Battling complacency is one of emergency planning coordinator Jackie Kloosterboer’s critical challenges, but there’s nothing like an earthquake — such as Saturday night’s 7.7-magnitude event off Haida Gwaii — to shake complacency out of residents living in seismic zones.
To her point —in 2010, 47 neighbourhood emergency preparedness program [NEPP] sessions were held in Vancouver, involving 900 participants. That skyrocketed to 299 sessions with 7,900 participants in 2011.
Kloosterboer attributes the dramatic increase to the February 2011 earthquake in New Zealand, in which 181 people were killed, and the March 2011 magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan, which left 19,000 dead or missing.
“The New Zealand and Japan earthquakes really shot our numbers up, and we are still seeing somewhat increased numbers in 2012 due to that, I believe,” she said. So far this year, 175 NEPP sessions have taken place with 2,900 participants.
Kloosterboer stressed individuals must be prepared for disasters, and last weekend’s earthquake and aftershocks in northern B.C. underline that message.
“We were so lucky it wasn’t worse… It’s a real wake-up call to the residents here that you’ve got to get your plans in place and do it now before the event happens,” she said.
“I think people are getting better, but I don’t think enough people are doing it. A lot more people have to do it, but people are very complacent and they think it’ll never happen here.”
Kloosterboer advises residents to put together an emergency preparedness kit or buy a ready-made one. A page on the city website explains what should be included and how to put together evacuation/grab-and-go kits for each family member. It also outlines what’s needed in a home kit to help you survive at your home during an emergency if you’re without services for 72 hours, as well as what should be in pet kits and car kits.
“You can print off a list — you probably have a lot of the items already,” she said.
Most community centres across the city stock emergency supplies, including cots and blankets, so they can be turned into reception centres during a disaster.
Some businesses might have emergency supplies, but it’s not required, so Kloosterboer said it’s incumbent on individuals to be ready to take care of themselves.
“[For example], you look at the shoes you wear to work — you better have a pair of walking shoes in the event you have to walk home or walk to another location,” she said, adding families should arrange a meet-up point in case members can’t reach each other, and parents should figure out who’ll pick up children if they can’t.
The city offers free emergency planning workshops — dates and details are on the city’s website—and workshops are offered to businesses and groups on request. Kloosterboer delivered a workshop at the Courier last April.
But there’s no guarantee workshop participants act on the advice.
“Some people do get prepared, others don’t do as much as they should, but at least they have a little more knowledge. They now know what to do when an earthquake happens, whereas had they never taken the session, they probably wouldn’t know what to do. So I’d love for everybody to go out and get totally prepared, but I don’t think that’s a reality,” she said.
Schools have taken steps to prepare for disasters and each has a container of supplies on school grounds. No authority specifically requires school districts provide the containers, but the bins have been part of the Vancouver School Board’s emergency response plans since the early 1990s, according to district spokesman Kurt Heinrich.
“There are no rules regarding emergency supplies. The VSB provides emergency food and drinking water for its school population. These include: large volume water tanks with drinking water and emergency food rations,” Heinrich explained in an email. “We have also supplied tools and equipment, tarp kits, supplemental first aid supplies, and cooking gear. The district continues to add to its emergency supplies list each year as well as monitor its existing supplies.”
Since 2009, Heinrich added, the bins have been inspected on a regular basis, most recently this past summer.
“A bin reorganization project is currently underway district wide. Maintenance and repairs are ongoing based on work order requests. Schools access the bins at the beginning of the school year and in May for the Big One district-wide earthquake drill. Schools also periodically access the bins throughout the year,” he wrote.
The district has budgeted $560,000 for emergency preparedness in 2012/13—$80,000 of which was carried forward from last year. Forty-two schools are still waiting for seismic upgrades.