A Little Preparedness Goes a Long Way

Written by Rob Johns, Emergency Coordinator, Victoria Emergency Management Agency

 

Over a week ago, we awoke to the news that a destructive, magnitude 7.8 earthquake had occurred in Nepal. Since then, we’ve seen images of damaged buildings, rescue workers, and people negatively impacted by the effects of this natural disaster and its aftershocks

Here at home, most of us have felt small, magnitude 2.5 to 3.5 earthquakes that occur from time to time near our city. We’ve experienced rumbling sounds and a feeling like a truck has bumped into a building, and jolts or sways. These earthquakes are so small that little or no damage occurs. The last significant earthquake felt in Victoria occurred on February 28, 2001 and was centered over 100km away near Olympia, Washington. That earthquake caused damage primarily in the southern Puget Sound area, but thankfully had little impact in Victoria.

Fast forward to today. Our beautiful city has about a one in three probability of a damaging earthquake in the next 50 years. We know a damaging earthquake will happen here but are we doing anything to prepare for it? In surveying residents, the City of Victoria has found that 50% of households have done something to be better prepared for a future disaster. Great news, however, 50% have not.

Taped-off damaged home in Christchurch, New Zealand,
Taped-off damaged home in Christchurch, New Zealand
A damaged street in Christchurch, New Zealand post-earthquake in February 2011
A damaged street in Christchurch, New Zealand post-earthquake in February 2011

Perhaps some are in denial or others feel there’s nothing that can be done or it’s too big a problem to solve. Or perhaps purchasing emergency supplies may cause financial hardship.

As the Emergency Coordinator for the Victoria Emergency Management Agency, I’ve travelled to disaster zones in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Zealand and even here in B.C. In each place, I’ve asked people what they wish they had done in advance of the disaster. Here is a sampling of what they said:

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“I wish I had listened to the emergency people and had an emergency kit ready. It would have helped greatly in the first couple of days. I give them away now as birthday and Christmas gifts as I want my friends and family to be safe.”

“The earthquake happened during the lunch hour and I could not connect with my family. The phones were out. I wish we had arranged a way of reconnecting, including a family meeting place.”

“The earthquake woke me at about 4:30 a.m. The power was out and it was dark. I needed a torch (flashlight) and I couldn’t find one. I could have kept one in a pair of shoes and tucked those under my bed. The shoes would have helped protect my feet from broken glass, too.”

“Water was disrupted and I had no way of replenishing what I had. When I later restocked my emergency kit, I made sure to include a couple of 20-litre collapsible water containers so I could get water elsewhere and bring it home.”

 

I’ve heard dozens of these types of stories. In every case, the steps to being prepared were simple, inexpensive and completely tangible. I have learned that being prepared for an earthquake also means being prepared to evacuate your home due to a fire, gas leak, hazardous materials spill or even a power outage. Basic emergency preparedness will help you and your family in all disasters.

Take the first step, or the second if you have already started, to being closer to having what your family needs to cope after a disaster. It’s amazing how a little preparedness can go a long way.

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For more information on what your family needs to get started, register for a free workshop or check out our Recipe for Disaster for what to include in your family’s earthquake kit at www.PrepareVictoria.ca