If you lived in Greater Victoria in 1996, you remember The Snowstorm.
When the first flakes began to fall 15 years ago on the morning of Dec. 21, few realized that by the time the storm ended the entire region would be thrown into survival mode.
The roads were closed, which meant many stores stayed shuttered, which meant too many people were left woefully unprepared.
In Langford, home to 17,500 residents at the time, a decision was made to make sure the community was better prepared.
The municipality organized a group of volunteers to better help residents caught up in catastrophe.
“People were stranded all across the area, stranded by the snowstorm,” said Tom Burchill, a director with Langford Emergency Support Services. “Since then people have been stranded by power outages, wind storms – all sorts of natural disasters.”
Among the strategies developed was a plan to store materials needed to create emergency reception centres at strategic locations across Langford.
The kits are tucked away until needed and include signage and administrative materials to organize people who have been displaced by an emergency.
The problem, however, is Langford is growing so quickly that new neighbourhoods are sprouting up in need of their very own reception centres.
Last month, volunteers brought four large bins to Crystal View elementary school, located in a relatively new neighbourhood.
Langford also has kits stored for emergency reception centres at Willway, Happy Valley, Lakewood and Spencer schools. The Eagle Ridge arena can also serve as a reception centre in event of disaster.
Each centre can be quickly set up to help people who find themselves without a home. However, it’s also important for individuals to help themselves.
“One of the big things I’m involved in is educating the public on emergency preparedness,” Burchill said, explaining that everyone should be prepared to make due on their own for 72 hours.
People also need to plan for the unthinkable, such as a fire or flood that forces them to leave their home suddenly.
Families should have an emergency bag packed and stored near an exit in case they need to grab it and run.