Everything’s Fine*

*Except for the risk of wildfires, extreme weather, pandemics, asteroids, supervolcanoes, power grid failures, nuclear war, killer robots and zombie apocalypses

The ultimate guide to surviving every terrestrial threat imaginable

By Anthony Milton, Alex Cyr and Jean Grant | Illustrations by Van Saiyan

When it comes to the fate of the planet, Torontonians tend to respond one of two ways: total denial or debilitating anxiety. It’s understandable. In January, the World Economic Forum ranked the climate emergency as the top concern facing humankind. Superbugs are proliferating. The cost-of-living crisis is raging. And at any moment, a trigger-happy despot could push the big red button that unleashes nuclear annihilation. What’s the good news? Well, some threats are less existential than you might think. And here in Toronto, experts are working day and night in the lab, the field and the boardroom to keep the city and its residents as safe as possible. Worried about the next pandemic? Floods, wildfires and power grid failures? Extreme heat and extreme cold? They’re on it.


Below you’ll meet the former cop in charge of coordinating the city’s response to catastrophes, tour a bunker tailor-made for posh preppers and find out what gear you need to survive almost anything. You’ll also read about the biggest threats facing Toronto, classified by likelihood and severity. In this era of unparalleled apprehension, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild. We’re here to tell you what to worry about and why.

Hell and high water

The rising risk of flash floods

On July 8, 2013, a thunderstorm blew into Toronto from the west at 4:30 p.m., and in just 90 minutes, 100 millimetres of water—more than we usually get in a month—inundated the city. The Don River overflowed its banks; power lines failed, plummeting 300,000 people into darkness; and surging sewers flooded nearly 5,000 basements. That storm caused $1 billion worth of damage, making it the costliest disaster in Ontario’s history. And we should brace ourselves for more of the same: the city’s annual precipitation is projected to increase 17 per cent by 2080, with instances of heavy rain becoming 60 per cent more common.


David Sills is an expert in extreme weather at Western University. He says the problem isn’t so much the quantity of rain as the quantity of concrete: the 2013 storm happened in a place that was paved over. Despite our ravines and parks, Toronto is a concrete city, and it needs to become a so-called sponge city. De-paving areas to build water-absorbing parks and bioswales can be expensive and disruptive, but it promises benefits over time. The city’s redevelopment of the Port Lands is one example: by designing a meandering course for the Don, flanked with greenery and a spillway for high-water events, the project will safeguard 290 hectares of the eastern waterfront.


Until then, homeowners can defend themselves against rising tides with backwater valves and sump pumps—the city’s basement flooding protection subsidy program can provide up to $3,400 per property to help out.

hot in here

Extreme heat will only get more extreme

The hottest summer day on average in Toronto sits at an already sweltering 34.2 degrees, but scientists predict that, by 2080, the new record could be 42. And the average year could have 80 days over 30 degrees—in other words, a heatwave that lasts all summer. Air conditioning can be a balm or a necessary evil depending on your point of view, but either way it’s largely unavailable to roughly 500,000 Torontonians: nearly half of Toronto’s rental units are in apartment towers that are at least 35 years old, most of which lack built-in AC. In a heatwave, artificial cooling is an effective coping mechanism, but it also puts immense pressure on an already stressed-out grid. If power fails, says Anabela Bonada, a director at the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, large buildings could lose access to water and elevators would shut down, potentially trapping elderly and disabled residents. “It would be catastrophic—there could be thousands of deaths.”

Our hottest summer day on average could reach 42°C

The city is eyeing retrofits to climate-proof vulnerable apartment towers, but it will need the provincial and federal governments to kick in funds. Until that happens, the best fixes will be small-scale, like drawing the blinds during the day to keep out the heat and opening them at night when temperatures drop. Homeowners can help cool down their dwellings and immediate neighbourhoods by planting shade trees and replacing their cement or asphalt driveways with grass pavers, which soak up water instead of rays.

