British Columbia

Earthquake ready? Vancouver officials hope windstorm mobilizes residents

The resounding message from Vancouver city officials responsible for emergency preparedness is to stop putting off plans and a kit to help when a major event like an earthquake strikes the region.

Participation in emergency preparation workshops lagging

School children take shelter under desks during an earthquake simulation exercise at an elementary school in Tokyo September 1, 2015. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

The resounding message from Vancouver city officials responsible for emergency preparedness is to stop putting off plans and a kit to help when a major event like an earthquake strikes the region, but at the same time participation in courses to help do this appears to be shrinking.

Since last weekend's destructive windstorm, which saw hundreds of thousands of homes lose power, officials like Jackie Kloosterboer, an emergency planner with the City of Vancouver, have raised the volume on an often repeated message: be prepared.

Vancouver officials are hoping the recent windstorm will motivate people to get earthquake ready. (City of Vancouver)

"This was a really good wake-up call to the fact that we live in an area that we could have earthquakes and we need to be prepared," Kloosterboer told the CBC's Stephen Quinn during an interview with the Early Edition. "People become very complacent, people are busy. It's not front of mind until something like this happens."

The windstorm is motivating some people to go out and get prepared, but many are not heeding the call, Kloosterboer said.

"There's still a lot of people that are not prepared and are going to be caught off guard when something major happens," she said.

72 hours on your own

A recent response plan from the provincial government found in a worst-case earthquake scenario, 10,000 people in the Lower Mainland would perish.

It goes on to describe roads cracking, buildings collapsing, and fires starting through damaged electrical power and gas lines.

"And you truly will be on your own for at least 72 hours, if not longer following a significant earthquake," said Kloosterboer.

She wants families and businesses to get ready now. The city provides information on making earthquake kits and coming up with plans.

It also offers free two-hour courses at community centres and upon request to businesses, stratas and groups like Rotary Club.

They're put on by the Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program, but require at least ten people to register otherwise they are cancelled.

While the city 's been doing this for the past 18 years, participation during the last three shows a downward trend.

  • 2013: 175 sessions, attendance: 3,698
  • 2014: 153 sessions, attendance: 2,631
  • 2015: 104 sessions, attendance: 1,658

The city however, is taking steps to keep the work shops busy. It's working with the Vancouver Public Library to offer sessions at branches and also says requests for the sessions are picking up for the fall, with more requests made after any significant earthquake reported from around the world.

The city also has 25 volunteers who attend up to 20 community events each year with a booth to provide information.

5 emergency preparedness tips

  1. Figure out a way to contact family if you are separated and cell phones aren't working. Use social media, Facebook, or out-of-province contacts.
  2. Designate meeting places for your family.
  3. Make a plan on getting home from work if roads are closed to vehicles, have appropriate footwear to change into at work, so you can walk.
  4. Have a grab and go kit at work.
  5. Make a plan for food and medication for pets, as they are often over-looked in emergency planning.


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