May saw Nanaimo residents embark on emergency preparedness week. This annual event, ran from May 7th to May 13th, and was instigated by city officials to ensure local people are prepared for the worst in terms of climate disasters such as a potential earthquake for example.
Climate change is a real threat to waterside communities and businesses with rising sea levels, and an increasing amount of extreme and damaging weather being seen the world over. This week, Nanaimo residents had the chance to engage with educational programmes and materials to put into place their own emergency plan should the worst happen. Local people also had the opportunity to check their emergency plans with professionals to ensure that any previously made plans were still valid and robust.
British Columbia has identified, in total, 56 potential threats, 22 of which are deemed serious. These threats range from fire (the biggest threat), to tsunamis (a somewhat lower threat). Over the years massive changes in infrastructure and investment in disaster proofing has reduced the risk for water related disasters. An awful lot of training and investment also goes into the emergency services to enable them to respond to whatever may occur.
Emergency Program Manager of Nanaimo City, Karen Lindsay, lead the week and all the initiatives associated with it. Special emergency operation centres were established across the city, staffed with public servants, and coordinated by Public Safety Canada. It is great to see so much proactivity in this area, as once infrequent threats become more real for all of us. We are proud to run a business in an area that takes these things seriously, and therefore allows locals and visitors alike to feel safe when visiting our beautiful region.
The main concerns in Nanaimo right now however are not flooding and rising sea levels. Instead the concerns are ones which are easier for us all to act upon such as pollution. The spillage of hazardous materials, and in general the continued use of them. Something a little less controllable however is the risk of an earthquake hitting the area. According to the National Research Council, Canada has over 4000 earthquakes a year (most of these relatively minor). However, Karen Lindsay believes that preparing emergencies plans for such an occurrence, will help protect the community for any emergency that may come. The plans are so thorough that people are even urged to plan for their pets! Too often we hear stories of people refusing to leave a dangerous area due to their pets, and so this may seem like a twee addition to an emergency plan but actually it is a very important one.
As well as the centers set up over the week, there are a variety of online materials for local people to access to ensure they have an emergency plan that is fit for purpose. The aim is to ensure that the whole community is ‘disaster ready’, that is that evacuation routes are set, people have emergency bags ready to take with some of the vital things needed in such a situation, and an emergency call system. There is also advice specifically for people who have disabilities such as mobility or hearing impairments. Educational materials are presenting in a wide range of ways, through text, video, and face to face consultation throughout the week. The city also makes excellent use of social media such as Twitter to provide advice and guidance.
If people are unable to create their own survival kits for whatever reason, there are also pre-made kits for sale and this has been the case since October. This makes the emergency planning process a little simpler, and also more affordable than purchasing all the composite parts that make up the kits. A kit would tent to include suitable food and water, emergency shelter, knives, ropes, candles, first aid kids, cooking supplies, and tools. The idea is that the kit will keep a person going for up to 72 hours, and everything in it has a five-year shelf life. These premade kits also have their own emergency planning materials too, so they really are a one stop shop.
These weeks help provide checks for the structural elements of disaster planning too. It is all about processes, and infrastructure, as well as people and businesses. Continuity of services and information is imperative after a disaster. Therefore, the preparation is for everyone in the community, and brings a real sense of community spirit. Something which is key in the wake of a disaster.
We are lucky here at Nanaimo Yacht Charters, to work in such a safe environment, and we look forward to welcoming you to Nanaimo to enjoy the natural beauty, and community spirit of the region.