Photographs by Nathan Cyprys

the fixer

When calamity strikes, the bureaucratic hydra known as the City of Toronto needs to work quickly and efficiently with firefighters, police, paramedics, transit workers and others. That’s where Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, the executive director of Toronto Emergency Management, comes in. A former cop, she’s responsible for making sure Toronto can handle disasters­—and for helping us avoid them in the first place.

First things first: what’s your favourite disaster movie? Titanic. The ship actually sank on my birthday.


How did you get this gig? I was a police officer for 34 years, on the Emergency Management and Public Order team. We ran major planned events as well as disasters. I was in charge of police horses, bomb and chemical teams, planning. After I retired from the force, this job opened up. I thought I could help.


How prepared is Toronto for future disasters? Very. We have a great team here, and the pandemic has given us lots of practice.


What did you learn from Covid? That we can move quickly when we want to. The city made a lot of fast decisions that saved lives, like procuring more PPE, staffing vaccination and testing centres, and introducing health restrictions. Sure, we could have done certain things better. But it showed that
we can scale up from the smallest thing to the most massive emergency.


Your department runs the Emergency Operations Centre in Don Mills. What’s in it? We’ve got desks for the major divisions in our system: planning, logistics, admin, operations and finance. The chiefs sit at one end, then it goes by team. At the other end we have external folks like police, paramedics, fire and TTC. Our pride and joy is the giant screen: eight TVs showing security cameras from Nathan Phillips Square to the Gardiner. They let us monitor everything from snowstorms to protests.


When do you use the room? It’s always ready, but we only use it during disasters or big events like Caribana, the Toronto Marathon and the Santa Claus Parade—we always open for Santa. It’s a massive ordeal: tons of road closures and permitting and loads of kids running around.


Santa doesn’t sound like a disaster. It’s a coordination approach. Working with your partners builds confidence. You learn what to look for and to trust one another. When we had the van attack in 2018, for example, everybody had to work together.


What are the top five disasters to worry about in Toronto? There’s no top five. Whether it’s a terrorist attack or a massive storm, it’s all about public safety.


But people should have a sense of what to prepare for, no?Well, we live in Canada, so prepare for winter. Extreme heat is a big concern now too. We also have to think about the fallout from a disaster. A snowstorm could mean we lose the power grid. A flood could lead to people being displaced. All these things keep me up at night.

Are Torontonians really unprepared for the cold? We had to open the centre during the big snowstorm in January of 2022. People were stuck in their cars on the 401 for over eight hours. We were getting calls asking if police and ambulances could bring them blankets. Well, no—for one thing, we couldn’t get to them with all the snow! In the end, we worked with the province to clear the highway.


How should people prepare for snowstorms? Always have mitts or gloves in your car. I give my daughter a hard time when she doesn’t dress for the weather. I’ll say, “If your car breaks down, you’re not going to survive in that.”


Which disasters do you have dedicated plans for?There are risk-specific plans for some disasters, including flooding, power disruption and nuclear emergencies. Our overall plan also details how to respond to, recover from and mitigate the impact of any emergency, and we do regular exercises to practise for them.


You mentioned extreme heat earlier. We’ve done a lot of research on it, and the city is developing its first extreme heat emergency plan. My team has visited Arizona to see the extremes of what heat can do—pavement will actually melt there.


What could happen if there’s a blackout combined with a heatwave? Many different things. For one, it could make even more people vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, especially children, the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions. If elevators shut down, those same people could end up stuck in their buildings.


What would you do? We’d open the centre to coordinate an immediate response. Toronto Hydro would lead power restoration, and the city would support public health and safety and keep services running. That might include public messaging, monitoring critical infrastructure, making sure outdoor workers are safe and opening cooling centres powered by generators.


Can we expect more blackouts in the future, especially given the pressure EVs may soon put on the grid? We’re looking into it. It’s common knowledge that California has a lot of electric vehicles, and they also have brownouts.


What about the unknown unknowns? There are bound to be surprises. We have to be nimble, expect the unexpected and act. The best thing is to be prepared.

Medical Nasties

Bugs, superbugs and other invasive critters 

Climate change is reorganizing the world’s habitats, allowing previously disconnected species to mingle and share germs. That’s not great. For one, pandemics happen because we import new diseases from other species.


