When the Big One hits, will your local school be stocked with the emergency supplies that children will need to stay safe and warm in the aftermath?

According to Marketa Lund, It depends on how successful the parents are at fundraising.

Lund is the emergency preparedness representative on the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, as well as a parent at Quadra School in Victoria. 

"Right now, each school is responsible for stocking its own supplies," she told On The Island host Gregor Craigie. "The expectation is for the PAC to take this on and the responsibility would fall to the parents." 

The result, she says, is a patchwork of preparedness at different schools in the Victoria area.

Ecole Quadra School Principal Marilyn Campbell

Ecole Quadra School Principal Marilyn Campbell (left) and staff access emergency supplies during a school earthquake exercise. (Tig Cross)

"Some PACs choose to fundraise," she said, and others don't do as much.

"The amount of emergency supplies your school will have will probably depend on how much money your school is able to raise." 

The B.C. Ministry of Education lists dozens of items for emergency supply containers, ranging from sledgehammers to toilet paper in its Emergency Management Planning Guide for Schools, Districts and Authorities.

Lund says that while the cost of outfitting a school will vary depending on its size, a PAC would have to raise about $12,000 to $15,000 to buy everything on the list.

It would cost an additional $500 to $1,000 a year to replace the perishable items. 

A review is underway by a working group headed by Lund to identify how well Victoria schools are prepared for a disaster.

But based on findings so far, she says, it's unlikely that most have the emergency equipment, training and resources to meet their immediate needs following a disaster.

"Obviously, a parent will do anything they can to keep their child safe, so if it means giving $5 for a comfort kit, a lot of them will do that," she said. "However, we have to remember that a lot of our parents can't afford that."

School emergency containers

The earthquake containers seen at most schools around the Greater Victoria School District. (Marketa Lund)

Lund says relying on parents and PACs to purchase and maintain school emergency supplies does not reflect plans to use school buildings as municipal reception centres for other displaced people following a major disaster.

For that reason, she says, the federal and provincial government's should allocate funding for disaster response in addition to seismic upgrades to the buildings. 

"If schools and their resources are going to be shared, then the responsibility for funding should be shared as well," she said. 

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Island


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Parents on hook for school earthquake supplies