Victoria encourages emergency planning

Fire. Flood. Earthquake. Disaster. Are you ready?

Do you have an emergency kit with food, water, spare clothes, a flashlight, whistle and first aid kit handy?

The Victoria Emergency Management Agency is holding a series of information sessions this year to make sure citizens know exactly how to prepare themselves for a disaster. The first sessions are on Feb. 27 at Victoria City Hall (1–3 p.m.) and at James Bay New Horizons Society (7–9 p.m.).

“[Victorians] are often surprised to learn that we have a one in three probability of a damaging earthquake occurring over the next 50 years,” wrote Rob Johns, emergency co-ordinator for the Victoria Emergency Management Agency, in an email interview.

There’s a great deal to learn when it comes to emergency preparedness.

The minimum amount of water a person needs is estimated at three to four litres per person per day — the equivalent of a large milk jug. In some disasters, this won’t be a huge issue; a fire may burn down a building, a house or a small area, but it won’t cripple a city. An earthquake, on the other hand, may cripple it. The authorities — police, firefighters, ambulance and the specialized teams sent in by government — will have bigger, more pressing issues to deal with: people trapped in the rubble. Red Cross and similar organizations take time to deploy; you may be relying on your own resources for 24 hours or more. Scavenging is a poor option; almost everybody thinks of it and critical supplies will vanish fast, or fights may start over them.

“We discuss earthquakes, tsunami [and] electrical power outages and mention other events that cause a person to be evacuated from their home,” wrote Johns of the scope of the information sessions.

Between 2007 and 2011, 164 people died in 135 residential fires in B.C. Without clothes in your easy-to-grab emergency kit, how will you deal with a middle-of-the-night fire, when everything goes up in smoke and you are left standing on your front lawn in your favourite pair of sleeping boxers, shivering, with your toes freezing in cold grass?

In short, wrote Johns, “Large emergencies and disasters happen. Information helps people make better choices about how to protect their safety, family, and belongings.”

There are exigencies to consider at UVic that may not be covered in the emergency management info sessions.

If you work at UVic, has your office registered specialized equipment and books with UVic’s Business Continuity Planning department for ease of replacement? Fire destroys paper and can melt computers. Pipes can burst and flood your office — there are many unexpected ways for disasters to strike a lab or office. The department recommends backing up your data regularly; for some, this may mean external hard drives or similar storage media. UVic offers an automated computer backup system, Tivoli Storage Manager, as well, which stores data to offsite servers. Research can be a life’s work — make sure it’s safe.

More info about the city’s emergency preparedness sessions can be found at PrepareVictoria.ca and on Victoria.ca’s emergency management page, along with disaster planning resources. For those on campus, emergency response resources can be found at UVic.ca’s emergency management page and UVic’s Business Continuity Planning page.

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