Mike Beattie and Angela Janicki walk between houses during a training exercise in the south end of Campbell River on Oct. 29, 2019. The Campbell River Search and Rescue members were taking part in a training exercise centred around an emergency evacuation. Photo by Marissa Tiel/ Campbell River Mirror

Tiel’s Tales: Practice makes perfect

You’re just sitting down for dinner, a bite of food loaded on your fork when there’s a knock at your front door.

On your stoop is a duo from the Campbell River Search and Rescue Society. They’re telling you that you have to leave.

Would you be ready to go in five minutes? That’s the question volunteer SAR members had for residents when they went door-knocking in Campbell River’s south end last week. They were practising implementing one of the Strathcona Regional District (SRD)’s many emergency plans.

While plans exist for many emergency scenarios: flood, fire, wind storm, etc., this exercise was centred around a wildfire evacuation.

“We always want to exercise our plans to make sure they match up with the expectations of reality,” says Shaun Koopman, SRD protective services coordinator.

The emergency management plan is a series of checklists, portocols and trigger points that come together to form a flow chart. The thought is that for whatever volunteer picks up the plan, it makes sense.

“We don’t do this every single day and the whole idea of the plan is we want them to be able to pick it up, easy to explain, easy language, everything flows pretty smoothly together,” he says.

While this summer wasn’t a bad wildfire season in B.C., the previous two years have been deadly.

Just as an athlete practices every day before the big competition, it pays for us to practice and be prepared in case of an emergency.

Part of being prepared is having an emergency preparedness kit. A quick search on the internet will yield hundreds of pre-made kits and the Government of Canada has its own set of guidelines around kits. It suggests your kit should be able to service your family for 72 hours. In a basic emergency kit, it suggest having: water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit and a flash light. But customizing the kit to your needs requires some creative thinking.

Koopman says he’s always asked about kits.

“What I try to tell people is, the Google result won’t tell you how that means to you.”

He pulls up a picture on his phone. It’s his dog, Bodhi, snuggling with a plush otter.

“Ever since he was a puppy, Bodhi has loved his otter so in my family’s evacuation kit, guess what we have?

We have a second otter because he’s already going to be distraught away from home, living in a motel room or at a friends’. At least if we cannot find Otter with that five-second notice, then he has his second otter,” says Koopman, “and you won’t find that on any Google list or any document that I would give you.”

Each family’s needs are going to be different.

Ask yourself: “What is it that we as a family need to maintain a sense of regularity during this traumatic time,” says Koopman.

The Strathcona Regional District also has a free notification service to keep you informed of emergencies in a timely matter. You can sign up at strathconard.connectrocket.com.