And it looks like we may not have to wait 100 years for the next big one: a 2021 study published in the scientific journal PNAS found that the chance of another pandemic happening by 2050 could rise to 44 per cent; in any given year, the probability is more than two per cent. 

1,500 Ontarians got Lyme disease in 2022

New diseases aren’t all we have to worry about. There are plenty of known germs and parasites that could make themselves at home in a warmer, wetter Toronto. Lyme-carrying ticks already have a foothold in Ontario—infecting nearly 1,500 people in 2022—and researchers at McGill recently determined that the province could become hospitable to malaria-carrying mosquitos. Meanwhile, clear and present diseases are getting harder to treat: antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill 15 Canadians each day, and they’re making common infections like UTIs and STIs harder to treat and surgeries much riskier. 

bombs away 

The renewed threat of nuclear war 

Nine countries possess the world’s 12,500-odd nuclear weapons, and almost 90 per cent are owned by Russia and the US. A single nuclear warhead has the power to do catastrophic damage to a city. But what’s arguably scarier than dying in a nuclear strike is being left alive to suffer the consequences. In extremely simplified terms, nuclear weapons set everything around them on fire, throwing up extensive quantities of dust, ash and pollutants and emitting radiation that can travel hundreds of kilometres from the site of the explosion. 


If half of the world’s nuclear arsenal were detonated, the ensuing nuclear winter could cause summer temperatures to drop by as much as 20 degrees for weeks, turning July into January. From there, crops would fail worldwide, leading to mass starvation even in places far removed from the conflict. 


So far we’ve been lucky: no one has dared to push the big red button that obliterates the world. Yet, since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, it has withdrawn from several nuclear arms treaties and deployed tactical nuclear weapons to neighbouring Belarus.


Putin’s actions are partly why the Doomsday Clock, a countdown to convey the likelihood of global annihilation, which was set up by Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer in 1947, now sits at just 90 seconds to midnight.

the Doomsday squad

Eight Toronto experts fighting to save the planet

David Arama

Expertise: wilderness skills

Between his 340-acre off-grid property near Bancroft and his bomb shelter, Arama—head of the WSC Survivor School—may be the most prepared person in Ontario. Known professionally as “The Survivor­guy,” he’s spent more than 30 years teaching teens, pilots, soldiers and cops how to stay alive in the wilderness. His first piece of advice: invest in a good sleeping bag—duvets don’t work in the cold.

Jeffrey Brook

Expertise: air quality

Brook, a professor at U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, tracks wildfire smoke across Canada and finds ways to protect us from it. He’s studied the air quality effects of the island airport, created detailed maps of pollution in the GTA and investigated how particles in Toronto’s air can contribute to heart conditions. He’s also working with an Indigenous community in Alberta to test out DIY indoor air cleaners.

Nirupama Agrawal

Expertise: disaster management

A founding member of York University’s disaster and emergency management program, Agrawal wrote Natural Disasters and Risk Management in Canada, now a key resource for lifesavers here and abroad. Her four decades of experience in the field have included tracking tsunamis in the Pacific and emerging threats across Canada. If something can go wrong, she’s thought about it—and is working to stay one step ahead.

Sameer Dhalla

Expertise: dams

The GTA has a dozen dams built to hold back stormwaters, and it’s Dhalla’s job to look after them. With more than 20 years at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, he heads the team that monitors rising waters, issuing warnings and staffing the spillways when it starts to pour. Lately, he’s focused on Etobicoke Creek in Brampton and Black Creek in Rockcliffe-Smythe, Toronto’s most flood-prone neighbourhood.

Lesley Gallinger

Expertise: electricity

Ontario’s electricity system is overseen by the Independent Electricity System Operator, an arms-length government body responsible for keeping our lights on (and making sure they stay on for years to come). Gallinger, who has held leadership roles in electricity companies across the province, is the operator’s president and CEO. She also serves as vice-chair of the federal Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

Blair FeltmatE

Expertise: extreme heat

As the head of the Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, Feltmate is Canada’s foremost expert on our new and terrifying normal. He’s written textbooks on sustainable banking and aquatic ecology, held C-suite positions in sustainability at BMO and Ontario Power Generation, and advised everyone from the feds to the Jays. His current mission: to get cooling recognized as a human right.

