Local experts advise on how to be prepared for emergency evacuation

Local experts advise on how to be prepared for emergency evacuation
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Over the weekend, most of coastal B.C. was under a tsunami advisory, which sparked emergency preparedness groups to call for people to be prepared for a possible evacuation.

For an advisory, evacuations aren’t required but the public is told to stay away from beaches or coasts and to stay out of the water.

For a tsunami warning, evacuations would take place, so Tanya Paterson, emergency preparedness coordinator with the City of Victoria says it’s important to know what areas are at risk to know if you would be affected by an evacuation.

“If you’re above four metres elevation, then you’re going to be safe from any type of tsunami. And that’s including the big one like a magnitude 9.0 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake,” Paterson says. “For anything that you need to evacuate to four meters for you’re going to feel the earthquake, so the shaking is your warning.”

In Victoria, most of the city is above four metres, according to Paterson, for the most part, only the beaches and a few neighbourhoods are in the evacuation zone in the event of a tsunami.

The City of Victoria has a map which shows all areas within the tsunami evacuation zone, which you can view here.

Paterson says modelling for the city shows Victoria is likely only to have a tsunami warning if there was a significant earthquake in the area, and for “non-felt” events, or events in other regions, the highest alert for the city would be an advisory.

In the event of a tsunami warning, Paterson says it is important for people in the evacuation area to evacuate by foot or bike to leave the roads clear for emergency responders.

“It’s quite easy to get to four meters, elevation on foot or on bike, but if people go in a vehicle and start driving up to the top of mountains, that just creates way more chaos and prevents first responders from getting to places quickly,” Paterson said.

Paterson says the city has an agreement with BC Transit to use buses and HandyDart vehicles to evacuate people without a car who are unable to walk or bike out of the evacuation zone.

Chris Aubrey, fire chief of Lanford Fire says Langford has the lowest risk of tsunami of all the CRD municipalities, and only Finlayson Arm is at risk of tsunami. He notes that the municipality has higher risk for other types of emergencies, such as wildfires due to the proximity to forests.

Langford does not have a formal agreement with BC Transit but they have been able to help when needed previously, according to Aubrey.

He says anything on a larger scale if BC Transit was in demand in all 13 municipalities and unable to assist Langford, the city would be working with private companies as well as provincial assistance to help evacuate people who needed help.

Be prepared

Paterson says the tsunami advisory this weekend serves as an important reminder for people to be prepared.

Sometimes people can put off preparing for emergencies, she says, because it seems like a far off reality.

“The best thing to do is to put yourself in the shoes of what if it actually happened? Because I think a lot of times we don’t, it’s hard to think about it in a realistic sense,” Paterson said. “Just think about if all of a sudden you had no power and you had no heat, what would you do?”

The first step, she says, is knowing what your risks are. In the CRD, there are 11 different emergency risks, including earthquakes, tsunamis and severe weather. People can check what the risks are on the CRD’s Prepare Yourself web pages.

The second step is to have a plan for each kind of emergency.

“If you’re in the tsunami inundation area, have a plan set and a grab and go kit together,” Paterson says. “Talk to your friends and family about what you’re going to do, how you might help each other out and your neighbours. Being connected with your neighbours is a great step to resilience.”

Aubrey says part of having a plan would be ensuring you and your family have a designated meeting spot, as well as an alternate meeting plan in case the first choice is unavailable.

He says there should also be a designated person to contact out of province, in case phone lines within the province are out of service.

Another part of being connected to neighbours, Paterson says, is to know if anyone in your neighbourhood would need assistance in the event of an emergency and including them in your plan.

The third step is putting together different kinds of emergency kits.

Some common kits to prepare would be an at home kit, a grab and go kit, or a car kit.

At home kits should have enough supplies to last for seven days and include items like drinking water, food, first aid kit, and hygiene items.

Grab and go kits and car kits should have enough supplies to last for 12 hours.

Aubrey says the most important thing to do is to put together a seven-day-kit.

“In the act of putting that together, people are going to have to go and research what they need to have and in doing that, they’re going to get the importance of building a plan and other emergency best tips and best practices,” Aubrey said.

He said by having a seven-day-kit, it lessens the likelihood that someone needs assistance from emergency responders during an emergency, and frees their resources up to help the most urgent cases.

Municipalities around the region have local alert systems for emergency systems. Both Paterson and Aubrey said it is important for everyone to be signed up to their local system so everyone can get information that pertains to their municipality.

The CRD provides a list of all the local emergency alert systems here.

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Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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