Disaster: Are you prepared?
It’s emergency preparedness week (May 4-10), and all levels of government are asking citizens to be ready for the worst. But most Surrey residents aren’t.
According to Jocelyne Colbert, assistant to the emergency coordinator at the City of Surrey, few people have everything they need to get by in the event of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, forest fire or flood. Experts advise the public should be able to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours while emergency responders get a handle on the situation.
“Most people are not prepared,” said Colbert. “Some are prepared just a little bit; they have a kit ready, but they’re not sure what to do after that.”
A survey of shoppers along King George Highway this week revealed those asked weren’t ready for a disaster.
“Outside of water and flashlights, we’re not prepared,” said Pinder Johal. “You hear about emergencies, but it’s not something that’s a priority. You’ve got things to do for today, sometimes it’s the last thing on your mind.”
Mandeep Brar has a medical kit at his house, but he hasn’t put together a plan or an emergency bag.
“You don’t think this could happen, but looking around and seeing everything that’s going on, I think I will (prepare).”
Down the street, Olivia Clayton, a yoga teacher, says she is partially prepared, with foil blankets, life jackets and canned food at the ready. She also has flashlights, but, she admitted with a laugh, no batteries.
“I think I should get prepared because when it happens, when the time comes, you can’t get what you need,” she said.
People should have a list of out-of-town contacts, first aid kits and basic first aid training, and a battery-powered radio to listen to for directions from the authorities. They also need dozens of smaller items, like rope, candles and matches, to be ready for different kinds of problems.
“People don’t think it’ll happen to them,” said Colbert. “Or if they do they think the government will take care of them, but for the first few days, the government people are also workers that are going through the same disaster, and it’s going to take them some time to respond.”
Ed Hennessy, on his way out of Costco, figures he has enough water in his hot water heater to last for a while, as well as two freezers of food, plenty of canned goods, and cash in case ATMs are down.
Though he doesn’t have what Colbert calls a “grab-and-go bag,” Hennessy does think he’s ahead of most.
“I think a lot of people haven’t thought of it, and they haven’t had to survive without 7-Eleven and McDonald’s,” he said. “I think it’s an educational process, and it probably has to start with the elementary schools.”
David Etkin is the graduate program director of the disaster and emergency management program at York University in Toronto. He doesn’t think most people are prepared for even minor disasters, and they should be.
“We’re actually very vulnerable in this type of society because we’re so dependent on the system to support us,” he said.
Etkin was in Toronto when a blackout shut down the northeast U.S. and Ontario in 2003. He had to walk home from work, and he couldn’t find a store that could sell him a drink without electricity to run their cash registers. He finally bought one off a street vendor.
“It makes sense to have reasonable precautions, and if it costs you very little to do something, why not do it?”
Rob Street, the manager of the Urban Military Store, started stocking his truck with a kit in the fear that he might one day get stuck in the backwoods. He then realized there could come a time when he’s stuck at home, so he put together a kit there, too.
“There’s always that big earthquake we’re waiting for,” he said. “There’s not really a right time to have an emergency kit, but there’s definitely a wrong time to not have one.”
Street also has an idea why most people don’t bother preparing for the worst.
“I think it’s willful disbelief,” he said. “People believe the system can’t fail.”
Daniel Lavoie, spokesperson for Public Safety Canada, said being able to take care of oneself for 72 hours is crucial.
“It’s not something the feds have dreamed up,” he said. “It’s been discussed with the provinces and there’s research that demonstrates that people who are prepared to sustain themselves for 72 hours will be in better shape during emergencies and will bounce back better after the emergency.”
For a full list of what you should have in your grab-and-go bag, or where to buy a pre-prepared kit, visit www.getprepared.ca.
Colbert and her team will also visit homes, work places, or organizations to give presentations on how to prepare to be self-sufficient for 72 hours. For more information, call 604-543-6795.