Paul Kovacs

Expertise: climate and insurance 

An economist and a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Kovacs was part of the team that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He’s since become Canada’s leading authority on insurance and climate change, and as the executive director of the Toronto-based Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, he’s authored a slew of reports on resisting earthquakes, floods and severe winds.

Kamran Khan

Expertise: pandemics

In early 2020, five days before the WHO spoke up, a Toronto disease-monitoring service called BlueDot raised the alarm about a new pandemic. The service was founded by Toronto physician Kamran Khan in 2013 and has since expanded globally. Khan, who also teaches at U of T and still makes his rounds at St. Michael’s Hospital, is working with his team to model the potential spread of dengue- and Zika-carrying mosquitos into the GTA. 

Hello, darkness

total grid failure, in a nutshell

Ontario is in a tight spot when it comes to electricity: we’re using nearly as much as we produce. And with sections of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station scheduled to come offline for the next couple of years while they get refurbished, we’re going to have a shortfall—one made even worse by a looming EV mandate. In theory, it’s a problem that can be solved by building natural gas generating stations, and so far, that’s the big plan. But pretty much the only people happy with that solution are climate crisis deniers. 


Since burning natural gas makes all our other energy-sapping problems (heatwaves, cold snaps) and infrastructure-disabling events (floods, tornados) worse, 35 municipalities across Ontario—including Toronto—have asked the province to phase it out entirely. However, Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator has warned against a phase-out by 2030, saying it would result in blackouts.


Faced with a climate catch-22—either we make electricity that warms the planet or we run out of necessary power—it’s worth learning how to blackout-proof our homes while the lights are still on. For example, consider investing in fuel or solar generators. And make sure your house is well-insulated: in winter, the temperature in a cozy leak-proof building heated to 21 degrees can take four days to drop to 11.

Volcanoes, supersized

What happens if a sleeping giant wakes up

Most people think of volcanoes as cone-shaped mountains that are prone to the occasional Pompeii-annihilating blast. Those are stratovolcanoes. It’s their much larger cousins, the supervolcanoes, that we need to worry about. These sleeping giants feature telltale thermal activity like geysers, hinting at a reservoir of magma below. They don’t blow often, but when they do, anything in a 160-kilometre radius is obliterated.

The ash would reduce global temperatures for years

Thankfully, Toronto is nearly 2,500 kilometres away from the nearest super, which slumbers beneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Yet an eruption there could give us up to 10 millimetres of ash, enough to ground planes and damage our lungs. That airborne ash would reduce global temperatures for years, and the social and economic aftershocks in the US would be devastating.


The good news: the US Geological Survey puts the chance of a Yellowstone eruption at one in 730,000 for any given year.

Prep for Success

Items to survive and thrive by

Shelter in Space

The futuristic ShiftPod is designed to withstand extreme weather: it reflects sunlight off its silver surface, repels water via a hydrophobic coating, and regulates temperature thanks to insulation, convection vents and AC ports. And if the apocalypse is delayed, it’s perfect for Burning Man. $2,160, shiftpod.com

Tool Time

In addition to classic tools like a knife, a screwdriver and pliers, Leatherman’s seven-ounce Signal has survival-geared instruments galore: a whistle, a fire starter rod, an awl, a hammer, a serrated blade and more. $189, canadiantire.ca 

Chef’s Kiss

Foodies who’d rather perish than resort to canned soup can get a head start with HarvestRight’s Home Pro Freeze Dryer. The device freezes then draws moisture from just about any kind of dish (let them eat beef bourguignon!). When sealed in an airtight container, meals can retain their original flavour for up to 25 years. $2,695,  harvestright.com

Suck It Up 

Beloved by hikers, campers and preppers alike, LifeStraw’s Peak Series Straw has a membrane microfilter that lets you drink directly from lakes and rivers without worrying about E. coli, parasites or microplastics. $35, lifestraw.com

