the wildlife at bay, and maintenance up to date will ensure you have a safer property to enjoy, even when unforeseen events occur.

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