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Tales from Canada

Disasters and setting up own emergency plan

/ 07:57 PM April 08, 2011

We had barely gone through the first quarter of the year and here we are plagued with all sorts of natural disasters that have caused monstrous damages not only in the places affected but on adjacent ones as well. Last year in December and early January, we had the floods in Australia affecting mostly the Queensland area. Also in January, the southeastern part of Brazil had floods which claimed the lives of more than 500 people. In February, there was the North American winter storm that buried Chicago under almost two feet of snow. Another tragic event on that month is the 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand which left more than 160 people dead. Of course, the most recent and devastating one was the earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 in Japan which caused a 10 meter tsunami that almost wiped out the city of Sendai leaving more than 10,000 people dead and 17,000 missing. These recent events throughout the world had certainly opened my eyes to the fact that anything can happen at anytime and having some sort of contingency plan in case of a disaster would definitely help.

We have heard about the danger of the San Andreas fault in California which can also directly affect Vancouver. Studies show that the possibility of the Big One occurring could be anytime as it has been long overdue. The fault has now been stressed to a level sufficient to create a 7.0 magnitude earthquake or greater. If that happens, the last place I want to be is downtown Vancouver. With all the tall buildings and glass panels around, there is little chance of surviving unscathed. Besides, the thought of not being with the entire family when that happens is truly nerve wrecking.

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The City of Vancouver had been busy doing seismic upgrades on all public infrastructures such as schools, government offices and bridges and emergency preparedness seminars on a regular basis. Schools and private offices also schedule regular earthquake and fire drills. The city had also set up an Emergency Operations Centre (E-Comm) which I surprisingly found out was not far from where we lived.

With all these catastrophes going on everywhere, I decided there is no harm in setting up our own emergency plan just in case something does happen. There are certain scenarios that we can be faced with such as being at work, children in school or when everyone is home. Planning to meet or contact one another is a good start. I have always emphasized to my kids the importance of leaving the house with their cellphones fully charged so that it is easier to locate everyone if the communication lines are working. If not, it is necessary to set up a safe place where everyone can meet. At least, if there is no chance for us to go back to the house, we can all go together in evacuation centers instead of going crazy trying to find one another.

It is also important that the locations of water and gas shut offs as well as breaker panels be known to everyone and older children and adults should be instructed on how to turn them off. Utility companies may ask that these be shut off or turned as may be the case in the event of a disaster.

There are also several emergency kits available for sale online. It may be cheaper to put together one yourself though. I assembled the 72-hour kit because of the possibility that we may be left to fend for ourselves for a few days after the disaster strikes since it will surely take time for rescue operations to reach us. It is best to store the kits in a place where they can be easily accessed and in a location known to all family members.

No one wants to be caught in any of these catastrophic events, but it is better to have something ready than none at all. We can never be sure when disaster strikes and right now they are just too many and have been very frequent.

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TAGS: Disasters, Earthquake, Flood, Safety of Citizens
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