Stink-free Layers 

Forget hikers and campers—hunters are at the cutting edge of outdoor apparel. The Pro Merino 200 Zip-T Hoodie from Kuiu is one of the most advanced sweaters on the market. Its thermoregulating blend of high-strength nylon and merino wool wicks moisture and controls odours with minimal washes. $221, kuiu.com

Stink-free Layers 

Forget hikers and campers—hunters are at the cutting edge of outdoor apparel. The Pro Merino 200 Zip-T Hoodie from Kuiu is one of the most advanced sweaters on the market. Its thermoregulating blend of high-strength nylon and merino wool wicks moisture and controls odours with minimal washes. $221, kuiu.com

Shower on the Go

When bathing isn’t an option, a bit of water and one of Maude’s compressed biodegradable wipes will get you a quasi-towel that’s gentle enough for every part of your body—and designed to be reused a couple of times. $17, sephora.com

Shower on the Go

When bathing isn’t an option, a bit of water and one of Maude’s compressed biodegradable wipes will get you a quasi-towel that’s gentle enough for every part of your body—and designed to be reused a couple of times. $17, sephora.com

Solar Flair 

If the sun’s out, the Nomad 20 solar panel by Goal Zero can absorb enough rays to revive your phone and your spirits. It charges most USB-powered devices and a range of power banks—some in as little as four hours. $200, mec.ca

Solar Flair 

If the sun’s out, the Nomad 20 solar panel by Goal Zero can absorb enough rays to revive your phone and your spirits. It charges most USB-powered devices and a range of power banks—some in as little as four hours. $200, mec.ca

Hot Food, Warm Body

If you’re going to spend significant time outdoors, you’ll need heat. Made from ultralight titanium, the two-pound Medium U Turn Tent Stove will keep you toasty, plus the flat top is great for boiling and cooking. $309, seekoutside.com

Hot Food, Warm Body

If you’re going to spend significant time outdoors, you’ll need heat. Made from ultralight titanium, the two-pound Medium U Turn Tent Stove will keep you toasty, plus the flat top is great for boiling and cooking. $309, seekoutside.com

Air Bud

The next time the skies turn orange, Shark’s NeverChange air purifier can clean up to 1,400 square feet in your home. Its tech captures up to 99.98 per cent of micro-size particles (exceeding HEPA standards), and it has a five-year filter. $350, sharkclean.ca

Critical Mask

The days of pretty cloth face coverings are so 2020— if you’re going to wear a mask, it better be effective. Airinum’s Air Mask Active is the company’s most advanced model: it’s moisture-wicking and breathable enough for exercise but heavy-duty enough to block out 99 per cent of bacteria and viruses as well as smog and wildfire microparticles. $199, airinum.com 


If a network outage renders your smartphone obsolete, the InReach Mini 2 by Garmin has global satellite coverage that lets you text and location-share with those who do have service—or with your fellow contingency planners already on the satellite network. Other handy features include a digital compass, backtrack routing, weather forecasting and up to 30 days of battery life. $540, garmin.com

Slow Burn

Where there’s wildfire, there’s smoke

Living in Toronto last June felt like sitting around a perpetual bonfire—and carried some of the same risks. As forests burned across northern Ontario, fine-particulate levels in the city exceeded the WHO’s daily limit more than 20-fold. (Spending one hour outside on the afternoon of June 28 was apparently the equivalent of smoking 5.8 cigarettes.) Having cut down most of its forests, southern Ontario is somewhat insulated from flames—but not from their effects. The distance made things worse: after being lifted by the inferno’s updraft and travelling thousands of kilometres, the ash particles were ready to settle by the time they made it to the GTA, bringing the long-range harms of the fire to our doorstep.

