British Columbia

'It really takes an earthquake to get people to start preparing,' says B.C. emergency kit maker

Survey from Emergency Preparedness B.C. says only 13 per cent of households have a complete plan and supplies for a major disaster like a strong earthquake.

Survey from Emergency Preparedness B.C. says only 13 per cent of households have complete plan

Some emergency water and food used by the Burnaby B.C. company 72 Hrs Survival and First Aid in their kits. (CBC)

Advocates for emergency preparedness say the latest spate of earthquakes off the coast of B.C. and in California has spurred some people to get serious about making emergency kits and plans.

Brian Fong is the founder of 72 Hours Survival and First Aid, which makes emergency kits for retail in Burnaby. He says many people are not prepared to survive on their own without aid if a destructive earthquake occurs in the province.

"Absolutely not, because a lot of people don't have kits yet and everybody waits to the last minute," he said.

An emergency preparedness survey done by the province in 2017 says that only 13 per cent of residents describe their emergency plan as complete, meaning they have a written plan of what they would do in an emergency and the supplies to get them through.

The survey does say though that 54 per cent of residents have done some kind of planning, while the majority has emergency supplies of some nature, such as emergency water, food or a flashlight.

However, Fong and others say the greatest motivator is an earthquake.

"They've been thinking about buying a kit for a long time but they've been holding off. It really takes an earthquake to get people to start preparing," he said.

On Friday morning, three earthquakes registering between 4.5 and 5.6 magnitude were detected off the coast of B.C. south of Haida Gwaii within minutes of each other. The tremors were classified as aftershocks to a Wednesday quake but caused no damage.

Geophysicist and disaster planner Mika McKinnon looks out across the Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, where a major earthquake is expected to be felt some time in the future. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Later on Friday, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake jolted Southern California and was felt as far away as Mexico, causing building damage, fires and several injuries. It came after a 6.4 quake hit a day earlier.

Seismologists in Canada say the quakes off the coast of B.C. and those in California are unrelated, but are enough to scare some people into understanding that something worse could be coming.

"For earthquakes, the seismic hazard risk and its potential implication for economic loss and injuries and possible fatalities is very real," said Dr. Honn Kao, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada.

Food that fell from the shelves litters the floor of an aisle at a Walmart following an earthquake in Yucca Yalley, Calif., on Friday, July 5, 2019. (Chad Mayes/Associated Press)

Scientists say there is a one in five chance of a magnitude 7.0 crustal earthquake happening close to Victoria and Vancouver in the next 50 years, which could damage bridges, roads and telecommunication systems.

Geophysicist Mika McKinnon, who is a disaster researcher, says the recent earthquakes and the knowledge that more serious earthquakes are coming should motivate people to plan ahead.

"I always treat this as a good reminder to check your earthquake kit, update your plan, do some of those things that you always meant to do but never really got around to," she said.

Experts say residents need two things: a grab-and-go kit that people can take with them if they have to run from their homes and a kit at home that will allow them to have food, water and supplies for at least 72 hours.

'Thinking and planning now'

McKinnon says during disasters people panic and aren't able to think clearly or make good decisions.

"You want to do your thinking and your planning now," she said. "Write it down so when you're under stress and you're panicking and your scared and you're anxious, you can thank your past self and just open up the plan and do what it says."

With files from Deborah Goble and CHEK News

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