In sitting down with Strathcona Regional District protective services coordinator Shaun Koopman and BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson this week to talk about emergency preparedness, I realized – not for the first time – that I am woefully unprepared for a significant seismic event.
Which is strange, because I know I’ve done the story numerous times – for this very publication – about how unprepared people are for being in such a high-risk seismic area and how that’s really pretty dumb, because it’s a thing that is really, actually going to happen.
In fact, we’re about 50 years overdue.
Koopman, after our talk about the Great ShakeOut happening next week, slid a questionnaire across the table to me and asked me to fill it out.
“It’s not a test,” he said.
I was doing okay as I went down the list answering “Y” or “N” to the questions about whether I knew my child’s school’s emergency policies, whether my home had smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed, whether I have ensured that my address is clearly visible on the front of my home so first responders can find me in an emergency and if I have an emergency kit in my vehicle.
But then I got to the section of the “not a test” about whether I had a “Grab ’N’ Go” bag ready should I have to evacuate, whether I had a written household emergency plan, whether I had copies of my medical information, insurance documents and identification in a fire and waterproof container somewhere, whether my household had established meeting locations and out-of-area contacts…
There were suddenly a whole lot of “N”s on that page.
“You’re certainly in the majority,” said Watson, who was also in the room that day sharing the message of preparedness, since in the event of a major earthquake, it’s possible that one or more of the dams that contain our water system give way, and Hydro has done significant studies on what that might mean for the area.
And they’ve been pretty open about sharing the results of those studies with us.
So why is it that we are so unprepared?
For some, it’s the expense.
I know I don’t have the money to be buying a bunch of extra non perishable food items that I don’t plan on eating unless there’s an emergency or to put away an envelope of cash I can’t spend – and it’s safe to assume that others can’t either.
I certainly can’t afford a fireproof safe for my insurance documents.
I can, however, make sure that my tent is accessible, fill a few jugs of water to have on hand, secure my water heater and bookshelves to the walls of my house, go through a simple brochure with my kid so he knows what to do when the ground starts shaking and give him a card with emergency contact information on it to keep in his backpack.
I mean, seriously, how have I not checked that my hot water tank is attached to the wall properly? And why did I throw out that little bracket that came with my bookshelves that you’re supposed to use to attach it to the wall?
Because, unfortunately, it’s just not something people think enough about, Koopman tells me.
But they need to. I need to.
So now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go home to check on something in that closet under the stairs where I keep my hot water tank.