Earthquake preparedness 101

If an earthquake rocks Vancouver, will you be ready?

Following the devasating earthquake in Japan, emergency kits at Krasicki and Ward Emergency Preparedness at City Square were in high demand and by Saturday night, the kits sold out.  Meanwhile, more people than usual were checking in on the City's Emergency Preparedness website for tips on how to be ready if a big earthquake happens here. The City's "before" list says:

Check for hazards in the home.

Identify safe places in each room

  • Under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table.
  • Against an inside wall.
  • Away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors, pictures, or where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over.

Locate safe places outdoors

In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways.

Make sure all family members know how to respond after an earthquake.

Develop a family disaster plan.

 Earthquake survival kits for sale

 “The grab-and-go kit is the cornerstone of our offering here”, a staff person at  Krasicki and Ward explained.

Each kit has enough survival, sanitation, space blankets, light sticks, and first aid supplies for the corresponding number of people for 72 hours, which emergency management experts say should be long enough to establish supply lines even if critical infrastructure are damaged by a mega-quake. They range in size from the one-person cooler bag to the 23-pound family of five kit, and the supplies keep for five years.

Real risks

 In the last one hundred years,   9 out of 10 of the strongest earthquakes on the planet have been due to subduction faults like the one off the coast of BC. Add to this the fact that we haven't had a bad one here since 1700 and that a recent study at Oregon State University indicates that major Cascadia earthquakes occur on average roughly every 240 years, and you can understand why some geologists are nervous.

 So if our West coast paradise can turn into a disaster area at any time, maybe keeping a gym-bag-sized survival kit by the front door isn't such a bad idea...

 After a megathrust earthquake, it won't help you to take your bank card to the grocery store and try to horde supplies with the other procrastinators. Whining that you really meant to get prepared and just didn't have time may not get you front row tickets to a magically-appearing smorgasbord for millions either.

For those who prefer to make their own kit, supplies are also available individually, keeping in mind the essentials:

  1. Water – you can't live without it

  2. Food

  3. Sanitation supplies

  4. First Aid

  5. Something to help you keep warm and dry

  6. Source of light

  7. Your own personal essentials: prescription medications, eyeglasses, your emergency contact card and evacuation plan.

 Here is the City's "during" list of what to do:

If indoors:

  • Take cover under a piece of heavy furniture or against an inside wall and hold on.
  • Stay inside.
  • The most dangerous thing to do during the shaking of an earthquake is to try to leave the building because objects can fall on you.

If outdoors:

  • Move into the open, away from buildings, street lights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.

If in a moving vehicle:

  • Stop quickly and stay in the vehicle.
  • Move to a clear area away from buildings, trees, overpasses, or utility wires.
  • Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution. Avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the quake.

Authorities caution that you may be "on your own" for up to 74 hours after a major quake.  Friends and neighbours will be the best people to turn to, in this case, as emergency professionals will be stretched to capacity.

A city official recently commented to me that "everyone is in denial about preparedness in Vancouver."  I know I've been.  But, after the events of the last week, it makes sense to me that when you're ready for the worst, you can get back to the business of hoping for the best.

As the BC Emergency Preparedness site says, "Be prepared, not scared."

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