The Big One is coming. It isn’t a matter of if, but when, as the seismologists keep reminding us.
Still, it’s amazing how many of us, especially in an earthquake zone like ours, aren’t prepared.
The City of Victoria and other regional municipalities, all too aware of this alarming disconnect, have stepped up efforts to help the community prepare with workshops on coping with emergencies such as storms, earthquakes and tsunamis.
“The Island isn’t going to sink,” Victoria Emergency Management Agency head Robert Johns reassures panic-stricken locals. “Some people think the whole city will be destroyed in an earthquake and that’s not usually what we see around the world. The damage occurs more in pockets — vulnerable buildings and soils. We’re putting to rest the myths out there.”
Still, we need to be more aware of hazards, how to build an emergency kit, protect our home and reunite with loved ones, he says.
That’s the kind of information Johns imparted at City Hall during an emergency preparedness workshop the other day.
Registration for the free workshops tends to rise and fall depending on the natural disasters situation worldwide.
“It goes in cycles,” Johns said after telling the crowd how to be prepared before, during and after an earthquake. Workshop topics include how to “drop, cover and hold” until the shaking stops, a home hazards hunt and water and medication tips.
“Generally, there’s more demand when there’s an international disaster in the news. We saw quite a spike for about six months after the Japan and New Zealand earthquakes, and then it lulls. After the Haida Gwaii disaster it spiked again.”
Increased awareness of such events prompted Manu Ronse, 62, to attend.
“I wanted to be prepared,” said Ronse, dressed for the occasion in a bright yellow jacket. “Those were motivators for me.”
Rajpreet Sall, 24, and her ICBC co-worker Alissa Allen, 24, heard about the workshops on the job and came on their day off.
“It’s all stuff we kind of knew, but it’s nice to have a refresher,” Sall said.
Gilda Heath, a woman with multiple sclerosis, was eager to learn about options for those with disabilities. “Because I’m ill and at-risk I’ve been thinking about how to help myself, but I didn’t know whether there were systems that could help me,” said Heath, who recently relocated from the Lower Mainland to Victoria, where her daughter studies at UVic.
She says she went “from being completely ambulatory to being in a wheelchair overnight” after driving here recently.
“It was a real kick in the pants. I’ve had to transition from all these things in my regular life to looking at things differently.”
Another visitor who admitted he could benefit from a workshop was Rick MacDonnell, 29.
“Absolutely not,” the Edmontonian said when asked if he’s prepared for emergencies such as earthquakes. “I live in a place where it doesn’t really concern me.”
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