Get prepared: 72 hours of emergency readiness

Local emergency officials want to make sure you and your family are prepared for emergency.

Will your family be ready if the lights go out?

Local emergency officials want to make sure you and your family are prepared for emergency.

Given the past summer of wildfires, windstorms, flash floods and more, it’s a wonder this area has avoided catastrophe so far, reflects Gerald Basten, emergency program co-ordinator for the District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs.

But that doesn’t mean the good luck will last forever. Scientists predict B.C. is likely to have a big earthquake some day. Of course, there’s always a chance of flooding each Spring which has happened in the past, and other natural events like landslides or wildfires could put this area in an emergency situation quickly.

“Our geography makes us susceptible to be isolated,” says Pierre Groenenboom, co-ordinator for Emergency Social Services (ESS). “It’s really crucial that people be prepared for 72 hours at least.”

Groenenboom leads the small team of volunteers that helps people in emergency situations such as house fires. He says whether planning for small-scale emergencies like a single house fire or large scale ones like earthquakes, it’s best to plan ahead so you have enough clothing, food and water for each member of your family – pets included.

An emergency kit should include food, water, blankets, clothing, medicine – everything needed for at least 72 hours without outside assistance.

The kits should be updated annually, adds Basten, to freshen up things such as the food, water, and medications. The kit also needs to change as the family changes….increase or decrease, kids get older, general family and pet make up changes.

In the case of large-scale emergencies like an earthquake, Basten and Derek Dubriellak, deputy co-ordinator for the joint emergency program, want to assure the public that local emergency officials are ready. The joint emergency plan is assessed and updated regularly, officials gather to train and play out different scenarios and the Agassiz Fire Hall is built to post-disaster specifications which means there should be at least one building standing after a major event from which to co-ordinate disaster relief.

The emergency team includes BC Ambulance Service, Kent Harrison Search and Rescue, representatives from the agriculture community as well as neighbouring communities, the fire departments, elected officials, administration from both municipalities and RCMP. There is also an amateur radio team, with eight to nine licensed operators who could assist with communication.

“We have a very competent team that operates at the local emergency level,” asserts Basten.

Agassiz and Harrison residents can do their part to be prepared by taking part in practice scenarios. On Thursday, Oct. 15, the Great Shakeout takes place. This internationally recognized event encourages individuals, families, schools and businesses to practice earthquake readiness. As of mid-September, the 2015 drill already had more than 22.5 million people registered.

According to the BC Shakeout website, BC is considered a “high risk” province compared to the rest of Canada. The Great British Columbia ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice how to be safer during big earthquakes, states the site.

At 10:!5 a.m. on that day, wherever you are at the moment, be earthquake ready by stopping to drop, cover and hold on for at least 60 seconds.

You can register for the great BC Shakeout at www.shakeoutbc.ca

If you are interested in taking an active role in emergency assistance, Emergency Social Services is always interested in volunteers. Roles can range from as small as taking care of a  displaced pet for a few days to being on-scene during an emergency to help a family through the event. The team could also use volunteers to work on education initiatives or register people for services at a reception centre.

For more information, go to the District of Kent website, www.district.kent.bc.ca, and click on ‘Emergency Services’ under the District Hall tab.

For more information on being prepared, B.C. has a brand new website full of useful information. Search ‘PreparedBC’ to easily find the site, or go to www2.gov.bc.ca/ and use the search tool on that site for ‘PreparedBC’.

Emergency Kit Ideas:

Creating a home emergency kit doesn’t need to take long. Just follow the basic list below and store your collected supplies in an easy to access location.

• First-Aid kit

• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio

• Flashlight and extra batteries

• Whistle to signal for help

• Cellphone with charger

• Cash in small bills

• A local map with your family meeting place identified

• Three-day supply of food and water

• Garbage bags

• Dust mask

• Seasonal clothing and footwear