The City of Vancouver has designated six public parks as gathering places in the event of a large and damaging earthquake — and is planning to train community volunteers to staff them.
Vancouver park board commissioner Loretta Woodcock brought forward the motion to designate the parks in April, after she was caught in the earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand, in February while on vacation.
"We were five kilometres from the epicentre and one thing I did notice after the earthquake is that volunteers just came out of nowhere," said Woodcock.
"They had vests on and they were directing people away from bridges and they had radiophones and I thought, ‘This is amazing.’"
Woodcock said the Christchurch volunteers had already been trained and sprang into action spontaneously when the devastating temblor struck the city.
"[Christchurch] used parks as gathering places for people and they had installed tents and sleeping areas," she said.
Containers will hold supplies
The 6.3-magnitude New Zealand quake killed 181 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.
A similarly strong quake occurred Friday off the coast from a remote, rural area of Vancouver Island. It caused no injuries, but was a strong reminder that all of southwest B.C. is highly vulnerable.
Woodcock said part of Vancouver’s plan is to place large shipping containers full of critical-response supplies in parks around the city.
"We have already purchased the containers and now we are just customizing them," she said.
Woodcock said the city's 24 community centres would be staging areas for the trained volunteers.
The parks that have been chosen as gathering places are expected to be made public later.