This week a provincial government emergency preparedness bureaucrat calmly explained why it took about 50 minutes for his staff to issue a tsunami alert following last Saturday’s 7.7 magnitude quake off Haida Gwaii.
Apparently, here in B.C. we needed every second of those 50 minutes to go through channels, check and double check to make absolutely sure it was actually an earthquake and not a rogue nuclear missile off course.
It was a quake for heaven’s sakes. What’s to verify?
This information lag bears serious scrutiny in light of the fact that officials with the West Coast Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre sent out their first tsunami bulletin just minutes after the quake at 8:13 p.m. Then, they upgraded it to a tsunami warning for parts of the West Coast including B.C. three minutes later.
Not only that, the Americans confirmed that emergency officials in B.C. were on a West Coast conference call three minutes after the quake.
But our emergency muffins did not get around to issuing any sort of tsunami alert or advisory for another 40-plus minutes.
This very sad commentary on B.C.’s state of preparedness has reinforced the obvious: In the first minutes and hours of a natural disaster we are all flying solo. Even though we are constantly reassured that our governments have protocols, plans and resources in place to lessen the devastating impacts of natural disasters, we all know in our hearts that when the big one comes calling we are very much alone.
When it comes to taking personal responsibility to the extent possible, the Campbell River St John Ambulance is going the extra mile to help us be as independently prepared as possible.
The emergency backpacks the branch is selling for $66 are Provincial Emergency Program approved and very well equipped.
There is no way you could assemble the contents of this kit for that price. Do yourselves a favour and put one in your hall closet.