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Preparing for an emergency discussed

Sooke Fire Chief Steve Sorensen talks at the emergency preparedness open house. - Sharron Ho
Sooke Fire Chief Steve Sorensen talks at the emergency preparedness open house.
— image credit: Sharron Ho

Local residents looking for information on how to ready themselves for natural disasters packed the Emergency Preparedness Open House on Nov. 15 in council chambers.

Throughout the meeting, it was stressed that residents are responsible for their own emergency preparedness.

Fire Chief Steve Sorensen stated due to the volunteer nature of the fire department and Emergency Operation Centre, residents must be prepared to be self-sufficient for seven to 10 days.

“We say you have to be prepared for 72 hours. We really mean you have to be prepared for at least 72 hours. In our region, a week is more realistic,” Sorensen said, adding that volunteers will make sure everything is okay at home before they commit to their emergency response duties.

“They’re going to make sure everything is okay at home and then as things stabilize they’ll start to drift in here and we’ll find them jobs to do.”

It was emphasized that people should have ‘Grab and Go’ bags in their homes, cars and at work.

The bags are emergency survival kits that contain items like basic first aid kits, water bottles, non-perishable food, prescriptions, eyeglasses, blankets or sleeping bag, clothing, walking shoes, money in small denominations, candles/matches, flashlight and radio with extra batteries, and games for children.

It was also suggested important documents like identification, home insurance papers and medical prescriptions should be photocopied and placed inside the bags.

Emergency plans and meeting places should be discussed with family members.

Residents should also have an “OK/Help” sign to put in their window to help emergency responders identify which residences require assistance. These are available at the local fire department.

The greatest risks for the District of Sooke and Juan de Fuca are wildland fires and winter storms. Other disasters discussed were wind storms, earthquakes and tsunamis. Power outages are not considered disasters.

Based on a 2007 simulation by the provincial government of a 7.3-8.4 magnitude mega thrust earthquake, a tsunami would take 30 minutes to reach Port Renfrew and 45 minutes to reach Sooke through the Juan de Fuca Strait.

According to Jeri Grant, Juan de Fuca emergency co-ordinator, within the first four hours, six waves are projected to come through.

Although the waves are not tall, they will carry a lot of energy and force.

She said the main indicator of a tsunami is a violent shaking that lasts two to three minutes. Although most of Sooke is well above sea level, residents of lower lying areas like Saseenos and Whiffin Spit are urged to move to higher ground.

For an emergency plan, municipal staff are trained to operate an Emergency Operation Centre, which facilitates emergency responders and finds the appropriate resources for responders to carry out their duties.

There is also the Emergency Social Services volunteers who will operate the emergency reception centre for impacted residents.

The reception centre will be located at the Sooke Community Hall, which has been equipped with a generator. There are provisions to keep people overnight if required.

ESS Co-ordinator and Deputy Fire Chief Rick McLeod said vouchers will be handed out to impacted residents for certain suppliers for necessities like clothing, meals and lodging for a 72-hour period.

The vouchers are funded by the provincial government.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit these websites:

www.publicsafety.gc.ca

www.pep.bc.ca

www.prepareyourself.ca

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