City will be the first responders

Almost half a million British Columbians may have dropped, covered and held on to something as part of the Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill on Wednesday.

Parksville city staff Amanda Haywood and Lynn Kitchen during the ShakeOut.    Auren Ruvinsky Photo

Parksville city staff Amanda Haywood and Lynn Kitchen during the ShakeOut. Auren Ruvinsky Photo

Almost half a million British Columbians may have dropped, covered and held on to something as part of the Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill on Wednesday.

Local organizers in Parksville were happy with the event and the level of participation.

“This drill validates our existing emergency program,” said Parksville Emergency Program Coordinator Aaron Dawson following the drill at city hall.

He pointed out 20 per cent of the Vancouver Island population were signed up to take part, which was double the provincial average.

While the drill was only about educating people to just drop in place in the event of a major quake and get under or near something solid, Dawson said it was also a good stepping off point to think about what comes after that.

In the case of city staff, they would go into fire drill mode 60 seconds after the shaking stopped, going to collection points outside to be accounted for. They would then be given a chance to contact their loved ones to make sure everything was okay, and if they couldn’t reach them would be allowed to go find them.

Once their families were safe, staff would then be asked to return to help with the municipal and regional emergency services as needed.

In debriefing after the drill, staff talked about things such as realizing there wasn’t much room in the clutter under some of the desks, not having anything solid to hang on to and wanting to get away from windows.

Part of the message of the provincial event — the largest in Canadian history — was not to try to move, as the shaking would make it difficult and not to believe in the “triangle of life” myth about not getting under things.

Dawson stressed that the most important part of emergency planning is for uninjured residents to be able to take care of themselves for a minimum 72 hours, with the goal of up to a week, to allow emergency services to deal with more urgent situations.

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