What do you need to survive an emergency?
Fresh air, clean water, warmth and food that you’ll actually eat are the utmost basic items.
But there are some survival skills that will help you, too, says Roger Poulton, Agassiz’s Emergency Program Coordinator.
First, you’ll need a clear head.
“The number one thing is to make sure you don’t panic,” he says.
But how do you stay calm during an emergency situation, such as a fire, flood or chemical spill?
Poulton says the answer is proper preparation. Having a kit, knowing first aid, knowing your neighbours and being self sufficient will make an emergency seem less dire, he says.
It’s a message that’s certainly been out there for a while, Poulton says, and all the information is readily available online.
But it’s one that people need to embrace, he adds.
Floods are a very real threat in Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs, but a chemical spill on the highway or from a train are also quite possible — and both could disconnect this area from the rest of the province, even Chilliwack.
“We do have Chilliwack as a resource, but what if we can’t use the bridge,” he asks.
It’s Poulton’s job to keep up to speed on the threats, such as flooding and fires. But he also coordinates the many groups which would potentially keep us safer during an emergency.
From Search and Rescue, to the fire departments and RCMP, to the Emergency Social Services group, everyone plays an important role in supplying assistance when disaster strikes.
But don’t count on anyone coming to your door the minute you need help, he says.
“Point of fact: The government is not going to help you,” he says, at least not immediately. And for that reason, people need to be self sufficient.
“It behooves us all to look after ourselves. In this day and age, everyone should have basic first aid. You should at least know how to stop blood flow, where the pressure points are, or when it’s safe to move somebody (who is injured.)”
The District of Kent’s Leisure Services hosts regular first aid sessions, for adults and children, and other organizations in Chilliwack, such as St. John’s Ambulance, provide courses as well.
As for the physical task of preparing — mainly making sure you have enough resources to survive — Poultan says the key is to slowly pack away foods that you would normally eat.
“Each time you go shopping, buy a little extra and put it in your kit,” he says.
The food you pack should be food you will enjoy eating, and choices which don’t require water for cooking, such as ready-to-eat soups.
While the standard rule of thumb is 72 hours, Poulton says that may not always be enough.
“They’re at day 9 in Japan,” he says, following the tsunami, and people are still waiting for help.
While that highlights the importance of being prepared, and being self sufficient, a survivor can quickly turn into a volunteer rescuer.
“Lots of people got washed away in Japan. Thousands. But the people left alive are helping one another and we have to be trained at that level.”
In the event that Vancouver was hit with an earthquake or tsunami, such as a tsunami that hi Port Alberni in 1964, the Fraser Valley would “be deemed a haven” and a resource.
Poultan says in the right circumstances, this area would be inundated with people just “wandering” such as they are in Japan, just trying to find somewhere to survive.
While we are weeks and even months away from seeing the waters in the Fraser river rise, Poultan has been watching the government websites since January, monitoring dozens of pages listing snowpack, weather forecasts, earthquakes, river heights and river volumes.
“With all these websites I can monitor everything,” he says, and so can the average citizen. “The amenities are all there to see what’s going on.”
But he doesn’t want to feed into the fear. He just wants people to be aware of the risks, and ready to deal with them.
He’s hoping that people will call him with their questions. He’s also hoping that an informal neighbourhood emergency preparedness program could start up.
To find out more, phone Roger at 604-798-2528.
To learn more about emergency preparedness, visit www.pep.bc.ca.