HEPA filters may soon be a seasonal necessity

To ignite, a forest needs three things: dry, tindery vegetation; a source of ignition, like lightning or a careless camper’s bonfire; and wind to fan the flames. A warmer world delivers all three—summers get longer, weather gets hotter and storms get zappier. A 2023 study commissioned by the province found that fires in Ontario could become two to five times more frequent by 2080, and another from Natural Resources Canada suggested that we’ll soon have two to three times more of the hot, windy days that spread them. In-home HEPA filters and N95 masks are more than worthwhile investments—they may soon be a seasonal necessity.

take refuge

An unexpected side effect of climate-related migration

In a climate-ravaged future, Toronto’s northern latitude, weather-moderating lakes and abundance of fresh water could make it a haven for climate refugees. The downside to becoming a (relatively) soft place to land is that the already dire state of our housing, infrastructure and transit will likely crater as demand skyrockets.


“The biggest risk is being unprepared for growth,” says Jason Thistlethwaite, a professor at the University of Waterloo who researches the economic effects of climate change. Doubling down on our current mode of development means more paving—and more flooding. The rivers that run through Toronto are fed by head­waters outside city limits, and irresponsible development in the GTA would send more water our way. 


As floods become more common, certain neighbourhoods could be deemed unlivable, prompting government buyouts (as seen recently in Gatineau, Quebec). In such cases, says Thistlethwaite, struggling households will often take the buyout while their wealthier neighbours may choose to remain and fortify their homes. Over time, neighbourhoods stratify, a phenomenon known as climate gentrification.


Meanwhile, floods could make insurance more expensive for everyone else. Repeated basement flooding can already make a home uninsurable, and companies can raise premiums based on floods in the general area. “Insurance could end up being a luxury item for the rich,” says Thistlethwaite, which would make it harder to get a mortgage or repair damaged properties. In the long run, the wealthy get floodwalls and everyone else gets caught in the deluge downstream.

leader of the pack

Anyone who’s ever broken down roadside, lost their wallet or had a really bad case of the hangries knows the pain of neglecting to plan ahead. The go-bag, a portable emergency kit that  carries 72 hours’ worth of supplies, can come in handy on a camping trip, during a blackout, in a snowstorm and, yes, when you need to get the hell out of Dodge.

1. Water and water-purification tablets

2. Non-perishable food items and a manual can opener

3. First-aid kit and personal medications (including a list and a record of how often you take them)

4. Phone charger and battery bank

5. Battery-­powered or hand-crank radio

6. Battery-­powered or hand-crank flashlight

7. Extra batteries

8. Candles and matches or lighters

9. Personal toiletries and items, such as an extra pair of glasses 

10. Hand sanitizer

11. Emergency information sheet, including your contact list and a map featuring your family meeting place 

12. Copies of important documents, such as insurance papers, photo IDs, passports and banking information

13. Extra set of car and home keys

14. Credit and debit cards and cash in small bills

15. Seasonal clothing and an emergency blanket

16. Garbage bags and duct tape

17. Pen and notepad

18. Whistle

19. Keepsakes or mementos, like family photos, letters or toys

faulty logic

landslides, tremors and earthquakes

Unlike San Francisco or Tokyo, Toronto isn’t known for being a shaky place. Earthquakes do happen here two or three times a year, but they’re almost always too weak to be felt. We’ve had only three big enough to notice in the last 250 years, all of which failed to cause significant damage.

We’ve had three big earthquakes in 250 years

Earthquakes tend to happen along fault lines, zones of weakness in the rocks deep below our feet, where great slabs of the earth’s crust can shift past each other. Toronto sits well in the middle of the North American Plate, far from the tectonic action. There may, however, be ancient fractures nearby. One 2002 study used magnetic imaging to peer into the rock one and a half kilometres beneath Hamilton Harbour and found evidence of fault lines dating back 1.2 billion years. In the highly unlikely event that Toronto is hit with a big one, get low, find something sturdy to hide under and hold on.

and what about…

The best and worst of the rest

KILLER AI: According to some tech prophets, the irresistible convenience of AI will leave us vulnerable when the ­singularity—the point where AI surpasses our own ­intelligence—arrives. We may be decades away from Terminatorstyle armies, but the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems already in use across the globe are terrifying enough.


