Province making progress on response plans, but officials say expect to be on your own at least a week
Jessica Linzey - CBC News
October 14, 2016
It took the better part of two decades — and two damning reports from the office of B.C.'s Auditor General — for the province to get serious about preparing for a catastrophic earthquake.
And in the nearly three years since the last AG report, the province has made significant strides in its emergency planning.
But a lot of the details around things like how to move water and medical supplies post-disaster have yet to be worked out, which is why emergency planners now recommend that all of us be prepared to be on our own for at least a week, if not two.
That means knowing the risks, building a kit, and making a plan for you and your family.
Provincially, Emergency Management BC is the body in charge in the event of a major earthquake. This is a good place for a broader overview of what to expect and what to plan for.
And ShakeOut BC is packed with information — including what to do in a number of scenarios, whether you're on the road, taking in an evening of theatre, or lounging in a city park.
Putting together a list
Once you've had a read through, print off a list of things you'll need to do to get prepared. We've compiled a list of additional things to think about below, based on advice from experts in the field.
Most emergency planners recommend you keep a grab-and-go bag for every member of the family — usually an old backpack left somewhere easy to access — as well as a larger bag tucked somewhere out of the way. Some also keep extra grab-and-go bags in the trunk of the car, in a garage, or at work.
If you have kids, talk to them about what could happen during an earthquake, and what will be expected of them.
Designate a meeting place in the event you're separated.
Plan routes to that meeting place from likely locations (school, work, the park, favourite restaurants).
Have a number of back-up adults for your kids to call on, especially if your work and your home are separated by a body of water.
Know the emergency plan for your kids' school.
Know the emergency plan for your office.
If you're a business owner, keep back-ups of your systems and documents in a separate location.
If you're on holiday, learn the escape routes and pick a place to meet.
Nominate an out-of-province family member or friend to keep track of loved ones in the disaster zone, and have everyone text their situation to this person, as in-province communication systems are likely to be overwhelmed.
Spearhead a neighbourhood emergency response plan.
Recruit neighbours to take a free workshop on preparing your community for the worst case scenario.
Know what to do when the shaking starts
Don't expect to be able to walk.
Prepare yourself for aftershocks.
Watch for downed power lines and broken gas lines.
Move away from hazards if you're outside — that includes trees and street signs.
If you have your cellphone with you, keep calls to a minimum, and text when you can instead.
Overall, experts say it's important to actually practise what to do in the event of an earthquake, so that it becomes automatic in a crisis.
"It's not enough to just think about where you're going to go in an earthquake," said Alison Bird, a seismologist with Earthquakes Canada.
"Because when you're in a stressful situation, your brain does not function properly, and you're not thinking about the right thing to do. If you don't practice, it's not going to happen."
And in the end, says Bird, no matter how prepared our governments are to respond to a disaster, we have a personal responsibility to be prepared so that we're able to take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities when the big one strikes.