West Shore ESS group working hard to prepare residents for the ‘big one’

Wake-up call earthquake sends emergency preparedness message

Take it seriously and prepare yourself for an emergency.

Langford Emergency Support Services director Tom Burchill said last night’s 4.3-magnitude earthquake (Dec. 29), centred northeast of the West Shore just off the Saanich Peninsula, can serve as a reminder for the public to prepare themselves.

“Know the risks of the area, make a family plan where to meet, how to get a hold of each other and put an emergency kit together,” he said. “The first 72 hours, there isn’t too much ability for ESS to come. (If) you were prepared and ready, (you) have a much higher survival chance.”

A member of the ESS team for more than 11 years and director for eight, Burchill said a major earthquake near Vancouver Island could potentially have a big impact on residents of Victoria’s core municipalities, sending many west up the Malahat and to the West Shore. Their teams have taken that into account in their planning for public safety, not only for earthquakes, but for potential disasters such as a large-scale forest fire – which the West Shore may be susceptible to based on geography, he said.

“If enough people were given a warning, they would be heading this way towards the Malahat and high hills. We’re set up for pretty much both a major forest fire or a major earthquake.”

Agreements have already been set up with the Sooke School District. In the event of a major disaster, just about any one of their schools can be set up as an emergency centre – four already have strategically-placed administrative supplies on site to allow volunteers to set up a reception area quickly. Crystal View, Happy Valley, Lakewood and Willway elementaries, as well as the Eagle Ridge Community Centre house those supplies, with Belmont secondary and the Langford Legion expected to update their kits or receive new ones soon. A mobile emergency trailer that can go almost anywhere and be set up as a station, provided there is road access, is also ready to be put into use.

“As far as Langford is concerned, we are ready … I would say we’re ready for just about anything that happens,” Burchill said. “We have a team of volunteers that are quite gung-ho about helping people out.”

There are currently 74 active volunteers trained and more than 100 in a backup group, with job plans in place for convergent volunteers who show up and want to be helpful, he said. Every year, depending on the available budget, the Langford ESS group adds a few pieces and updates the kits. They have to maximize their preparedness for more than just earthquakes, Burchill said, but that does not mean the public shouldn’t be vigilant and prepare for the first three days of a disaster.

“We’re due for a large one and it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “And no one knows when that will come and preparedness ahead of time is what we plan for.”

For more information visit beprepared.ca.

Also see:

Quake early warning system ‘worked like a charm’

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

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