Every year in Parksville Qualicum Beach, local municipalities — through the joint Emergency Managment Oceanside program — host multiple awareness and education events during Emergency Preparedness Week.
Typically held in May, Emergency Preparedness Week cautions residents on the steps to take and materials to have on hand in the event of a hypothetical disaster such as an earthquake, flood or landslide.
But there’s nothing quite like the imminent threat of an actual disaster to sharpen one’s focus.
That was certainly the case in Tuesday morning’s tsunami warning for Coastal B.C., which followed a 7.9-magnitude earthquake south of Kodiak, Alaska. While most Parksville Qualicum Beach residents may have slept through the early morning alert, tsunami sirens wailed and residents scrambled for high ground and muster stations from Tofino-Ucluelet, Bamfield and Port Alberni to Port Hardy.
One person, describing her headlong rush to get to safe ground mentioned snatching up a prepared grab-and-go bag and jumping into the family vehicle with the most gas to make the trip.
Wait — a grab-and-go bag? Checking gas tank levels? Who does these things?
Those who have prepared, that’s who.
A tsunami may not be the best example to light a fire under east Vancouver Islanders. Due to simple geography and our position on a strait far removed from the open ocean, we face only mild potential impacts from such waves — far less risk than our friends on the west coast or on the northern and southern tips of the Island.
And the capriciousness — and unpredictability — of events like earthquakes and tsunamis make it relatively easy to dismiss immediate concerns. Hey, it could be another 500 years before “The Big One” hits. Someone else’s problem, right?
But our well-being and the safety of our families in the first 72 hours after a major disaster may well remain in our own hands if the event is catastrophic enough to prevent emergency crews and aid from reaching everybody.
There’s no harm in having a stash of potable water, non-perishable food, matches, flashlights and batteries and a few other essentials in a handy place.
Just as important as the physical stuff is education and planning. That starts with a household muster and escape plan, and continues with learning how and where to get the information you need, assuming lines of communication even remain open in an emergency.
Tuesday morning’s tsunami alert caught some of us by surprise, but there’s always time to prepare for the next disaster.
Until there isn’t.
— Parksville Qualicum Beach News