TWISTERS: The GTA gets a couple of tornados per year, and in 2022, a line of wind storms—known as a derecho—caused $1 billion in damage when it passed through Ontario and Quebec. While there isn’t enough data to predict if we’ll get more chaotic wind events, we will be getting more big storms in general.  


ZOMBIES: True, they don’t technically exist, but there are parasites that take control of their hosts: the cordyceps fungus, made famous by The Last of Us, commandeers insects to spread spores. Horrifying, but unless you’re an ant, you’ll be fine. The risk of cordyceps jumping to humans is tiny, and even if it did, the fungus would have no power over us.


DEEP FREEZES: Paradoxically, global warming can bring cold snaps. A hotter north weakens the polar vortex, a ring of strong winds that circle the pole high in the atmosphere. Those currents hold back arctic air, and when they go slack, blasts of deep freeze can travel as far as Texas. Most scientists agree, however, that our winters will be warmer overall.


SPACE ROCKS: A big enough, fast enough asteroid could wipe us out in an instant à la dinosaurs. So NASA is developing systems to knock them off course, and planetary defenders like Arushi Nath—the Toronto teen and science whiz who developed code to gather data about asteroids—are keeping a close eye on the skies. 


NUCLEAR MELTDOWNS: Because of its proximity to the Pickering and Darlington nuclear generation stations, Toronto has an emergency response plan in place. In the unlikely event of a severe accident at one of the plants, protective measures will be needed for people within a 10-­kilometre radius. That could include sheltering in place, taking potassium iodine pills and evacuating.


DYING BEES: Through their pollination of flowers and crops, bees play a vital role in the health of our ecosystem and agriculture. But extreme weather, pests and a lack of diverse crops have decimated bee colonies around the world. That’s very bad news, because if they die out, life for the rest of us is going to be a hell of a lot bleaker.

Safe Space

Before launching Atlas Survival Shelters in 2011, Ron Hubbard spent three decades building custom iron doors. As fear of pandemics, war and political unrest has spiked, so has demand for his fortification know-how: his company’s 10-acre factory in Sulphur Springs, Texas, is backlogged with requests from across North America. Hubbard’s prefab shelters take roughly three days to lower into the ground and seal shut and can cost tens of millions of dollars. One of the most popular designs, however, is cheaper than a downtown condo: the 500-square-foot Platinum Series Bunker, which has been installed across Ontario, has two bedrooms and can be yours for roughly $335,000.

1. The bunker is accessed via an airtight, bulletproof horizontal hatch made of AR500 steel. Shooting through it would require a 50-calibre rifle or a vehicle-­mounted machine gun, according to Hubbard. Once unlocked, the door lifts with the help of a hydraulic system and reveals a flight of stairs descending about 20 feet.


2. At the bottom of the stairs, the bunker veers 90 degrees to the left. All of Hubbard’s designs include a sharp turn between the hatch and the rest of the shelter to deflect gamma radiation, which tends to travel in straight lines.

3. The door closest to the entrance leads to an airtight mudroom with a decontamination shower where residents can wash off airborne viruses or pests after venturing outdoors.


4. The removable floor panels conceal two feet of storage space for food and supplies. This bunker also comes with a pair of 300-gallon water tanks. “The ultimate prepper,” says Hubbard, “would have an underground well tied to their bunker to refill the tanks.”


5. Sandwiched between a kids’ room and a main bedroom, the family room and kitchen comes with a couch, a TV, LED lighting, a fridge, a hot plate and a microwave. Luxury finishings include stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops and oak flooring.

6. An escape tunnel attached to the main bedroom provides an alternate exit if external threats make the main hatch inaccessible. To reach the tunnel, residents need to lift a sandbag out of the escape box near the exit. Once the door opens, “you can pop out of the ground like a gopher,” says Hubbard.


7. The Platinum bunker runs on solar- and wind-powered batteries as well as electricity. Its air-filtration system, which is billed as resistant to harmful nuclear, biological and chemical agents, runs on electricity but has a manual override in case of grid failure.

This story appears in the April 2024 issue of Toronto Life magazineTo subscribe for just $39.99 a year, click here. To purchase single issues, click here