First thing on Friday morning, March 11, just as the coffee was poured the news of the massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami was registered and Ella Beach was the first destination.
Still camera and videocam were checked and packed and the excitement was palpable.
My 7:30 a.m. arrival at Ella Beach doubled the size of the crowd on hand for what could have been a natural spectacle of a lifetime, if it had shown up. I was surprised there were not more onlookers at the scene.
Safety may not be too thrilling but that is definitely a good thing and a conversation the next day with Juan de Fuca Emergency Coordinator George OBriain indicated part of the reason why.
OBriain related an incident from a previous tsunami scare in the past few years. Personnel had apparently been dispatched to low-lying coastal areas to post warning signs.
“When the team arrived in Jordan River they could not find a place to park,” said OBriain, “because everybody was out there watching for the tsunami. Maybe I’m more knowledgeable about the devastation that can happen, but I just can’t imagine people doing that.”
I asked George about the grade leading from the water at Ella Beach, and whether I could have safely made a run up the hill had I needed to.
“Yeah, you could have,” he speculated, “as long as there’s other people out of your way.”
OBriain said that during last Friday’s advisory there was a seismologist at Langara Point.
“All the modeling they have along the coast showed what was going to happen (a two-metre wave) and it never did come up there.”
As it happened, we were spared and all the power of the tsunami ended up far to the south of us.
Tsunamis aside, we also live with the constant threat of shaking ground and toppling buildings, and we’re lucky to receive so many (as yet) harmless reminders to get ready for the inevitable.
In Sooke, Fire Rescue Chief Steve Sorensen stayed up all night manning the local Emergency Operations Centre.
“We were at a level one state of readiness,” he said. Like everyone else he was obviously relieved that tsunamis did not show up. He described a somewhat low key reaction from the public.
“We had more calls from eastern Canada, people concerned about relatives, than we had from local people,” said Sorensen who added that in a major disaster officials will do their best. He pointed to Japan, “the most organized, best prepared country in the world,” and how nature has overwhelmed it. That being said, personal and official preparedness is still critically important.
“I’m not going to tell you how old I am but I’m a lot older than you,” said OBriain, “and I can’t ever remember so many earthquakes in such a short span of time, in the range (force) that we’re getting.”
He says his phone starts ringing with each event… last year’s Haitian and Chilean quakes… the recent New Zealand shaker. People want to know how to prepare.
• First of all – get to it right away.
“You can’t prepare enough,” says OBriain.
“You should have some sort of an earthquake kit you can keep handy so you can grab it on the way out.
“Emergency Preparedness Canada always says you should have 72 hours worth of supplies. We maintain that you need resources to last you a week.”
All the information you’re likely to need in the way of kits and what to put in them is available on or through the jdfem.com website.
Make an emergency plan
Every Canadian household needs an emergency plan.
It will help you and your family know what to do in case of an emergency. Remember, your family may not be together when an earthquake or other emergency occurs.
Start by discussing what could happen and what you should do at home, school or work if an earthquake strikes.
To be prepared, make a list of what needs to be done ahead of time. Store important family documents, such as birth certificates, passports, wills, financial documents, insurance policies, etc. in waterproof container(s). Identify an appropriate out-of-town contact who can act as a central point of contact in an emergency.
Write down and exercise your plan with the entire family at least once a year. Make sure everybody has a copy and keeps it close by.
For more information on making an emergency plan, call 1- 800 O-Canada or visit www.GetPrepared.ca to download or complete an emergency plan online.
Get an emergency kit
In an emergency you will need some basic supplies.
You may need to get by without power or tap water.
Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.
You may have some of the items already, such as a flashlight, battery-operated radio, food and water. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. Would you be able to find your flashlight in the dark?
Make sure your kit is easy to carry. Keep it in a backpack, duffel bag or suitcase with wheels, in an easy-to-reach, accessible place, such as your front hall closet. Make sure everyone in the household knows where the emergency kit is.
Basic emergency kit
• Water — at least two litres of water per person per day.
Include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order.
• Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (remember to replace the food and water once a year).
• Manual can opener.
• Wind-up or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries).
• Wind-up or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries).
• First aid kit.
• Special items such as prescription medications, infant formula and equipment for people with disabilities.
• Extra keys to your car and house.
• Cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones (or use your cellphone).
• A copy of your emergency plan and contact information.
You can purchase a pre-packaged emergency kit from the Canadian Red Cross at www.redcross.ca. Visit www.GetPrepared.ca or call 1-800 O-Canada for a list of additional emergency kit items, including a car emergency kit.